OLYMPIA – Ronda Reynolds’ husband is fighting a subpoena to give a deposition in a civil lawsuit contesting the Lewis County Coroner’s determination that her 1998 death by gunshot was a suicide.
The reason Ron Reynolds is fighting the subpoena is that his attorney fears he may be a named a suspect if the cause of Ronda Reynolds’ death is changed from a suicide to a homicide, court papers state.
“Since he was in the home at the time of her death he is a suspect should the Plaintiff prevail and subsequent criminal charges be brought against Mr. Reynolds,” reads the objection to subpoena filed by Ron Reynolds’ attorney, Rayburn Dudenbostel.
In the motion, Ron Reynolds also asserts his innocence of any wrongdoing in connection with his wife’s death.
The body of Ronda Reynolds, a former state trooper, was found by her husband Dec. 16, 1998. She had been shot in the head. Lewis County Coroner Terry Wilson initially ruled her cause of death “undetermined.” He changed that determination three times - first to a suicide, then to undetermined before settling on suicide on May 30, 2002.
Ronda Reynolds’ mother, Barbara Thompson, has filed a civil lawsuit contesting Wilson’s determination that her daughter’s death was a suicide. Thompson has said she believes the death was a homicide.
The civil trial is scheduled to start Nov. 2 in Lewis County, with Thurston County Superior Court Judge Richard Hicks presiding.
Dudenbostel’s motion to quash Ron Reynolds’ subpoena in the civil lawsuit is set to be heard by Hicks on Friday in Thurston County Superior Court in Olympia.
The motion states that Ron Reynolds would “appear to be hiding something,” should he choose to invoke his constitutional rights against self incrimination during a deposition in the civil lawsuit against the Lewis County coroner.
“If he testifies at the deposition, he has waived his constitutional rights against self incrimination in any potential subsequent criminal proceedings,” reads the motion. “If Mr. Reynolds, who asserts his innocence, is forced to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights at the time of the Deposition in order to preserve his constitutional rights, he makes himself appear to be hiding something.”
The motion states that the subpoena puts “an undue burden” on Ron Reynolds.
In court papers, Dudenbostel states that Reynolds “continually asserts his innocence and the lack of involvement in Ronda’s death.
Dudenbostel could not be reached for comment Monday.
Thompson’s lawsuit is the first time in Washington that the accuracy of a coroner’s decision has been challenged under an amendment to state law. The 1987 amendment states that the accuracy of a coroner’s decision is subject to judicial review.
The petition could officially change the determination of Reynolds’ cause of death from suicide to homicide. It will be up to the jury to decide whether the coroner erred.
Thompson has reports by hired forensic experts who contest Wilson’s determination of a suicide. She also said that she talked to her daughter hours before she died, and that she did not seem suicidal and was making plans for the future.
Thompson’s hired experts take issue with what they claim are inconsistencies with suicide, judging by the position of Reynolds’ body and the firearm found in the closet of the Toledo home she shared with Ron.
Other issues raised by Thompson’s experts include questions about the time of Reynolds’ death, the position of the closet door where the body was found and alleged inconsistencies in statements made by Ron Reynolds.
Jeremy Pawloski can be reached at 360-754-5465 or firstname.lastname@example.org.