Lawrence murder victim’s husband recounts alleged infidelity, lack of trust in relationship
photo by: Mackenzie Clark
Iliatenco, Guerrero, is a small town in Mexico with strong Catholic values, Felipe Cantu Ruiz testified of his hometown Monday in Douglas County District Court.
Many people from that town now live in Lawrence, and in the months prior to his wife’s murder, he was afraid that they would find out about the affairs she was having, he said.
Justina Altamirano Mosso, 19, was found dead Sunday, Nov. 9, 2014, on the floor of the bathroom in the apartment she and Cantu Ruiz had shared on the third floor of Lawrence’s Cedarwood Apartments, 1727 W. 24th St. She is believed to have died two days earlier, on Friday, Nov. 7, 2014.
photo by: Contributed photos
A trial for the man accused of her murder, 23-year-old Rontarus Washington Jr., finally began Sept. 9 — almost five years later — after several delays have caused it to be rescheduled repeatedly. Washington is charged with first-degree murder and aggravated burglary in connection with Mosso’s death.
But Washington was not mentioned during testimony on Monday. Rather, defense attorney Angela Keck’s cross-examination of Cantu Ruiz continued as he testified through an interpreter.
The couple had married in Mexico, Cantu Ruiz said. Mosso came to the United States about two years before her death, according to prior testimony in the case, and about six months later she brought Cantu Ruiz to live with her. Their daughter, Danna, stayed with their families in Iliatenco.
photo by: Richard Gwin
The couple first lived in Belton, Mo., then moved to Lawrence, Cantu Ruiz said. They stayed with family members or friends in a few places before they had the money to move into their own apartment at Cedarwood, roughly three months before Mosso’s death. He forgave Mosso for seeing another man, he said, and they had agreed to start over again.
But the agreement didn’t last long. Cantu Ruiz said soon he suspected that she was again seeing someone else. He would check to see whether she was at work when she said she was, and eventually, he said, he saw another man drop her off.
Around the same time — roughly a month before her death — Mosso moved into her cousin’s apartment, which was a short walk from Cedarwood.
On Friday, Cantu Ruiz testified that he believed Mosso was pregnant at the time of her death, and he “didn’t even know” whether he or Mosso’s boyfriend — Fernando Martinez, whom he had seen dropping her off at work — was the father.
A possible pregnancy was not mentioned in the preliminary hearing in the case, and no testimony related to an autopsy report has been given thus far to indicate Mosso was in fact pregnant.
On Monday, Cantu Ruiz testified that he had been talking to a couple of ex-girlfriends back in Mexico around the time of Mosso’s death.
photo by: Mackenzie Clark
He had been messaging one ex-girlfriend on Facebook who was interested in coming to the United States, he said, and they had been making arrangements to make that happen. He had just started saving money to bring her here — it’s expensive, and it takes a lot of time to save because she was going to come illegally, he said.
He would erase the messages with that woman when he was with Mosso, Cantu Ruiz said — they didn’t know each other’s Facebook passwords, but they could see each other’s when they were together. He’d been talking with another ex, too, but she didn’t want to come here, Cantu Ruiz said.
There was no trust in his relationship with Mosso, Cantu Ruiz testified. Mosso’s actions upset him because she was setting a bad example for their daughter, he said.
He would “sometimes” ask Mosso to send him photos of herself to show him where she was, who she was with or who was driving her home; sometimes he used a video call, he said.
• • •
Douglas County District Court Judge James McCabria dismissed the jury for the day at lunchtime because of a protest that was scheduled to begin in the afternoon.
The protest’s focus was on the office of Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson and Amy McGowan, chief assistant district attorney; however, the judge did not elaborate to the jurors about the subject matter except to say that it did not involve any of the parties in this case.
He said he was probably being overly cautious, but he did not want jurors to be distracted by the protest. He admonished them not to read or watch local news and to avoid social media.
The trial will resume Tuesday morning and is scheduled to run through Sept. 27.
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