An Onalaska man is now charged with first-degree murder rather than manslaughter after shooting to death a man who attempted to burglarize his home April 19.
Prosecutors amended Ronald Allen Brady’s manslaughter charge to first-degree murder on Friday.
Brady, 60, is also charged with first-degree assault for shooting at the dead man’s wife.
Prosecutors say Brady’s late-September manslaughter charge was actually “conservative,” considering facts in the case.
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Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Brad Meagher said “we think evidence supports (first-degree murder).”
Brady is scheduled to go to trial on his charges Jan. 10, 2011.
Thomas McKenzie, 56, of Morton, died face-down on Brady’s front lawn after being shot with a .22-caliber rifle. An autopsy showed he died of a gunshot wound to the chest.
McKenzie’s wife, Joanna McKenzie, 32, escaped Brady’s hail of gunfire and fled on foot to state Route 508 where she flagged a motorist down for help and called 911 on a cell phone.
A neighbor of Brady, relating a story to The Chronicle in October, said Brady told him he shot 11 times at the McKenzies.
Brady, according to charging documents, also told police he shot at McKenzie while she ran.
McKenzie was arrested for attempted burglary and entered an Alford plea on Oct. 20 in which she did not admit guilt but conceded she would likely be found guilty if the case came to trial.
McKenzie will appear today in Lewis County Superior Court for arraignment on unrelated charges — possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia — following an arrest Sunday night during a traffic stop on Harrison Avenue in Centralia.
On Tuesday, Judge James Lawler set McKenzie’s bail at $20,000. He justified the high amount by noting McKenzie’s recent conviction.
McKenzie was sentenced to electric home monitoring or 15 days in jail for attempted burglary.
But McKenzie didn’t enroll in electric home monitoring, according to Prosecutor Kjell Werner, who added she could be held in custody today to begin serving her 15-day sentence.
On April 19, Brady fired upon the McKenzies at his home on the 2100 block of state Route 508 only hours after calling police about an apparent break-in.
Brady told a responding officer earlier that evening it appeared as if his garage had been broken into. He said items inside were moved around, a rear window was broken, and the garage door was partially opened.
The garage was adjacent to a home he owned and was renovating; Brady lived in a rental home nearby.
Around 9 p.m. that night, while waiting in darkness inside the home he was renovating, Brady told police he noticed a car with its headlights on enter his driveway. That’s when he grabbed his rifle and entered the garage.
In the darkness, Brady said he tripped. The noise caused the McKenzies outside to bang on a garage wall and yell about calling the police.
Brady opened his garage door, faced two flashlights beaming in his face, and opened fire.
Joanna McKenzie told police her husband had been given permission to enter Brady’s property and remove parts from a truck. Upon arrival and hearing noises from within the house, Thomas McKenzie banged on a wall to flush out who he thought was an intruder.
Brady flung the garage door open and started shooting, Joanna McKenzie told police. She said she saw her husband try to run away but collapse while yelling repeatedly in pain.
Inside Thomas McKenzie’s vehicle, police found two pairs of bolt cutters, pry bars, a pipe wrench and a drill, among other various items.
Joanna McKenzie told police she discarded gloves and a stocking cap while running from the scene.
Brady’s case has drawn many parallels to the 2002 case of Oliver Glenn Hooker, acquitted by a jury for the shooting death of an apparent burglar who was running back to his car on Little Hanaford Road east of Centralia.
Hooker, 65 at the time, had been accused of manslaughter after killing David Michael Cline, of Longview, after shooting him from more than 90 feet away on his driveway in the night.
Hooker, a home caretaker, said the property he was overseeing was being repeatedly robbed. So he camped out one night on a vacant house’s porch with two guns, coffee, and a sleeping bag to ambush potential intruders.
Prosecutor Meagher said he believes the prosecuting attorney’s office has a stronger case against Brady than it did with Hooker several years ago.
“I think the facts in that case are much different,” Meagher said.