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Sirens & Gavels

Posts tagged: Ann Rule

‘48 Hours’ to feature Reynolds case

Ronald Reynolds, left, returns to his seat as his wife, Linda Reynolds, looks on and his son Jonathan Reynolds, right, steps up to speak during a news conference at an attorney's office Nov. 10, 2011, in Olympia. Jonathan and Ronald Reynolds say they did not kill Ronda Reynolds in 1998, disputing the conclusion of an inquest jury. They said the accusations against them have been wrecking their lives. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

The TV show “48 Hours Mystery” on Saturday will feature the 1998 death of Cheney native Ronda Reynolds, who was found dead of a gunshot wound in her Toledo home.

The former state trooper's death was ruled a suicide, but her mother, Barb Thompson, (left) who lives near Spokane, never believed it. Last year, an inquest jury ruled it was a homcide, and her death certificate was changed.

That was after famed crime author Ann Rule released her book “In the Still of the Night: The Strange Death of Ronda Reynolds and Her Mother’s Unceasing Quest for the Truth.”

Reynolds graduated from Cheney High School and Eastern Washington University before spending several years as a state trooper. She was considering transferring to a security position with a Spokane department store when she died.

For Reynolds, “Spokane was home,” Rule told The Spokesman-Review in October 2010.

“If she’d just gotten away that night, she was planning to fly to Spokane early in the morning, she would still be alive,” Rule said.

Jurors in October named Reynolds' husband, Ronald Reynolds, and her stepson, Jonathan Reynolds, as suspects, but authorties say there is not enough evidence to charge them. They deny involvement and are interviwed by CBS correspondent Peter Van Sant in the “48 Hours” episode, which airs Saturday at 10 p.m. on CBS.

Jury: Husband, stepson killed Reynolds

CHEHALIS, Wash. — The 1998 shooting death of a Washington state trooper was a homicide and the woman’s husband and stepson were responsible, an inquest jury concluded today.

The verdict drew gasps in a small Chehalis courtroom. It also ended a long campaign by Ronda Reynold’s mother, Barb Thompson, of Spokane, to prove her daughter’s death was not a suicide, as it was initially ruled.

Jurors did not specify why they suspected Ronda Reynolds’ husband, Ronald Reynolds, and her stepson, Jonathan Reynolds. The jury’s rulings were unanimous.

Read the rest of the story here.

Past coverage:

Jan. 4: Ruling changes in ex-trooper's death

Oct. 15, 2010: State trooper's death focus of Ann Rule book

Inquest set for ex-trooper’s ‘98 death

CHEHALIS, Wash. (AP) — The Lewis County coroner has scheduled an inquest in October in Chehalis to answer questions about the 1998 shooting death of former Washington State Trooper Ronda Reynolds, a Cheney High School graduate, at her home in Toledo. 

Coroner Warren McLeod says the inquest jury will be asked to determine the manner of death. Reynolds' death was initially ruled a suicide by the coroner at the time, Terry Wilson.

Reynolds' mother, Barb Thompson of Spokane, believes the death was a homicide. She sued, and in 2009 a jury found Wilson erred.

The coroner appealed, and the case is before a state appeals court, which decided to wait for the inquest.

When McLeod took office this year he reclassified the cause of death from suicide to undetermined.

Thompson says she won't be satisfied until it's homicide.

Best-selling author Ann Rule’s newest book, “In the Still of the Night: The Strange Death of Ronda Reynolds and Her Mother’s Unceasing Quest for the Truth” looks at Reynolds’ death and what Rule calls a botched investigation by authorities too quick to believe an estranged husband’s claim of suicide.

Past coverage:

Oct. 15: State trooper's death focus of Ann Rule book

Ruling changes in ex-trooper’s death

A Spokane woman whose daughter's death is the focus of Ann Rule's latest book claimed a victory this week in Lewis County. 

The manner of death on Cheney High graduate Ronda Reynolds' death certificate will be changed to “undetermined” from “suicide” after Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod filed the necessary paperwork with the state Public Heath Department, which will formalize the ruling, the Chronicle of Centralia, Wash., reports.

A jury ruled in November 2009 that a Reynolds' death certificate was wrong, but the coroner at the time, Terry Wilson, refused to change. it. Wilson did not seek reelection last year, and McLeod told the Chronicle that he felt the new coroner had a duty to correct the certificate.

Reynolds, 33, was found dead of a gunshot wound to her head in her bedroom closet in Toledo, Wash., in 1998. Her death was ruled a suicide, but Thompson (left) never believed it.

Best-selling author Ann Rule’s newest book, “In the Still of the Night: The Strange Death of Ronda Reynolds and Her Mother’s Unceasing Quest for the Truth” looks at Reynolds’ death and what Rule calls a botched investigation by authorities too quick to believe an estranged husband’s claim of suicide.

Read more from the Centralia Chronicle by clicking the link below.

Past coverage:

Oct. 15: State trooper's death focus of Ann Rule book

Parole hearing to proceed w/o Downs

UPDATE: Downs was denied parole and must wait 10 years for her next hearing. The Oregonian reports she still maintained her innocence at the videoconference hearing today in Salem.

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Convicted Oregon child killer Diane Downs says she won’t participate in a parole hearing set for today, so the hearing will proceed without her.

Downs made the same threat in 2008 when she was first eligible for release but then took  part.

This hearing will take place in Salem, but Downs can testify via video from Chowchilla, Calif., where she is imprisoned at the Valley State Prison for Women.

“We are having a hearing with or without Miss Downs,” said Jeremiah Stromberg, executive director of the Oregon Board of Parole and Post-Prison Supervision.

The Oregonian reports Downs has written two recent letters to the board, including one Nov. 30 saying she won’t be at the hearing. In that letter, she calls for her release, saying “I’ve never resorted to violence.”

Convicted in 1984, Downs is serving a life sentence plus 55 years for murdering her 7-year-old daughter and severely wounding her 8-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son on a rural road outside Springfield. She has said the children were shot by a carjacker.

Prosecutors say her motive was an affair with a married man who rejected her children. Her case inspired the Ann Rule book “Small Sacrifices.”

The Oregonian says her recent letter reveals details of a sealed psychological report. Downs objects to the doctor’s evaluation of her as intolerant, subject to “stifled anger” and “worse off now than I was in 2008.”

She also complains about being moved among cells and separated from other inmates for her own protection.

Downs, 55, writes that it’s stressful “when Ann Rule’s movie comes on TV and people want to kill me.”

And her letter includes a fantasy about how she would react if she were free and recognized on the street: “I’d just say, ‘I’m not Diane Downs. I know I look a little like her. But doesn’t she have real deep crow’s feet?’”

When the board denied her parole in 2008, Downs had the right to a new hearing two years later. But an Oregon law that went into effect in January gives the board authority to make an inmate wait a decade between hearings.

A prosecutor wants the board to make use of that law in Downs’ case.

Lane County District Attorney Alex Gardner singled her out in a recent letter to the parole board, saying that “offenders such as Downs are precisely why” the law was amended by the 2009 Legislature, the Statesman Journal reported.

“Downs is well aware of the likelihood that she will never be paroled. As such, she has used the parole hearings process as a means of publicizing her latest revelations and conspiracy accusations, rather than as a means of seeking rehabilitation,” he said.

At her first parole hearing in 2008, Downs provided baffling testimony, portraying herself as the victim of conspirators out to get her and her family. The board ruled that she still posed a danger to society and must remain in prison.

Gardner is urging the board to refuse parole for Downs again and suspend any further parole consideration for a decade.

Ann Rule’s new book has Spokane ties

Ronda Reynolds graduated from Cheney High School in 1983 and enjoyed quick success as a State Patrol trooper in Western Washington.

But by 1998, her marriage was ending and she eagerly planned a trip to Spokane for Christmas to visit her mother and grandmother.  She bought a plane ticket and arranged a ride, but Reynolds, 33, (right) never arrived at the Spokane International Airport. She was found dead in her Toledo, Wash., home of a gunshot wound to the head. 

The Lewis County coroner ruled her death a suicide, but Reynolds’ mother, Spokane resident Barb Thompson, didn’t believe it. Thompson (pictured above) worked for years to get the case reopened, and in 2009, a Lewis County jury overturned the coroner’s decision.

Now one of the nation’s most prolific crime writers is telling the story.

Read my full story here.

Crime author Ann Rule to visit Spokane

True-crime author Ann Rule will introduce her new book Saturday at Auntie’s Bookstore in downtown Spokane. 

“In the Still of the Night: The Strange Death of Ronda Reynolds” chronicles the unsolved case of a Spokane native and Washington State Patrol trooper who died of a gunshot wound to the head in 1998.

Her death was ruled a suicide, but her mother, Spokane resident Barb Thompson, never believed it.

Thompson tried for years to reopen the case. Then last year, a Lewis County jury reviewew the coroner’s suicide ruling and judge ordered it reversed. Thompson is accompanying Rule on the book tour.

The event on Saturday is free and begins at 2 p.m. Look for a bigger story on Rule’s book later this week.

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