Prosecutor withdraws from Rontarus Washington Jr. murder case
photo by: Mackenzie Clark/Journal-World File Photo
The former chief assistant district attorney who has been prosecuting a high-profile Lawrence murder case for several years has withdrawn from the case, court documents show.
CJ Rieg left the Douglas County district attorney’s office in March and is now an assistant attorney general at the state level. However, she has stayed on as a special assistant district attorney in the case against Rontarus Washington Jr., the Journal-World has reported.
Washington, now 24, was arrested in early 2015 and charged with first-degree murder and aggravated burglary in connection with the November 2014 death of his 19-year-old neighbor, Justina Altamirano Mosso. He has been awaiting a second trial since the jury hung after his first four-week trial, which began in September 2019.
Rieg has been on the case since 2015, but on Monday she filed a notice of withdrawal from the case. The notice did not provide a reason.
Senior Assistant District Attorney Alice Walker, who joined Rieg as co-counsel in February, will continue prosecuting the case. Deputy District Attorney David Melton will enter his appearance as Walker’s co-counsel, said Dorothy Kliem, trial assistant for the DA’s office.
“Since this case is not presently set for trial new co-counsel can be brought into the case without interruption,” Kliem said via email Monday.
Prosecutors have long held that Washington entered Altamirano Mosso’s apartment to steal from her, which he admitted to, but then ended up killing her. Washington’s defense team, Angela Keck and Adam Hall, have suggested Altamirano Mosso’s estranged husband as an alternative suspect, as they say he had a motive for the killing. However, Rieg presented phone records and witness testimony indicating that the husband was not in Lawrence at the time investigators believe Altamirano Mosso was killed.
photo by: Mackenzie Clark/Journal-World File Photo
Keck and Hall have filed several motions alleging prosecutorial error and racial bias, claims that Walker has denied. None of Walker’s responses to the defense motions indicated that Rieg was going to withdraw from the case.
In response to a follow-up email from the Journal-World asking whether Rieg’s withdrawal had anything to do with the recent motions, Kliem did not address the question but again stated that another attorney in the DA’s office can be assigned without causing a delay.
Contact Mackenzie Clark
Have a story idea, news or information to share? Contact public safety reporter Mackenzie Clark:
More coverage: Rontarus Washington Jr. 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