October 21, 2011 in Region

Coroner reopens inquest on death of ex-trooper

Associated Press

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OLYMPIA — A county coroner said today he is reopening an inquest into the 1998 death of a former Washington state trooper because of an unresolved legal issue, two days after a jury concluded the death was a homicide.

Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod said in a statement he has suspended the process of issuing arrest warrants in the case. Jurors had concluded Ronda Reynolds’ husband, Ron, and stepson Jonathan were responsible for her death, leading McLeod to say he would issue warrants before Thursday evening.

“This temporary suspension is to allow for the investigation and resolution of a legal issue that has come to light,” McLeod said. He did not specify what the legal issue was and did not respond to a request for comment.

The inquest is scheduled to reconvene next week.

Ronda Reynolds graduated from Cheney High School in 1983, and her mother, Barb Thompson, lives in Spokane.

Lewis County prosecuting attorney Jonathan Meyer has been reviewing the case to determine whether he will file criminal charges. Without charges, the men could be arrested under the inquest and then let go.

Meyer did not immediately return a call seeking comment today but previously said he was nearing a decision.

The coroner’s announcement is just the latest twist in a long-running dispute over Reynolds’ death. A former coroner initially listed her cause of death as “undetermined,” but changed it months later to “suicide” at the insistence of Ron Reynolds’ lawyer.

Thompson always believed the case was a homicide and spent a decade demanding that it be investigated. In 2009, she relied on a state law that had never been used to win a legal evaluation of the case that eventually concluded the coroner’s office was wrong to label the case a suicide.

McLeod convened the current inquest, and a jury heard evidence over several days. Jurors unanimously concluded Reynolds died of a homicide and determined the husband and stepson were responsible.

Ron Reynolds, now the principal of an elementary school about 20 miles south of Chehalis, didn’t return a call for comment. It didn’t appear that Jonathan Reynolds had a listed phone number.

Thompson’s quest resulted in a 2010 Ann Rule book, “In the Still of the Night: The Strange Death of Ronda Reynolds and Her Mother’s Unceasing Quest for the Truth.”

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