Mental competency evaluation for Cedarwood Apartments murder suspect done, but disputed

Rontarus Washington Jr. appears in Douglas County District Court Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015, for a preliminary hearing to determine if there's enough probable cause to bind him over on a charge of first-degree murder in connection with the slaying of Justina Altamirano Mosso.

The suspect in a homicide three years ago at Lawrence’s Cedarwood Apartments is back from a stay at Larned State Hospital, but his mental fitness to stand trial remains in dispute.

Rontarus Washington Jr., 21, is accused of killing his neighbor Justina Altamirano Mosso, 19, on Nov. 7, 2014. Mosso’s body was discovered two days later — dead from being stabbed repeatedly — on the bathroom floor inside her apartment at 1727 W. 24th St.

At a hearing Monday, Douglas County District Court Judge James McCabria referenced a report from the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services and the hospital “indicating their opinion that Mr. Washington is competent to stand trial.”

Rontarus Washington Jr.

But Washington’s appointed attorneys disputed that finding.

A Lawrence psychologist from whom they previously requested a competency examination had “the exact opposite finding, that he was incompetent to stand trial,” said Adam Hall, who is representing Washington with Angela Keck.

The judge set a hearing to further discuss the matter Thursday afternoon.

Washington, who remains in custody, was at Monday’s hearing but did not speak.

The case against Washington, charged with one count of first-degree murder and one count of aggravated burglary, was opened in January 2015, after he was arrested in Mississippi.

In April McCabria ordered Washington to Larned for an examination to determine whether he is mentally competent to stand trial.

Under Kansas law a person is incompetent to stand trial when, because of mental illness or defect, he is unable to understand the nature and purpose of proceedings against him, or unable to make or assist in making his defense.

In requesting that criminal proceedings be halted for Washington to undergo the state’s competency evaluation, his attorneys cited an examination that Lawrence doctor Marc Quillen conducted early this year, the Journal-World previously reported.

Quillen found that Washington suffers from “several significant mental disorders including Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, and Paranoid personality disorder, and Specific Learning Disorder, among others,” and deemed him incompetent to stand trial.