Updated at 6:47 p.m.
By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
CHEHALIS – The preliminary witness list for the coroner’s inquest into the 1998 death of former Trooper Ronda Reynolds in Toledo was released today by Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod.
Not on the list is former Lewis County Coroner Terry Wilson, but McLeod said in a news release any potential witnesses who have not yet been subpoenaed are not listed.
He expects the list to be complete by Sept. 9.
The inquest is currently scheduled for the second week in October, to be held in Lewis County District Court in Chehalis. McLeod will be the presiding officer.
Reynolds, 33, was found with a bullet in her head and covered by a turned-on electric blanket on the floor of a closet in the home she shared with her husband of less than a year, Ron Reynolds, in December 1998.
Among those McLeod has subpoenaed to testify are Ron Reynolds and his three sons who were present when the first sheriff’s deputy arrived, the deputies and detectives who examined the scene, and two of their superiors from the sheriff’s office.
Others include an outside former homicide detective who reviewed the case for the sheriff’s office and concluded it was a homicide, and two outside investigators who reviewed it after that and concurred with then-Sheriff John McCroskey that the determination of suicide was appropriate.
The case was the subject of a judicial review in Lewis County in November 2009 after which a panel of citizens concluded then-Coroner Wilson’s determination that Reynolds died of suicide was arbitrary, capricious and incorrect. A judge ordered Wilson to change the manner of death, but Wilson appealed.
One of McLeod’s first acts after he took office in January was to change Reynolds’ death certificate from suicide to undetermined and announce he wanted to hold a coroner’s inquest.
McLeod has said an inquest is an investigation, not a trial.
The coroner’s jury will consist of five individuals plus two alternates. They will be encouraged to reach a unanimous decision about the cause and manner of death, but will be permitted to make a determination by majority vote, according to the rules McLeod has adopted.
If they determine it to be homicide, they will be asked to determine whether by a preponderance of evidence they can identity the person or person’s responsible for the death.
If someone is named as causing the death, Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer has said he would have to decide what to do next. One of the RCWs states the coroner shall issue a warrant if the person committing the homicide is ascertained by the inquisition.
The inquest jury’s determinations are not binding, but McLeod has said he will abide by them.
The courtroom is expected to have seating for 60 persons, with as many as 20 allocated for the news media.
The witness names are as follows:
• Gary Holt – retired Lewis County sheriff’s deputy
• Robert Bishop – former Lewis County sheriff’s deputy
• Dave Neiser – retired Lewis County sheriff’s detective
• Jerry Berry – retired Lewis County sheriff’s detective
• Joe Doench – retired Lewis County sheriff’s chief criminal deputy
• Glade Austin – retired Lewis County sheriff’s detective’s sergeant
• Steve Aust – Lewis County Sheriff’s Office commander
• Carmen Brunton – former Lewis County coroner’s chief deputy
• Laurie Hull – friend
• David Bell – friend
• Ron Reynolds – husband of decedent
• Joshua Reynolds – son of Ron Reynolds
• David Reynolds – son of Ron Reynolds
• Jonathan Reynolds – son of Ron Reynolds
• Tom Lahmman – former Toledo School District superintendent
• Kathryn Hatulla (sp) – Ron Reynolds’ ex-wife
• Dr. Daniel Selove – forensic pathologist
• Barbara Thompson – decedent’s mother
• Marty Hayes – firearms examination
• Mark Liburdi – decedent’s ex-husband
• Richard Underwood – polygraph expert
• Terry Ball – polygraph expert
• Steve Birley – polygraph review
• Joe Upton – handwriting examiner
• Vernon Geberth – consulted
• Rod Englert – consulted
• Raymond Pierce – consulted
• George Fox – former Attorney General’s Office investigator
• Richard Steiner – former Attorney General’s Office investigator
• Gary Aschenbach – forensic statement analyst
• David Stritzke – Washington State Patrol crime lab
• Matthew Noedel – Washington State Patrol crime lab
• Kenneth McDermott – Washington State Patrol crime lab
• Ronald Wojciechowski – Washington State Patrol crime lab
• Raymond Kusumi – Washington State Patrol crime lab
• Jill Bartlett – Washington State Patrol fingerprint division
See the rules governing the procedures for McLeod’s coroner’s inquest, here
For some background and to see the roles some of the above individuals may have played, read “Jury finds coroner erred in ruling former trooper’s death a suicide”, here