Longtime Cedarwood resident may have seen Lawrence murder victim kissing an unknown man, he testifies

photo by: Mackenzie Clark

Rontarus Washington Jr., left, stands with one of his defense attorneys, Angela Keck, during trial on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. Washington opted not to testify.

A longtime resident of Lawrence’s Cedarwood Apartments testified Tuesday that he saw a woman kiss an unknown man outside of apartment 13 about a week before her slain body was found inside its bathroom.

David Brown, who lived on the building’s third floor back in November 2014 when Justina Altamirano Mosso was murdered, testified that he told police he had seen a woman kissing and embracing a tall, athletic-looking, well-groomed black man outside of apartment 13 sometime in the early part of that month.

He said he was returning from work one afternoon, roughly a week before Mosso’s body was found on Sunday, Nov. 9, 2014, when he saw the young woman and the man outside the door to the apartment, and it looked like they were unlocking the door to enter, though he didn’t actually see them go inside.

photo by: Contributed photos

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

Mosso is believed to have died two days earlier, on Friday, Nov. 7, 2014. She was found bludgeoned and stabbed to death, slumped against the bathtub and bathroom wall inside apartment 13. It was a small studio where she had lived with her husband, Felipe Cantu Ruiz, until about a month before her death when she moved in with her cousin.

On the day of her death, Mosso had returned to the apartment because Cantu Ruiz had said he was moving to Manhattan. She was going to grab a couple of chairs because they needed some in her cousin’s apartment.

Cantu Ruiz has testified that the couple’s marriage was bad and that Mosso had cheated on him multiple times. Mosso was allegedly having an affair with a man named Fernando Martinez, but he was working at the time of Mosso’s death. He did not match the description Brown provided.

Rontarus Washington Jr., 23, another neighbor on the third floor, is charged with first-degree murder and aggravated burglary in connection with Mosso’s death. In the alternative, Washington is charged with first-degree felony murder. According to Douglas County Jail records, Washington is 5 feet 3 inches tall. Brown said Washington was not the man he had seen.

Brown said police never asked him any more questions about what he told them.

Lawrence Police Detective Sam Hiatt, who has testified previously in the case, returned Tuesday to discuss what he had heard from a neighbor during a canvass of the complex on Monday, Nov. 10, 2014.

Hiatt said he had spoken with a neighbor on Cedarwood’s first floor, William Enick. Enick had told him about seeing a “noticeably thin” Hispanic man, about 5 feet 7 inches tall, in the complex parking lot during the prior weekend. Hiatt said Enick had told him he’d seen the man smiling, but he appeared “aggressive” and said something to the effect of “What are you up to?”

photo by: Mackenzie Clark

Douglas County District Court Judge James McCabria informs Rontarus Washington Jr. (not pictured) of his right to testify during his own trial on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019.

Enick did not mention anything about Washington during that interview, Hiatt said. Hiatt had asked whether Enick had seen anything “unusual” that weekend, and he said he hadn’t seen anything “suspicious.”

The defense rested Tuesday morning. Washington told the judge he did not want to testify.

Attorneys worked through the morning to prepare for closing arguments and finalize jury instructions. The jurors are expecting to hear instructions and closing arguments Tuesday afternoon and begin deliberations afterward.

Contact Mackenzie Clark

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More coverage: Rontarus Washington Jr. 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


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