Chehalis - A civil trial began in Lewis County Superior Court on Monday to determine whether a coroner's determination that Ronda Reynolds committed suicide is accurate.
Ronda Reynolds’ mother, Barbara Thompson, maintains the death in Toledo was a homicide. She filed a lawsuit contesting results filed by Lewis County Coroner Terry Wilson.
Both were present in court Monday.
Ronda Reynolds’ husband, Ron, found the former state trooper shot dead in her home on Dec. 16, 1998.
A jury made up of eight women and four men first heard opening statements from Thompson’s attorney, Royce Ferguson.
“Barb first questioned (the suicide) after talking to witnesses, and red flags started popping up,” Ferguson told the jury. “We’re not here to say Ron Reynolds killed her, but we’re going to see that he is a super excellent suspect.”
Wilson’s attorney, John Justice of Olympia, said there’s no physical evidence tying anyone else to Reynolds’ death.
Though the coroner changed his determination three times between 1998 and 2002 – to suicide from undetermined, then back to undetermined, and finally suicide – Justice said the coroner followed the Lewis County Sheriff’s investigation results with his rulings, results which had negative influences from Thompson.
“This is one of the most unusual cases you’ll see,” Justice said. “It was tragic, there’s no debate there. But coroner Wilson had to make a determination, and he stands by that determination.”
In May, attorneys decided not to require that Ron Reynolds give a deposition in the lawsuit, because he is not a suspect in the case.
Barbara Reynolds’ voice quivered as she testified Monday. She touched on the “red flags” her attorney noted, saying the body positioning, Ron Reynolds’ demeanor after the death and an extra-marital affair led her to believe suicide is out of the question.
“I do believe if my daughter’s life was so troubled and she did take her own life, I could accept it,” she said through tears. “I wouldn’t like it, but I could accept it. I’m asking the jury to look at whether his determination was right.”
Justice said the lawsuit is an unusual one, and said it’s unclear what will happen when the judge and jury come to a conclusion.