District attorney dismisses Lawrence man’s murder case

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LAWRENCE, Kan. — The murder trial of a Lawrence, Kansas man in the alleged killing of a 19-year-old girl is set to be dismissed.

Douglas County District Attorney Suzanna Valdez announced Wednesday afternoon that “it is with a heavy heart that I have elected to cease prosecution in this matter at this time.”

Rontarus Washington Jr., 24, was charged in 2015 for first-degree murder and aggravated burglary in the November 2014 slaying of 19-year-old Justina Altamirano Mosso. But Judge James McCabria this week pushed the trial back until September, the Lawrence Journal-World reported.

Washington was arrested in January 2015 in Greenville, Mississippi.

Detectives said they found a fingerprint matching Washington’s underneath a toilet tank lid believed to have been used to beat Mosso over the head.

Washington told investigators he found Mosso’s body upon entering an unlocked apartment looking for “change” but that he didn’t tell anyone.

The apartment belonged to Mosso’s estranged husband, Felipe Cantu Ruiz.

The trial was first delayed in March 2015 to give attorneys time to assess new evidence from the victim’s phone at that time.

In September 2019, Washington was tried by a jury on the first-degree murder and aggravated burglary charges. After a four-week trial, the jury was unable to reach a verdict. A mistrial was declared and the matter was scheduled to be retried.

In July 2020, Washington was released on bond from state’s custody. His retrial was scheduled to begin on July 18, 2022.

“Mosso has been forever taken from her loved ones, and no verdict can ever erase that tragedy,” Valdez said.

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