Lawrence man charged with murder in death of woman at Cedarwood apartments

A man suspected of killing a woman who lived two doors down from him at Lawrence’s Cedarwood apartments has been formally charged with murder.

Rontarus Washington Jr., 18, who was arrested in January in Mississippi, was returned to Lawrence and booked into the Douglas County Jail early Monday morning. Monday afternoon via video, Washington made his first appearance in Douglas County District Court, where he was charged with first-degree murder and aggravated burglary in connection with the killing.

Rontarus Washington Jr.

Photos of Justina Altamirano Mosso, 19, provided by the Lawrence Police Department.

The body of Justina Altamirano Mosso, 19, was discovered Nov. 9, 2014, inside her apartment at 1727 W. 24th St. Police have described the crime scene as “violent.”

Washington is accused of killing Mosso on or about Nov. 7, according to court records. His bond was set at $750,000.

During Monday’s hearing, Washington asked Judge Kay Huff if his bond could be lowered because it was “a little too much.”

“They say I allegedly did it … and I didn’t ever do it,” Washington said. He added, “I have kids to take care of.”

Huff maintained the bond.

Days after Mosso’s slaying, a Journal-World reporter working on a story about safety at the apartment complex interviewed Washington and his girlfriend inside their apartment. Greenville, Miss., where he was later arrested, is his hometown, authorities said.

Washington’s next court appearance is scheduled for March 23.

The Douglas County Sheriff’s office declined to release his booking photo to the Journal-World, citing a provision of the Kansas Open Records Act allowing agencies to withhold documents that could interfere with prospective law enforcement investigation or prosecution.