‘Serious accusation’: AJ Armstrong’s attorney discusses complaint against prosecutors’ expert

HOUSTONAntonio Armstrong Jr.’s previously filed federal lawsuit against the City of Houston, accusing them of planting evidence in his case, has been supplemented with new information against Celestina Rossi, the Montgomery County blood spatter analyst who claimed to have found the new DNA evidence that took center stage during the trial.

On Wednesday, A.J. was found guilty of murdering his parents in 2016 and sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 40 years.

RELATED: Antonio ‘AJ’ Armstrong appointed public defender after being found indigent as process of appeal begins

Shortly after jurors started deliberating Monday, A.J. filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Houston, accusing them of planting the new DNA evidence that prolonged his third capital murder trial start date.

In the original lawsuit, Armstrong and Kallinen, stated that the city “violated the substantive and procedural Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by planting DNA/Blood evidence on Plaintiff’s clothes thereby, causing the malicious criminal prosecution of Plaintiff.”

See the video below to watch the full news conference on Saturday about the 2019 complaint.

In the supplemented complaint, which is an additional complaint that either corrects a defect in the original complaint or adds relevant matters that occurred after the action began, A.J. is claiming that in 2019, another DNA expert filed a complaint against Rossi for planting DNA evidence in a separate capital murder trial.

“The expert for the prosecution, Celestina Rossi, together with Houston police officers at the Houston Property Room, or elsewhere, handled the Armstrong evidence that had Armstrong’s deceased Father’s blood/DNA on it (also blood had flaked off and was loose in the evidence container) and then handled Armstrong’s TShirt which had no blood/DNA of Armstrong’s father on it thereby transferring the incriminating blood/DNA onto the T-Shirt. Rossi then falsely testified in Armstrong’s third trial that one of the particles of blood/DNA that Rossi and/or the Houston police knowingly transferred onto the T-Shirt was deposited the night of the murder implicating Armstrong,” the lawsuit read.

The lawsuit includes a copy of the complaint, which was filed by Dr. Robert Collins to the Texas Forensic Science Commission against Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office CSI Celestina Rossi and others, in February 2019.

In the complaint, Collins says Rossi, along with several others, planted fabricated DNA evidence “in an attempt to falsely convict Fred Dexter Lee of Capital Murder. This complaint is also against MCADA Andrew James for not informing the defense when he discovered that the three above lied about the DNA testing done in this case. Instead, ADA James intentionally tried to cover up Rooney, Rossi, and Ramirez’s deceit by providing fraudulent documents to the defense. The documents he provided contained the clues needed to unravel the entire story.”

A.J.’s attorney, Kallinen discussed the complaint during a news conference on Saturday.

“This is a very serious accusation. Its very lengthy by a prestigious individual, (who) made this accusation,” he said.

Kallinen talked about A.J.’s trial.

“The only difference between the second trial and the third trial was DNA evidence that was miraculously found seven years after this tragedy,” he said.

A.J.’s family also spoke during the conference.

“I want you to know if I had an inkling of a thought that A.J. Armstrong, my grandson killed my son and my beautiful daughter-in-law, we would not be supporting him. We would not stand by him. We know he’s innocent,” Kay Winston, A.J.’s grandmother said.

Collins’ complaint also alleges Rossi tested a vehicle that was believed to have been used in a crime in 2007 years later in 2013, after having several owners, for blood. When processing the car for evidence, the complaint alleges Rossi claimed to have found “several areas of interest inside the vehicle where there was a positive reaction for blood evidence.” The complaint then alleges Rossi asked for the victim’s seat covers to be sent to her for processing while she was processing the vehicle.

After Rossi and Ramirez did find blood evidence in the car, Ramirez sends Rooney to the Willis Police Department evidence room to get the two untested seat covers obtained from the crime scene in 2007. This is a clear violation of any crime scene processing method. What possible legitimate reason could these three have to intentionally get these seat covers from evidence and bring them to the processing of Fred Lee’s 1994 Buick? 1) Rossi and Ramirez processed the seat covers on 3/22/2013 but no swabs obtained from them were submitted for testing along with the swabs from the 1994 Buick that were processed on the same day. Other items obtained from the victim’s car (scent pads, drink cup, Hi-C juice box) were submitted with the 1994 Buick swabs. What happened to the swabs from the seat covers,” the complaint read.

Rossi, who was one of the prosecutors’ key witnesses in A.J.’s third capital murder re-trial, testified for more than eight hours about the evidence and her discovery of the new DNA evidence. She said she found the new DNA while visiting the Houston Police Department’s evidence room to examine the Armstrongs’ bloody pillows.

During her testimony, Rossi said she was brought on the case by prosecutors, for free, to help review evidence and check for blood spatter. She said she spent more than 100 hours working on the case, even helping prosecutors build a makeshift staircase and bed to help bring the crime scene to life for jurors during her testimony.

When it came to her testimony about the DNA evidence, Rossi said she was “shocked” to discover blood on the back of a homicide sticker that was placed on A.J.’s shirt five hours after the murder of his parents when he was transported to the homicide building for questioning. The discovery came seven years later, which Rossi said was more shocking.

In a video from HPD’s property room, which was shown to jurors on day six of the trial, Rossi, the lead homicide detective on the A.J. investigation, Kenneth Daignault, and HPD Homicide Detective Andrew Barr were all seen examining A.J.’s t-shirt. A.J.’s attorney Rick DeToto pointed out in his opening statements, that in one part of the video, all three officers’ backs were turned away from the camera, blocking the view for a short period of time.

Rossi denied any wrongdoing during her testimony.

DeToto said the DNA evidence was possibly a result of cross-contamination, calling it “meaningless” during his closing arguments.

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About the Authors:

Moriah Ballard joined the KPRC 2 digital team in the fall of 2021. Prior to becoming a digital content producer in Southeast Texas and a Houstonian, Moriah was an award-winning radio host in her hometown of Lorain, Ohio and previously worked as a producer/content creator in Cleveland. Her faith, family, and community are her top passions.