Defense arranges for outside expert to test footwear evidence in Rontarus Washington murder case
photo by: Mackenzie Clark
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
• Sept. 11, 2020: Motions hearing dates set in Rontarus Washington Jr.’s case
• Aug. 31, 2020: Prosecutor withdraws from Rontarus Washington Jr. murder case
• 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 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
• Sept. 5, 2019: Lawrence murder case, pending since 2014, set for trial next week
• Nov. 25, 2015: Cedarwood homicide victim buried in Mexico
• Nov. 10, 2014: Police investigating possible homicide at Cedarwood apartments