A 2009 civil hearing - brought by a group of people who want Ronda Reynolds' death certificate changed - led Lewis County Sheriff Steve Mansfield to refer to the group by saying, "What a bunch of morons."
On Friday, the plaintiff, who filed a lawsuit in Thurston County Superior Court against the sheriff for making that statement, signed an order to dismiss the lawsuit without prejudice.
Onalaska firearms instructor and ballistics expert Marty Hayes confirmed he signed the order.
“My decision to drop the lawsuit was not an easy one, but one which I felt I needed to take,” Hayes wrote in a prepared statement. “Two factors weighed heavily in my mind. The first factor was the question: Did I really want to spend the next couple of years of my life fighting this battle?
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“I had seen the intransigent nature of Lewis County and its willingness to defend the actions of its public officials regardless of the merits of the case in the defense of Terry Wilson, the former Lewis County Coroner.”
Secondly, he wanted to save taxpayer dollars that would be used to defend Mansfield, the statement read.
Hayes originally sought $250,000 in damages for the “morons” statement that appeared June 2009 in The Seattle Times and was reprinted in other newspapers, including The Olympian.
“This is positive for me and the citizens of Lewis County,” Mansfield said Friday, noting that taxpayers are not on the hook to pay a settlement.
Without naming names, Mansfield’s “morons” quote alluded to allies and experts who surrounded Barb Thompson, Reynolds’ mother. Thompson at the time was building up for an unprecedented legal move that later persuaded a Thurston County judge to evaluate the case and Reynolds’ death certificate. In the civil hearing, the judge ruled that the Toledo woman’s manner of death should be changed from “suicide” to “undetermined.”
Instrumental in the civil hearing, Hayes filed the lawsuit against Mansfield on Nov. 24 in Thurston County Superior Court claiming Mansfield had defamed his character.
The lawsuit also cited The Times’ article for the sheriff’s characterization within it of Thompson’s supporters as manipulators who had an agenda to embarrass the Sheriff’s Office and Coroner’s Office, and later seek recompensation from Thompson.
In one of his first acts as Lewis County’s new coroner, Warren McLeod submitted an affidavit earlier this month to change the cause of death on Reynolds’ death certificate to “undetermined.” Thompson maintains that her daughter was murdered; Wilson went back and forth multiple times between deeming the cause “suicide” and “undetermined.”