By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
CHEHALIS – The man who opened fire on two suspected burglars at his Onalaska house killing one of them, was charged yesterday with first-degree manslaughter and first-degree assault.
Ronald A. Brady, 60, faces a maximum penalty of life in prison if convicted for the events that happened in April.
Thomas McKenzie, 56, of Morton, died from a gunshot wound to his chest, according to charging documents filed in Lewis County Superior Court. His estranged wife, Joanna McKenzie, 32, was fleeing when Brady fired at her, according to charging documents.
Thomas McKenzie’s family was overjoyed upon learning the news, the dead man’s younger sister said this morning.
“I’m so happy; oh gosh, I’ve been bawling my eyes out,” Colleen Wolczak said. “It doesn’t bring my brother back, but I am so grateful.
“A normal person would not be laying in wait in the garage.”
Brady admitted firing at the pair outside his house he was rebuilding on the 2100 block of state Route 508, describing to deputies opening his garage door and finding two flashlights shined in his face, according to charging documents.
He told sheriff’s detectives he was staying overnight at the house in case burglars from earlier in the day returned. Brady resides in a nearby rental home.
Sheriff Steve Mansfield, after the investigation was finished in mid-July, announced he concluded Brady’s use of deadly force was justified and that he would not arrest the homeowner. The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office, however, passed the case on to the prosecutor for his review.
Brady’s phone number is disconnected and could not be reached for comment this morning.
The sheriff’s office investigation determined Thomas McKenzie had gone with his wife to the house intending to burglarize it and the homeowner reacted to protect himself.
Joanna McKenzie was arrested and charged with attempted residential burglary in July.
Charging documents offer the following allegations:
On April 19, Brady reported somebody had broken into the house, moving items stored in his garage. He saw a back window had been broken and found the garage door opened about two inches.
Brady returned to his rental home and collected his .22 caliber rifle and 12-gauge shotgun and then went back to his house on state Route 508.
At about 9 p.m., he could see through the partially open garage door headlights from a vehicle pulling into his driveway and then he heard someone knock on his door. Brady said he also heard someone pound on the wall and say something to the effect the police were coming.
Brady told deputies after he opened the garage door and found flashlights shining in his face, he opened fire at one of them.
“Mr. Brady stated after shooting Mr. McKenzie, he opened fire on Joanna McKenzie as she fled,” charging documents state.
She ran toward the highway and flagged down a motorist to call 911 for help.
Joanna McKenzie told a deputy the couple was at the house with permission to take parts off a truck parked in its driveway.
Her trial for attempted burglary is set for the first week in October.
Wolczak, who spoke by telephone from her home in Salem, said she’s grateful as well her brother’s wife is charged with a crime.
She acknowledges her brother could have been at the house to steal something but blames Joanna McKenzie and her lifestyle for much of that.
“He was fighting and hoping to get his family back, and made poor choices,” Wolczak said.
The couple’s 3-year-old child is now in state custody and Thomas McKenzie’s two other minor children now live with their mother, according to Wolczak.
Read previous stories related to the case:
• “Two more homicide cases now await charging decisions by Lewis County prosecutor” from Saturday Sept. 11, 2010 here
• “Three Lewis County homicides still unresolved as triple-slaying prosecution begins” from Wednesday Sept. 8, 2010 here
• “When is it OK to use deadly force in Lewis County?: Not so simple to answer, sheriff says” from Thursday July 15, 2010 here.
Read the charging documents in Joanna McKenzie’s burglary case here for more details on what prosecutor’s think happened that night.
• “News brief: Sheriff decides not to arrest man who shot burglar in Onalaska” from Monday July 12, 2010 here
• “News brief: Morton woman arrested for burglary in connection with April incident in Onalaska when her husband was fatally shot” from Monday July 12, 2010 here
• “April’s Onalaska shooting death case still awaits decision, reports” from June 15, 2010 here