Ronda Reynolds’ husband, son to speak about 1998 Toledo death on national television

Tuesday, April 17, 2012 at 9:01 am

Updated 7:56 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The first journalist to conduct a one on one interview with Toledo Elementary School Principal Ron Reynolds about the controversial 1998 death of his wife in Toledo says he was left thinking it was a mistake Reynolds chose to remain mum during last October’s coroner’s inquest.


Ron Reynolds

Reynolds and his son Jonathan answered every question and told a very convincing story about what they say was the suicide of former trooper Ronda Reynolds, Peter Van Sant said yesterday.

“They look you in the eye, they didn’t shy away from anything,” Van Sant said. “They gave detailed answers.”

Van Sant spoke yesterday from his office in New York, in advance of this weekend’s airing of 48 Hours Mystery, featuring the Lewis County case that is now ruled a homicide.

Ronda Reynolds, 33, died with a bullet in her head in the home she shared with husband of less than a year, Ron Reynolds and his sons. She was found dead on the floor of a small walk-in closet, covered up by a turned-on electric blanket the morning of Dec. 16, 1998.

Her death was labeled by then-Coroner Terry Wilson and the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office as a suicide, but her unconvinced mother Barbara Thompson battled for more than a decade for a more thorough investigation of what she believed was more likely murder.

A crew from the CBS true crime series 48 Hours Mystery joined local and regional reporters last autumn in Chehalis when the new coroner held an inquest.

pc.ronda Copying_2

Ronda Reynolds

The five-member inquest jury was unanimous in its conclusions of homicide and named Ron and Jonathan Reynolds as responsible.

Van Sant arrived in town for the end of the inquest and the 24 hours before the two men were brought into a Chehalis courtroom.

In his 10 years with the show, he has never gone through such drama as that period, he said.

Their one-hour documentary on the case will run on Saturday at 10 p.m.

Van Sant, who spent about half his career doing CBS evening news, said he spoke with the main players in the case, keeping an open mind with all sides.

“Everyone knew going in I was going to hear their story, and challenge their story,” he said.

He met with Ron and Jonathan Reynolds at a restaurant in Olympia for their major interview, he said. Their attorney Rick Cordes was there, as were some of the family, he said.

“Jon and Ron spoke for themselves,” Van Sant said.

He called it a fascinating conversation.

“I was surprised they chose to stay away from the inquest,” he said. “The fact is, I thought that was a mistake.”


Barb Thompson

Ron Reynolds, on the advice of attorneys, avoided testifying not only at the inquest, but at the 2009 judicial review in Chehalis. He’s spoken publicly only once before, when he answered numerous questions at a press conference in November.

Van Sant also traveled to Spokane to interview Barb Thompson, an individual he called a “wonderful salt of the earth woman.”

“We have been remarkably impressed with how dedicated to her family, dedicated to Ronda she is,” he said.

He called her quest to get the death certificate changed a testament to her determination and her heart.

“I thought it was interesting at the end of the day, Barb Thompson was not upset that these men were not prosecuted,” he said.

And although she doesn’t believe it, she did leave the door open to the possibility it was a suicide, he said.

His producer reached out to former coroner Wilson, but they ended up not meeting with him, he said.

Van Sant interviewed former sheriff’s detective Sgt. Glade Austin and former sheriff’s deputy Jerry Berry, two men who worked the investigation originally.

“Both make eloquent, convincing arguments for their side of the case,” he said. “There’s no one in this story we found to be unprofessional or a simpleton or anything like that,”

For those who have watched the case closely over the years, there won’t be really any surprises, he said. No definitive “gotcha” moment. No “smoking gun.”

They put it together in the way 48 Hours does so well, he said. The story unfolds and viewers won’t know the outcome until the end of the hour, according to Van Sant.

“It’s a classic mystery, with twists and turns, unexpected details and compelling characters,” he said.

Van Sant, who grew up in Seattle and Bellevue, and graduated from the Edward R. Murrow broadcast journalism program at Washington State University in 1975, said during much of the inquest he was elsewhere working on other stories.

But his field producer Susan Mallie would call him, he said.

“Her head was spinning throughout,” he said. First one way, and then the other, he said.

It’s the kind of story where you go back and forth in your feeling of what really happened, he said.

When it came time for a screening, with a corporate vice president, the attorney, interns and others, the room was pretty well divided between suicide and homicide, he said.

“That’s what makes this story so intriguing,” he said.

A total of 10 individuals worked on the piece in Chehalis, Seattle and Spokane, he said. They reviewed documents and did extensive background research.

Among their interviewees is Ann Rule, author from Seattle who published a book on the case. Also, firearms expert Marty Hayes gave them demonstrations in Onalaska, he said.

Most 48 Hours stories have a conclusive ending; this one does not, he said. Those watching will be left to make up their own minds, he said.

“I think the people of Lewis County will find it fascinating,” he said. “I’m sure around dinner tables people have debated this for years, and I’m sure after, that debate will go on.”

Van Sant will be personally moderating a conversation on 48 Hours Mystery’s Facebook site during the show.

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34 Responses to “Ronda Reynolds’ husband, son to speak about 1998 Toledo death on national television”

  1. E.Maza says:

    I don’t know how this case can possibly be solved without a confession from at least one of the suspects.I don’t understand how or why this case was allowed to be so mishandled. No real investigation from day one. That so- called husband & the rest of his family killed that woman and law enforcement in those critical first hours following the crime did nothing! Why? This is one sad and disturbing case.

  2. Patty says:

    Just finished the book by Ann Rule…very well written!! I kept an open mind while reading it but by the time I was finished I can honestly say I think the sons did and daddy dearest and mommy helped cover it up. Too many unexplainable things’s does a dead person cover their self up with an electric blanket with her hands underneath?? How do you shoot yourself inside a closet with your body hanging out and your husband doesn’t hear or see it??? Way too many questions ppl no way do I believe she shot herself!!!

  3. Leslie says:

    JENNIFER!!! What? Are you an ignorant family member??? I read your posts and you are what law enforcement calls a “complicated witness”. You appear initially to have facts, and blow it because you have no basis for any facts. Really? We have established that it wasn’t Ronda racking up bills. You need a therapist, and by the way, choose sides carefully, in the next 6 months it will come back on you

  4. yvette says:

    Crackhead Jonathon lives with his girlfriend and her child? when he looks at her in the shower will he kill her too? Ron you don’t need to be at a school. you need to be in prison.
    Now Ron and his family wants to sue the family that he killed the daughter? sounds like he is hitting the crack pipe now.The Reynolds family is nothing but low life trash.

  5. yvette says:

    The one thing that has not been said is how shady Ron and his crackhead sons eyes would shift when answering a question. Your eyes are the windows to truth. This man calls himself a pastor. he is nothing but murdering trash. Maybe he should smoke dope with his son and disappear.

  6. Diana says:

    What about lie detector test. Ron, his x wife and son are all demonic.

  7. Judy says:

    This was an INSIDE Job! She/Ronda left the force due to sexual harassment… they paid her back. Reason why pictures went missing, and evidence being tampered with. Still there is the fact that Karen’s son.. Bing? had blood on his clothes, I don’t believe it was his friend as he stated it was him, and the cops perhaps got him to do their dirty work.

  8. Denise says:

    Please remember this: The chickens always come home to roost, and we all will meet our maker one day “the truth will set you free”

  9. Denise says:

    Please, remember this always: Everyone The chickens always come home to roost. We all must meet our maker one day!! Please do not forget this!!

  10. adminsharyn says:

    OUCH “Be Careful”

  11. Be Careful Where You Point That Thing says:

    Responding to Sheila Graham

    While I agree with the pillow after the shot leading to an implication of murder, I don’t see how it points specifically to Ron? After all, his son has also been under suspicion for the crime. Did you have a reason to not suspect the son?

    Also, I would caution you to take what the media provides with a grain of salt… THEIR focus is on ratings, it has to be. So the more outrageous and titillating, the higher the ratings. They can skew the information provided (by emphasizing some points and minimizing others and leaving some information out entirely) any direction they choose… but it will be for the benefit of HIGHER RATINGS, not truth.

  12. Sheila Graham says:

    After watching 48 hours, I know the son did it.Rons words were, ” I walked in the room and lifted the pillow and seen she was shot”… do not shoot yourself and cover your head with a pillow afterwards. However one whom shoots a person they know will 99% of the time cover their face……do the math!!

  13. letmebyrsunshine says:

    I truly believe that Rhonda was murdered and either Ron or his sons, or both, know that she was murdered. The position of the hands, no fingerprints on the gun and the fact she was under an electric blanket and it was turned on. This is a woman who didn’t like electric blankets and I believe the blanket was used to destory the time of death. Also the no fingerprints on the gun? How can a person kill themsleves and wipe the gun clean? I just hope Ron and his sons rot in hell some day.

  14. Sblaylock says:

    I have just finished reading Ann Rule’s book. I am certain that the husband killed Ronda.

    Did anyone ever investigate whether or not Katie made all those charges on different credit cards. She was the one with the drug problem and would have a need for money. Ronda seemed to be upstanding citizen and had a good job and I can’t imagine she charged $25,000 to credit cards.
    Ron just wanted her insurance – even paying a premium after she died. Not to ethical.

  15. iseerightthruyoumethhead says:

    I see right thru the yellow teeth and the well rehearsed lies. I do think it is ur sickness young man than eats away at ur soul and this is why u look like the walking dead. I think wether it was u or ur dad your should face ur maker here on earth now and redeem ur self before ur body fails and u pay for ur sins in hell. Sphegetti nite did not fool anyone and remember all the hate in the world does not make it right. We have but one chance in this life to make it right…dad quit killing ur son…unburden ur sins and make it right here on earth. It is sick and selfish and hell on earth will follow u into the afterlife unless u make it right. Confess ur sins and the lord will set u free. Rest in peace Rhonda and Barb and even those responsible may u find peace after u do whats right. God bless…im still wide awake…we are not sleeping tonite…yah it was a real rough night…face up..

  16. Denise Durr says:

    Did either of the Reynolds men(shouldn’t use men cause they are not )take a lie dictator test?

  17. BrunoT says:


    1. Did the victim actually fraudulently obtain credit in her husband’s name and run up $25,000 in charges in a few months?

    2. Did the victim double-dip at her law enforcement job knowingly or not? I find it hard to see how one could get paid by disability and your employer for very long and not know it.

    3. What was the motive for the murder, if it was one?

    4. Why would they murder her if she were leaving for another city in the morning?

    5. What was her real mental state? I could see someone who is facing a second divorce, money problems, and the inability to work in the profession of her choice being very depressed.

    6. Other than Ron’s bizarre behavior, what does Ann Rule base her conviction that she was murdered on?

    7. Did the victim have other legal issues with fraudulent credit?

  18. Aggie Snyder says:

    Ron Reynolds I hope you burn in hell….look at your druggie son….meth obvious…look how skinny and sick he looks. GUILTY. You deserve to lose your job and whatever else…..

  19. Elinor Dashwood says:

    This is one of those very rare cases in which everyone involved is so thoroughly disagreeable that it’s difficult to take a reading on who seems to be telling the truth. I don’t trust “marriage counselors” who ditch their wives and take up with a counselee, but I don’t care much either for the kind of obstinate angry person who thinks that being unhappy excuses turning other people’s lives upside down from sheer spite. If Barb Thompson isn’t obsessive, she gives a remarkably good imitation of an obsessed person (I’m thinking principally of that weird fixed stare here). At the same time, my initial reaction to Ron Reynolds is not a good one. So, whom to believe? I think it comes down to four things. First, Reynolds had nothing to gain from killing Ronda, who was about to go out of his life anyway, and sane people don’t involve themselves in the sloppy business of murder for no reason at all. Divorce is so much simpler, and Mr. Marriage Counselor (now on his fourth wife) clearly has no moral objection to divorce. Second, if there were any bias in law enforcement’s investigation, it would have been with an intention to show the death was an accident, because law enforcement – there’s no use pretending they’re not human – does sometimes try to cover up for their own and make things look tidy. They would have no reason to try to make a fellow officer’s death look worse than it really was. Third, the “I know my child” argument just doesn’t carry conviction. I sympathize with Mrs. Thompson in her terrible sorrow, but I’ve brought up five times as many children as she has, and I’m here to tell her that adult children’s conduct frequently surprises their parents. We all like to think that we know them through and through, but that isn’t human nature: people don’t tell their mothers everything. Fourth, the prosecutor declined to press charges, which means that he knew very well he couldn’t get a conviction. The record shows that DAs sometimes prosecute where there isn’t much evidence, but they don’t suddenly decide on a whim to let somebody off the hook if there’s enough evidence to nail him. All things considered, Ron Reynolds is never going to be my best friend, but there just isn’t any good reason to think he killed Ronda. Until there’s evidence, it’s plain injustice to harass him, and I wish him well if he chooses to bring suit against Ann Rule.

  20. GuiltyBystander says:

    I’ll be interested in seeing how Ann Rule updates “In the Still of the Night.” I used to live next door to a family she wrote about extensively in “Smoke, Mirrors and Murder,” which I just now read. Never saw what happened coming because you’ll never find better neighbors than they were.

  21. Ron Bortles says:

    Appears to be sloppy work by law enforcement types from the outset? Small town status quo? Very sad…..RIP Ronda Reynolds, you deserved better. How proud Lewis County must be!

  22. watchitall says:

    No matter where you find comments about this you will find the same 2 or 3 people saying the same tired worthless nonsense in defense of the Reynolds. They could easily find the truth if they looked for it but they are blinded by hate.

  23. Stacey says:

    A great story that shows how deep a mother’s love is for her daughter, I would fight just like she did for any of my kids, to get to the truth. Ron and Jonathan were not very good liars, they had no explanation for the awkward shot that Rhonda would have had to make, the gun was sitting on her face, as the expert stated, the recoil would have thrown the gun a bit farther, also, I have not read about any suicides that leave basically a love note on a mirror, then go plug in the electric blanket, and cover up and then do it. Sounds quite silly. They need to be charged with murder, I think the son did it, and his father covered it up.

  24. Terry says:

    In our justice system there will always be those bottom feeders that we just can’t say “guilty” when asked, as a juror, to give a decision on the guilt or innocents of a person. In saying that, I must say that I feel that the Reynolds got away with murder.
    The main reason that I am entering this post is really not to talk about the Reynold’s at all. What I really want to say is, Barbara, when you lay your head down on your pillow at night, I hope that you can close your eyes knowing that you did all that is humanly possible to get justice for your daughter. When you close your eyes, I hope that you can vision all of the beautiful things about Ronda and the life that you shared with her. I have no words to express my sorrow for the death of your daughter. I have one child, a daughter, who is 31 years old. Having a daughter, makes it impossible for me to allow my thoughts to take me to the place that you were when you lost your daughter to these savages. It actually made my heart hurt while to watch you on 48 Hours Mystery. I could see the devastation in your eyes and I so much wanted to somehow help you. I no this is impossible to do. I would only like to say, Ronda was so blessed to have a mother like you who would fight for her in life and in death. From all accounts, your daughter was a beautiful, young lady inside as well as outside. My hope for you, from one mother to another mother, is that you will live your life every day as Ronda would want you to live it and at night as you fall asleep your last thing you see is Ronda’s smiling face looking down on you and saying, “Mom, I love you too”.

  25. kathy says:

    I still believe that the Reynolds will be arrested and convicted; as they should be. I am amazed that Barbara Thompson is able to hold up under all the strain. That son is so guilty it is sickening to see him get away with it. Just look at his “meth mouth” teeth that he is lying through – Hang in there Barbara – most “good” people are on your side

  26. Steel Horse says:

    Why was it kept so quiet that Ronda was fired from loss prevention at the Aberdeen Wal-Mart, and that she was close friends with the Steve Larson family? Steve was that Grays Harbor Deputy that is being sued for 15+ homosexual encounters (rape) of the pot store owner in Grays Harbor County!
    I really think Ron and his son is involved in her death or had the means to prevoke or prevent it… But the whole picture of them needs to be painted. As I am sure they all lead a less than honorable life that what the press is telling.

  27. Jennifer says:

    This is what I wanted 48 hours to include in there investigation and airing of the Ronda Reynolds case that wasn’t aired- for whatever reason, whether it was editing or what…but these are a few points that need to get out there.
    1) Why did Rhonda call people from two different directions to take her to an airport- A) PDX B) SEA– never answered. This is odd. People often plan to have someone …(a loved one) find them after suicide.
    2) Was there a ticket purchased at either airport? My guess is no.
    3) Why would you have a friend from Des Moines (lives about 10 Minutes from Sea-Tac Airport), drive all the way down to Toledo, in order to pick you up. That is about 120 miles one way. That means that her friend drove home the night before (120 mi.), was coming to get her in time for a “Morning” flight out (120 to Toledo) and then take her to Sea-Tac (another 120 Mi.). See where I’m going with this…. Lot of driving, lot of time driving, lot of miles (nearly 360) all expected in less than a 12 hour window. If he lived that close to the airport, why would she not drive her rig up there and park in his driveway for a few days while she was in Spokane? The truth is- she wanted to stay the night at his house and he told her no- because he had a young son and didn’t want him to wake up to a woman sleeping over at the house. Which in my opinion would have be devestating for someone to be rejected yet another time…especially at the same time being rejected by her husband.
    4) Embellished character of Rhonda??? EX- STATE TROOPER; almost on the brink of jail time herself for stealing finances. Why does the press continue to refer to Rhonda with a title that she DISGRACED? The truth is that she was facing prison time for forgeries of mulitple accounts for using other peoples social security numbers.
    Since the inquest–
    5) Why did Rhonda call and forgive debts to her ex-husband that night? According to phone records she made MANY, MANY (60+) calls that night. Compared to almost no calls just the night before. People often do this prior to suicide to say their last goodbyes.
    6) Why do both her ex-husband and best friend, both believe it is likely that Rhonda took herself out? They made these statements in the inquest even. Also Rhonda had a close friend that said she heard Rhonda once explain how she could make suicide look like a homicide That she had been through enough training with state patrol to know how to stage it. That would explain the postition of the gun being strange and the letter on the mirror, the electric blanket, and the “plans” to fly home. Trying to stage this as a homicide would explain all of that.

  28. Brandie says:

    The era of hearsay, conjecture, & tabloid drama is finally over!! It has had to take an insermountable amount of strength for the Reynolds men to endure the last 13 years… God Bless them as they continue their battle ~ JUSTICE FOR RON & JON!!

  29. Please Remember... says:

    That Ron Reynolds refused to not only testify at the Coroner’s Inquest, but also petitioned the court in the judicial review to not have to give a deposition or testify at the judicial review. He seems to want to talk when not under oath, but when under oath, takes the 5th. Ditto for Jonathan.

  30. Jennifer says:

    I strongly believe, there is a big difference in searching for the truth and searching so hard for YOUR opinion of what the truth should be that you start to create an altered reality for youself and for those around you. Screaming from the mountain tops your redention of the truth doesn’t make it any more of a reality- it just makes those around you start to believe it. Obviously for some- the truth must be so hard to take that they are willing to relentlessly persue someone, like a dog tracks down it’s prey, until the other persons life is ruined. It’s sad that the memory of a loved one is going to be tracked through the mud- all of her kept secrets revealed to the world and character tarnished because someone wanted so badly for the truth to be different. What causes someone to go to these extremes- a mothers love? I firmly believe there is just a little more to it than that….a pure and utter hatred for someone and extreme feelings of guilt that someone who is loved is now gone and you never got the chance to mend a rocky relationship….sounds a little closer to reality in my opinion.

  31. WEST says:


  32. BARB THOMPSON says:

    The statement I made to Peter Van Sandt was that in 1998 and for a few years after that myself, David Bell and Det. Jerry Berry searched for the truth. I wanted the truth, whatever that might end up being. After many years of investigation we have come to the conclusion as did 2 different jurys (unanimous) that Ronda was murdered. Now, today, there is no doubt, not one shread of doubt in my mind or in the minds of all those honestly working for the truth that Ronda was murdered. The door is no longer open to the possibility of suicide.

  33. BARB THOMPSON says:

    You can fool some of the people all the time, all of the people, some of the time — BUT — you can never fool all of the people all of the time. Ron Reynolds may think he can but he can’t.

    I am glad that Ron Reynolds finally talked with someone and I will say I do feel Peter Van Sandt is a very open minded, unbiased individual who appeared to me to be very neutral throughout his investigation and interviews. When I talked with him he was very impartial, straight forward with very strong questions. It was definitely a “no holds barred” interview and I do expect 48 hours to air an open, fair and very factual documentry.

    SHARON: When are you going to print ::: “More to come”? This is very intriguing……….Let’s hear what Ron has to say…….BARB THOMPSON

  34. sunshinegirl says:

    Of course the Reynolds looked Van Sant right in the eye, they have had almost 15 years to get that story straight. Just because someone can look you in the eye does not mean they are telling the truth, that is a myth. I know some very accomplished liars, one I actually gave birth to and that person can look you in the eye with big tears, but as that persons mother I know it is all a lie. Also the Reynolds have been telling this lie for so long they are totally comfortable with it. Even some of Rons family members do not believe him, and I know these people and they are good folks. If they know and doubt him there is a reason. This case was so bungled right from the get go it ‘s no wonder murder was gotten away with. These horrible people (the Reynolds) should quietly unpitch their tent and go live under a rock where they belong . We have given them enough attention in the media and they make me ill.

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