Defense arranges for outside expert to test footwear evidence in Rontarus Washington murder case

photo by: Mackenzie Clark

In this photo from Oct. 1, 2019, Rontarus Washington Jr. tells the judge he has chosen not to testify during his trial in Douglas County District Court.

Attorneys defending Rontarus Washington Jr. against a murder charge have arranged for another expert to examine footwear evidence related to bloody footprints found at the crime scene.

Washington, 24, is charged with first-degree murder and aggravated burglary in connection with the November 2014 death of his neighbor, 19-year-old Justina Altamirano Mosso. Washington’s attorneys, Adam Hall and Angela Keck, have suggested Altamirano Mosso’s estranged husband, Felipe Cantu Ruiz, as a possible alternative suspect. The jury hung after Washington’s four-week trial in September 2019, and following delays due to the coronavirus pandemic, the retrial is scheduled to begin Sept. 27.

In one of several motions the defense filed after the first trial, it sought to arrange for an outside expert to conduct footwear pattern analysis. The state has not objected to such a review, but there has been some disagreement and discussion about how the review will take place, and those issues were further discussed at a hearing Tuesday morning.

During the first trial, Steve Koch, a former assistant laboratory director for the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, discussed his findings regarding footwear impressions at the crime scene, as the Journal-World previously reported. Koch testified that there were bloody footprints that appeared to be from Mosso’s sneakers, prints that were consistent with a pair of Nike sliders, and several other prints that did not match any of the shoes he’d received for testing. According to Koch, investigators found a pair of orange Nike sliders when they searched Washington’s apartment; those sliders had no blood on the tops of the shoes but did have spots on the sole with blood that matched Altamirano Mosso’s DNA.

Regarding the process for the footwear analysis, it was agreed that the defense’s expert, William Bodziak, who resides in Florida, would travel to Kansas to conduct his testing in a law enforcement facility and that the process would be recorded on audio and video. The defense wanted to make sure that they would have the ability to consult with Bodziak during the review if needed and that those discussions could occur in private, and Douglas County District Court Chief Judge James McCabria confirmed that would be the case. Another point of discussion was whether the defense could request “any other” additional footwear evidence and testing as needed, and though McCabria said he would not approve those “catchall” statements, he would expect the court to be accommodating of additional requests that may come up.

Washington himself also made a brief comment at the end of the hearing, indicating that he felt threatened by a man whom he did not name. Washington said “this man” had been texting him and his family and that he was scared and feared for his life. Keck, his attorney, said that she had talked to Washington about the issue, which she said was “legitimate,” and that the defense intended to file a motion about it.

As the Journal-World has recently reported, defense attorneys have also filed a motion to dismiss the case because of alleged prosecutorial error or to disqualify the prosecutor. McCabria has yet to rule on that motion, but said he hoped to do so no later than March 12. Another status hearing in the case is scheduled for March 15 at 4 p.m.

More coverage: Rontarus Washington Jr. case

Feb. 19, 2021: Defense says judge should dismiss Washington murder case because of alleged misconduct; prosecutors say allegations lack evidence and trial should proceed

Feb. 8, 2021: Defense alleges prosecution had a ‘quid pro quo’ for testimony in murder case; prosecutors say there is no evidence

Jan. 19, 2021: Detective testifies about conversations with homicide victim’s husband in Rontarus Washington Jr. murder case

Nov. 13, 2020: Attorney testifies that he told prosecutor ‘you’ve got the wrong guy’ in murder case — but admits he provided no concrete evidence

Oct. 9, 2020: Prosecutors, defense counsel argue about alleged ‘bad acts’ of Lawrence homicide victim’s husband in Rontarus Washington Jr. case

Sept. 11, 2020: Motions hearing dates set in Rontarus Washington Jr.’s case

Sept. 6, 2020: Breaking down the case of Rontarus Washington Jr., charged in 2014 Lawrence murder: FAQs and the latest motions

Aug. 31, 2020: Prosecutor withdraws from Rontarus Washington Jr. murder case

July 13, 2020: COVID-19 precautions, ‘technical difficulties’ hinder public access to court hearing in Lawrence murder case

July 1, 2020: Judge modifies bond to $500K for murder defendant, who is released the same day after 5 years in jail

June 30, 2020: State argues against bond reduction for long-jailed murder defendant Washington, notes that all 11 delays have been at defendant’s request

June 12, 2020: Rontarus Washington Jr., jailed 5 years on suspicion of Lawrence murder, to receive new bond hearing; defense alleges misconduct by state

May 4, 2020: DNA testing challenges due to COVID-19 further delay long-pending Lawrence murder case

March 22, 2020: Speedy trial rights are on hold in Kansas. What does that mean for defendants?

March 6, 2020: Retrial date set for Rontarus Washington Jr. in 2014 Lawrence murder case

Feb. 28, 2020: Rontarus Washington Jr. defense pursues independent lab to avoid alleged KBI bias in Lawrence murder case

Feb. 24, 2020: Rontarus Washington Jr.’s retrial date still pending in Lawrence murder case; DNA testing timeline uncertain

Feb. 3, 2020: Rontarus Washington Jr., in jail 5 years in pending Lawrence murder case, will wait longer as defense requests more DNA testing

After the trial — Oct. 7, 2019: In Lawrence murder trial deliberations, majority of jurors flipped votes from not guilty to guilty; new trial scheduled

September 2019 trial

Day 20 — Oct. 4, 2019: Jury unable to reach verdict in 2014 Lawrence murder case; prosecutor wants to try again

Day 19 — Oct. 3, 2019: Lengthy Lawrence murder trial could end with hung jury; deliberations to resume Friday

Day 18 — Oct. 2, 2019: Jury continues deliberating in Lawrence murder trial; will resume Thursday

Day 17, closing arguments — Oct. 1, 2019: Prosecutor rehashes defendant’s story’s ‘progression,’ defense emphasizes passion in closing arguments for Lawrence murder trial

Day 17, last of testimony — Oct. 1, 2019: Longtime Cedarwood resident may have seen Lawrence murder victim kissing an unknown man, he testifies

Day 16 — Sept. 30, 2019: Detective: Husband’s phone was en route to Manhattan at time of Lawrence murder victim’s death

Day 15 — Sept. 27, 2019: Defendant and victim’s husband left prints on toilet tank lid used as weapon in Lawrence murder

Day 14 — Sept. 26, 2019: Expert: Partial DNA on Lawrence murder victim’s nail could link to 1 in 2,000 men

Day 13 — Sept. 25, 2019: Lawrence murder defendant tells police he walked in on body, then they accuse him, video shows

Day 12 — Sept. 24, 2019: Neighbors: Defendant in Lawrence murder case requested ride out of state; victim and husband often had screaming arguments

Day 11 — Sept. 23, 2019: Coroner testifies that Lawrence homicide victim likely died of blood loss from multiple stab wounds and other cuts

Day 10 — Sept. 20, 2019: Co-worker of murder victim’s husband lied to Lawrence police, he says; footwear impression expert testifies

Day 9 — Sept. 19, 2019: Lawrence murder victim’s best friend testifies, alleges domestic abuse in victim’s marriage

Day 8 — Sept. 18, 2019: Investigator gives jury photo walkthrough of crime scene in Lawrence murder case

Day 7 — Sept. 17, 2019: Husband of Lawrence murder victim wants to stay in U.S. only until case wraps, he testifies

Day 6 — Sept. 16, 2019: Lawrence murder victim’s husband recounts alleged infidelity, lack of trust in relationship

Day 5 — Sept. 13, 2019: Lawrence murder victim’s husband believed she was pregnant at time of her death, he testifies

Day 4 — Sept. 12, 2019: Cousin testifies about last time she saw Lawrence murder victim alive

Day 3 — Sept. 11, 2019: With jury selected, Lawrence murder trial to proceed

Day 2 — Sept. 10, 2019: Prosecutor questions jury pool about graphic photos, domestic violence, biases in Lawrence murder trial

Day 1 — Sept. 9, 2019: Jury selection begins in trial for 2014 Lawrence murder

Before trial

Sept. 5, 2019: Lawrence murder case, pending since 2014, set for trial next week

March 19, 2019: Last-minute access to victim’s phone prompts another delay for murder trial of Lawrence man now jailed 4-plus years

Feb. 21, 2019: 4 years after slaying, Lawrence homicide victim’s phone may finally be unlocked

Dec. 28, 2018: Defense continues dissecting evidence in murder case against man arrested 4 years ago

Dec. 23, 2018: Citing alleged missteps in 30-year-old New York case, defense lawyer demands coroner be barred from 2 Lawrence murder trials

Oct. 17, 2018: Trial now set to begin 4 years after man’s arrest in slaying of woman at Cedarwood Apartments

June 1, 2018: Douglas County Jail’s longest-serving inmate asks for murder trial to be delayed again

Nov. 19, 2017: Psychologists fill in picture of man accused of violently stabbing young Lawrence woman to death

Oct. 23, 2017: Mental competency evaluation for Cedarwood Apartments murder suspect done, but disputed

May 16, 2017: Competency evaluation ordered for man accused in 2014 Cedarwood Apartments slaying

Sept. 4, 2015: Homicide victim’s husband recounts ‘bad’ relationship with wife; man charged in death bound over for trial

Sept. 3, 2015: Coroner: November stabbing death of Lawrence woman, 19, was ‘overkill,’ ‘personal’

April 20, 2015: Homicide victim’s ex ordered to appear at preliminary hearing; affidavit sheds more light on the killing

March 16, 2015: Lawrence man charged with murder in death of woman at Cedarwood apartments

Jan. 16, 2015: Mississippi officials unsure when homicide suspect may have extradition hearing; accused was victim’s neighbor

Jan. 15, 2015: Man arrested in connection with November murder of 19-year-old Lawrence woman

Dec. 2, 2014: Police: Still no arrest in woman’s homicide, language barrier an added hurdle to investigation

Nov. 25, 2015: Cedarwood homicide victim buried in Mexico

Nov. 18, 2014: Police identify homicide victim at Cedarwood Apartments as 19-year-old woman

Nov. 11, 2014: No arrests, suspects in Cedarwood possible homicide; investigators remain on scene

Nov. 10, 2014: Police investigating possible homicide at Cedarwood apartments


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