Too Late for Justice? Jury to Decide How Ronda Reynolds Died

Justice for Rhonda Reynolds

Barb Thompson is still seeking justice, more than a decade after her daughter, Ronda Reynolds, was found dead on a closet floor from a gunshot wound to the head, covered with an electric blanket in the bedroom she shared with her husband.

"It's devoured my life," Thompson said of the 13 years spent examining every detail of her daughter's death. "It's taken everything we have financially, mentally … but it's what you do."

Ronda Reynolds' death was originally determined a suicide in 1998 by then-coroner Terry Wilson -- even though the forensic pathologist who did the autopsy said the death was undetermined.

Today, a five-person jury is being assembled to determine whether or not the cause of death on Ronda Reynolds' death certificate should be officially changed to "homicide."

"I need the world to know that my daughter was murdered," Thompson said. "Will we ever get arrest and conviction? I don't know, that remains to be seen."

ABC News affiliate KOMO broke the story in 2008, exposing several inconsistencies in the case. Thompson sued the coroner and in 2009 a Thurston County judge ordered a judicial review -- the first one ever in Washington State.

During that review, the jury heard from Thompson's team of pro bono investigators who challenged the coroner's ruling. They unanimously found Reynolds had not killed herself. The judge subsequently asked the coroner to change the death certificate, but didn't permit the jury to decide what it ought to say.

The coroner appealed, and Thompson -- believing the judge didn't go far enough -- cross-appealed.

Then-coroner Terry Wilson refused to change the cause of death, but when a new coroner was elected in January of this year, he did. It now reads "undetermined."

That was a victory for Thompson, but she still wants it to say "homicide."

The state appeals court asked for an inquest to determine the cause of death, which is being held this week. But even if this jury does decide it was homicide, Lewis County Sheriff Steve Mansfield said today in a statement that the case will not be reopened "unless there is clear and compelling new information."

"If the Prosecuting Attorney of Lewis County determines that the case warrants an arrest and moves forward to prosecute, my Office will assist in the same professional and non-biased way that we always have," Mansfield wrote.

The new coroner who launched the inquest, McLeod, says he has one goal: "to come to a final resolution one way or another."

He quashed efforts by Thompson to force Ron Reynolds and his three sons to testify, and refused her request to prevent "suicide" from being one of the jury's options.

For now, McLeod isn't commenting on what he thinks might have happened 13 years ago.

"At this particular time I'm going to hold off on my opinion," he said, concerned that if he spoke out now it could influence the jury.

Thompson now says her attorneys have evidence that Ron Reynolds, Ronda's husband, may not have even been home on the night of her death, but his three youngest sons from his relationship with his ex-wife were there, she says, in addition to another older son.

"These boys were using drugs," she said.

Rick Cordes, the attorney for the three youngest sons, told, "There's absolutely no evidence of that."

He called the inquest "a waste of time and money" because, regardless of the outcome, "it's not going to change anything."

Ron Reynolds did not respond to an interview request from and his attorney declined to be interviewed.

Unanswered Questions Plague Barb Thompson

Thompson's daughter was found dead in 1998 on the floor of the closet near in the bedroom she shared with her husband, Ron Reynolds, who still works as a principal at the Toledo Elementary school in Washington.

Her body was covered with an electric blanket that had been turned on, both of her hands were underneath. The gun was found in her left hand which was in the blanket and it had no fingerprints on it.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...