Breaking news: Onalaska man gets five years for shooting suspected burglar

Wednesday, July 6, 2011 at 12:37 pm
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Sixty-year-old Ronald Brady is handcuffed before being led out of a Chehalis courtroom this morning, following his sentencing.

This news story was updated at 4:58 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A judge rejected Ronald A. Brady’s lawyer’s idea of the Onalaska man remaining free on a bond while his appeal is pending for fatally shooting a suspected burglar and sentenced Brady this morning to just over five years in prison.

Brady, 60, was convicted of second-degree manslaughter in Lewis County Superior Court almost two weeks ago.

At his sentencing today, Deputy Prosecutor Shane O’Rourke asked the judge to impose 63 months, the top of the standard sentencing range combined with three mandatory years because a firearm was used.

Defense attorney Don Blair asked the judge to consider just six months in the county jail.

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Thomas McKenzie

Judge Nelson Hunt was brief.

The sentence will be 63 months, Hunt said.

“While it’s true a burglary may have been about to be committed, the defendant had many opportunities to do just about anything to avoid this deadly confrontation,” Hunt said. “And in fact, the defendant did what he stated he was going to do.”

Fifty-six-year-old Thomas McKenzie of Morton died the night of April 19, 2010 outside the house Brady owns on the the 2100 block of state Route 508. Brady admitted firing five or six shots with a .22 caliber rifle, three of them toward Thomas McKenzie.

A dozen friends and acquaintances of Brady’s sat behind him this morning in the courtroom in Chehalis. About twice that many took up seats elsewhere in the audience.

Deputy Prosecutor O’Rourke asked the judge to impose the maximum time allowed, 27 months from the top of the standard sentencing range, along with the 36 mandatory months because a gun was used.

“There’s no dispute the jury found this was an intentional act,” O’Rourke told the judge.

The defendant made a decision to go to the property “where he didn’t even live, laying in complete wait in the darkness,” he said.

Brady went outside and fired his gun and kept shooting even after Tom McKenzie began to run, O’Rourke said.

“He admitted eventually, I did shoot him, and hit him,” he said. “He caused this by going offensively outside the garage.”

Lastly, O’Rourke said, there is a victim, a person slain by the defendant on the night in question; a person who did not need to die.

Centralia defense attorney Blair reminded the judge that although a pretrial ruling prevented him from calling the McKenzie’s burglars during the trial, the prosecutor did so during his closing, and so Blair was finally able to do that too.

“I think what’s getting glossed over is what really was going on that night,” Blair told the judge. “The McKenzies were there to burglarize the defendant’s house.”

Brady had been stolen from as many as seven times in the past, he said. The McKenzies showed up on his property uninvited, he said.

Blair described his client as a law-abiding citizen who has done nothing but be cooperative throughout the case.

“If the McKenzies had lived their lives like Ron had lived his, we wouldn’t be here today,” he said.

Blair agreed his client waited inside his own house, and probably was angry, feeling violated.

“And if somebody showed up at my house in the middle of the night, I’d probably start shooting too,” Blair said.

He asked the court to approve a mitigated sentence downward to six months.

About 30 minutes was given to several members of Thomas McKenzie’s family to address the judge before sentencing.

Robert McKenzie, of Morton, spoke briefly.

“My name is Robert McKenzie. Tom is my son,” he said.

Robert McKenzie pointed out Brady acknowledged he’d do the same thing again, and wasn’t sorry for what he did. He’s cold-blooded, the father said.

“This guy, he’s gonna kill again. He says he’s gonna kill again,” he said. “We gotta put him away judge.”

Colleen Wolczak directed many of her words about her brother directly to Brady. She asked him how he could kill and have no remorse.

“You say you’re not sorry my brother is dead,” Wolczak said. “What kind of man is that?”

The Salem, Ore. woman said maybe her brother should not have been at Brady’s property, but he didn’t deserve to die for a burglary. She pointed to her parents in the first row.

“They lost their first-born child, because you were peeved,” she said. “Well, a lot of us get peeved, Mr. Brady, but we don’t kill.”

Patrick McKenzie said he followed the trial regarding his brother in the news from his home in Nevada.

In the civilized world, people don’t wait in a garage and then take the life of someone they judge to be of little virtue, Patrick McKenzie said.

The intruders onto the property could have been a Girl Scout selling cookies, or a plumber showing up on the job, he said.

“Which I am. And I’ve done that, shown up after dark. But I guess I wouldn’t be here if I lived in Lewis County, or next door to Mr. Brady,” he said.

“Our family is hurt, Mr. Brady,” Patrick McKenzie said. “Hurting in ways that cannot be imagined or fathomed by someone who hasn’t lived through it.”

Another brother, John McKenzie of Morton, said he felt the prosecutors did “a real good job” of showing premeditation and intent.

He recounted his understanding of the testimony he heard.

Brady stepped outside his garage with one thing on his mind, and that one thing was to shoot, he said.

“How can he say he feared for his life? My brother was running away from him, running for his life,” John McKenzie said.

He called the defendant an angry man with no respect for human life who took the law into his own hands.

“He showed no mercy, no compassion at all for my brother,” he said. “Tom’s death was not an accident.”

Brady chose, on his attorney’s advice, not to make a statement to the judge.

After Judge Hunt imposed the sentence, and and left the bench, some of Brady’s supporters said they would have liked to speak for their friend.

Terry Schrader, of Centralia, called the case chilling for property owners who want to defend themselves.

Rodger Manecke, of Cinebar, said he was unhappy with verdict, thinking it will make property owners leery and thieves bold.

“I think it send out a big message, this kind of verdict, making people afraid to protect what’s theirs,” Manecke said.

Marvin Woods came from his home in Lacey to be there today.

Brady has been his bridge partner for some 10 years, he said. He even played cards with Brady at the Unity Church in Centralia earlier in the day of the shooting.

I only know Brady is an exceedingly honest man, Woods said.

Woods, who said he had 30 years in the military, said he didn’t like the fact that Brady ended up killing the guy.

“I don’t know what in the world I’d do under those same circumstances,” he said.

The Onalaska man was taken handcuffed out of the courtroom down to the Lewis County Jail.

Brady argued self defense in his trial. He avoided a first-degree murder conviction, and also a conviction of first-degree assault for allegedly firing at Thomas McKenzie’s wife Joanna McKenzie.

A jury of six men and six women took less than three hours on June 24 to find him guilty of second-degree manslaughter.

Until today, the retired bachelor had been free on a $50,000 unsecured appearance bond.

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Mothers of Thomas McKenzie's children shared photos of his children. Teresa, Cristy, Anthony, Danielle and Brittney, taken in 2010 at a celebration of life for their father. / Courtesy photo

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Thomas McKenzie, right, with his children Anthony, Robert, Stormie, taken about a year before his death. / Courtesy photo

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Read “Breaking news: Onalaska murder trial: Guilty of second-degree manslaughter” from Friday June 24, 2011, here

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24 Responses to “Breaking news: Onalaska man gets five years for shooting suspected burglar”

  1. Janet says:

    ok, sorry.

  2. JOHN MCKENZIE says:

    It’s Ok . Lets all rest. Thank You for your Compassion.

  3. Janet says:

    That man did not have to kill Tom McKenzie! How dare you George and Leslie to think it is ok to take anothers life over material possessions! You are both sad individuals to think that Brady was in the right, to lay in wait in the dark, like he was hunting game. He is a sick person and should rot in prison for what he did.
    But I guess you two think it is ok to kill someone over a bucket of nails and a tube of caulk! Why dont you get off it now and just leave the family alone. Youve spoken your bent opinions, or do you just want to cause more pain for the innocent? And George, I think you really lost your cookies when you said “TOM WAS EVIL” and “BRADY MADE A BAD CHOICE”! Im thinking you have that straight up backwards! MURDER IS EVIL, STEALING IS A BAD CHOICE! Ive watched other posts youve made on previous news stories, and I thought were pretty objective and possessed good common sense. You offered some good thoughts to people. But, the statements you made about evil and bad choices sheds a different light on my opinion of you. Go figure. You both can respond to my post, I dont care what you say. Your opinions are not worth arguing with anymore. Im done with this argument now because I have respect for the family of Mr. McKenzie. If you have any common decency, you will do the same. Oh, and maybe you should offer an apology to the family cause you both have stirred enough unnecessary bullshit for them.

  4. George says:

    Leslie, I would have to agree with you. Nobody forced ANYONE to go to that house that night to steal things that didn’t belong to them. They made up their own minds to go there, for their own reasons. But one of those reasons was to deprive a person of their property, things that they had worked hard to get. Therefore, THEY WERE IN THE WRONG! Neither person should be praised for their actions that night, because they were there to commit a felony.

    That person was tired of people coming to his property to steal his belongings, and so he was there waiting for someone to show up to take his things. He had plenty of chances to do the right thing: he could have called the cops right away (you do that and say “robbery in progress”, and they’ll be there FAST!), or he could have waited until the thieves were inside the building (they put one foot down on the floor inside the building is all it takes!).

    ALL of the people that night made bad decisions. One of them had made all sorts of bad decisions before, so he wasn’t a saint… it doesn’t matter what anyone says. When people talk about the examples he was setting for his children and grandchildren, theft, robbery, and burglary are not examples to be proud of. As for the other guy, well, taking the law into his own hands, he now has to pay for that mistake.

    Maybe, at one time, both of these men were upstanding, law-abiding citizens. One of them changed that years before when he decided to become a thief… the other one changed it when he took the law into his own hands.

    Neither one was innocent.

  5. Leslie taggart says:

    well then if its only material possessions, you should post your own address so those who need to steal have a welcomed place to go to. .. as i said before he made the choice top go there,,, the woman who was with him has already agreed they were there to steal..its sad he had to pay with his life.. its also sad another mans life too is changed forever.. all for protecting what was HIS. Im sorry you hurt. only time will heal those wounds. and it never really heals. it just gets less painful. have the best day you can.

  6. JOHN MCKENZIE says:

    Thank You Janet

  7. Janet says:

    Also, I see beautiful children in the pictures above. The one with Tom with three of his children must be very special also. It looks to me like he did alot of right in his life, it does show in the faces of those children.

  8. Janet says:

    So Leslie, why do you think this forum is here? And I hate to tell you but, you just participated in the family feud yourself!
    And so what if your Grandpa died committing a burgulary, the point is that he did die. All these emotions here are from grieving relatives, they have the right to express their feelings, and this is the place they can do that. A good place for it as a matter of fact. Would you really want to deny them their chance to heal?
    To the rest of Toms family, I offer my condolences.
    As far as Brady, he wanted to kill that night. He didnt have to go that far, but, he wanted to. I feel he got a light sentence for his crime. It was not as if he were defending one of his childrens lives, he was defending his material possessions with a vengence.

  9. lalalollipop says:

    Good , bad, indifferent. What are you thinking, where is your mind? Good should be deleted from your choices. The coroners report, which is a legal document, states Tom was (Killed on anothers property). The toxicology report found no substances in Toms system. TOM DID NOT DO DRUGS. His children don’t have to say their grandpa or father was mudered while stealing from someone . Tom did not have a trial. In the state of Washington, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Tom was running away and shot down like a animal. People should show some compassion in regards to the death sentence Brady delivered to Tom McKenzie.

  10. Leslie taggart says:

    wow….. just wow…. a family fued right here in open forum.. bottom line… he went there to steal…. is that fact alone something to be PROUD OF? work for what you need! dont TAKE it away from someone else who DID work hard to have it…. ! bad choice.. payment.. unfortunatly it cost him his life… this might have a different ending if the burgerler had had a gun and shot back.. sad too… The homeowner made a decision… good/ bad/ indefferent// he made his choices.. he now must pay his due.. lets just see how many burgerlers he has after he gets out in 5 years… It is sad someone had to die… but this county doesnt do anything but slap hands of theives and druggies.. payment was a high cost.. but a lesson learned by many I hope! I feel sorry for the children who must say my grampa was murdered while stealing from someone.. and any other description is inaccurate… now its time to pay the fiddler… and get back to life.

  11. George says:

    Well said, Michelle.

  12. Michelle McKenzie Holmes says:

    @ George you are 100% right, they were both there and they both made decisions that has effected them and their families for the rest of all our lives. Uncle Tom should not have been there that night and we all know that, our family is upset for one reason and that reason is that Ron Brady had the choice to do what he did, most reasonable people would have just called the police if they were threatened for their life, he chose to sit there and wait and now he will pay for the choice that he made…
    @ Kelly and Salem (AKA Marilyn)…what gives you both the right to come on here and slander family members when you said that we are all grieving? Everyone has there own grieving process…anger, sadness, ect…whatever it may be, we all do it differently.
    Have you both thought about how Toms parents feel about everything that has happened? Has anyone in Salem called to see how they are….well I can answer that, no you havent. Instead you would rather throw things in their face of what may or may not have happened over the years. You say how much love and prayers should be with the family, there has yet to be any respect or love shown from your side to Toms grieving parents.
    I understand that your children might be grieving because Tom is no longer with us, but we all are in our own way. You said that some of us our acting in guilt, is it possible that you may have your own guilt by keeping yours and Toms children out of his life for so long. You are both turning this into a matter which should not involve either one of you, both of you have been out of our families lives for 12 plus years, it is time to let your hatred and other feelings towards the Mckenzies rest. Our family business really doesnt involve you anymore, so its best if you both allow your “adult” children to only be involved.
    Also you mentioned some of Uncle Toms kids, how the Oregon side of the family has taken care of his youngest. Please dont forget his other children across the country whom we happen to be in contact with always. I believe that we are all doing our parts to make them feel loved and to know that their dad loved them as well.
    The truth is all families have problems, but eventually when we mature we set our differences aside. All of us have a special place for Tom in our heart, and he will greatly be missed by all of us. <3

  13. bobby and stormie says:

    WE LOVE YOU GRAMPA BOB AND UNCLE JOHN RIP DAD

  14. Janet says:

    I just want to say that Tom has some beautiful children. They appear to be happy and content in these pictures. My heart goes out to you kids. Keep your heads up, be strong, and always be there for one another.
    Also, Ron, I feel like I could say the same to you. Be strong, and keep being there for the rest. Im sure your help is a great relief for at least some of the family, which makes it all worth while doesnt it? That is what families are all about.

  15. Really? says:

    And again I will say, I am just glad it wasn’t a mother and child broke down looking for help along that dark lonely highway when Mr. Brady just opened fire…And I totally agree, what about the children, the grandchildren, and yes Salam those that are throwing the anger are most likely covering up there own guilt for the way they treated there “family” and now may not right their wrongs.

  16. Salem,Oregon says:

    @ George most of Tom’s family have given him responsibility for his actions, we know he had no business there but there is a select few that won’t except this but they have issues on blaming others, but it still doesn’t take the pain of losing someone away. Ronald hasn’t taken full responsibility yet due to he’s appealing the out come. I’m glad he’s where he’s at because he has issues it very easily could of been an innocent person he took out that night.

  17. kelly says:

    George,

    Apparently, you didn’t really read my post, this is not about who did what or why. I agree with you in that they both were in the wrong in their judgment that night. But the fate of that night has been decided by a jury conviction, and I’m not writing to rehash or argue with you or anyone else.

    It’s about the children who are left behind and providing love and support to them, in memory of their father.

  18. George says:

    Salem, I understand that there are those who grieve over the loss of their family member. He DID, however, make the choice to commit a crime that night, and he paid for that choice. THAT needs to be accepted along with any redeeming qualities he may have had. His family needs to give him the share of responsibility that is his for the actions he undertook on that fateful night.

    Similarly, the man who pulled the trigger needs to take responsibility for HIS actions as well. He knew what he was doing when he set out to do it, and he is paying the price for it.

    Both men committed an act that is heinous to others. Both men paid for their choices. It is time for people to start understanding that “Personal Responsibility” goes a long way… and that BOTH men involved in this case were responsible for what happened. It took BOTH of them to do this.

  19. Salem,Oregon says:

    @ George some of us understand that fact, that Tom shouldn’t of been there but it doesn’t lessen the pain felt by many. It is really not fair for you to talk Tom down because his children could be reading these, there are very few people that knew the real Tom!
    The only people you will find argument with on here are the ones that are guilt ridden because Tom is gone and they no longer have an oppurtunity to mend the hateful relationships they had with him. Rest in peace Tom, I know what you would be saying if you were here to see cause I know what your feelings were on certain people! Love you always

  20. George says:

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again (and probably get chastised for it, too… again), but the person who was killed was NOT a model citizen by any means. Does that mean he deserved to die? I highly doubt that, but when someone talks about plumbers and girl scouts showing up in the dark unannounced, they are glossing over the truth. He was NOT there to sell cookies or repair the pipes, not in the middle of the night.

    He leaves behind children who will miss their father, and family who will miss their son and brother. But that does not take away from the fact that the choices he made that night led to his demise. He was NOT there to do good, but was there to do evil. HE made the choice to go to the home of another person and attempt to take the belongings of that person. HE performed those actions himself… nobody held a gun to his head and said “go steal from someone else”. It is time that people begin to acknowledge that the deceased was NOT there on a social visit, and accept the fact that he was there to perform a criminal action.

    As for the home owner, well, he had ample time to call the authorities. A simple call stating “robbery in progress” would have had law enforcement there in a jiffy, and the robbers would have gotten the punishment they deserved – prison. The home owner made a bad choice, and now has to pay for it.

    So who wins in this case? Nobody. Both men made bad choices. It is time for people to accept that.

  21. Kelly says:

    Now that this ordeal is over and nothing I say will change the outcome, I would like speak out as a mother of two of Tom’s daughters. who have completed their first year of college with excellent grades, and are ready for their sophmore year. Tom was always very proud of his daughter’s and to hear how well they are doing. Tom also had a son with Marilyn and he would also be very proud of his son especially since he is following in his dad’s footsteps as being an exceptional mechanic and has a very good career ahead of him. I think Tom was passing along his secrets of the trade to Anthony from day one, but it has helped Anthony excel in his career and it’s just a natural talent for him. Anthony also has a new beautiful daughter, Graciee and Tom never had the opportunity to hold her and will never get to know her.

    Tom was very proud of his children and will miss each and every one of them, and seeing each of them blossom in their own life.

    I’m not here to rehash the facts or recount that night, as the court has successfully performed that job.

    While we continuously have read quotes in the newspapers and posts from John and Colleen, his brother and sister, there is another brother who has never been mentioned in any of the articles and/or posts and that is Ron. Ron was very close to his brother and regularly visited him in Morton. His last visit was just a few days before this incident. From looking on the outside in, he has not been welcomed by his family during this time of tragedy. I find this pathetic behavior from a family. Put your differences aside during this time and just be civil to each other.

    Throughout this ordeal Tom’s other brother Ron has been the only one who has taken the time and effort to share the loss of their dad and provide them with love and support, even as he is sadden by the death of his brother. Throughout all this, he has taken time to put together a Celebration of Life for the benefit of Tom’s children, family and friends, camping trips, barbeques, and he has attended various school functions on Tom’s behalf. Ron has consistently been their for each and every one of Tom’s children providing them love and support and reminding them that Tom did love each and every one of them. Ron’s actions have been a blessing to all of us and totally selfless, and he certainly has made this difficult time easier with his love and prayers for the children.

    Ron has shown nothing but love and forgiveness throughout this whole ordeal. Ron and his wife opened their doors on behalf of his love for his brother and cared for the youngest daughter Dakota and her step brother providing them with a very loving and stable home with no questions asked. Their home allowed an open door policy for her sisters and brothers, nieces, nephews and family to share in Dakota’s life and provide stability through all this.

    Marilyn and I had the opportunity to attend 1 day of the trial, and we were their on behalf of our children as they didn’t need to be there and relive the loss of their father all over, together with his brother Ron. It was very unfortunate and sad day for me listening to the testimony of Ronald Brady, and then when Tom’s father was exiting the court room, spoke only these words to us “gravediggers” as he exited the court room with John and Colleen, without a care in the world on how Tom’s children are doing through all this. Not one word was said to Ron, not a hug, handshake nothing but anger towards him. Their are no words to express this behavior.

    Bottom line, where does one express God’s love in this tragedy. Isn’t this a time to be humble and put aside personal feelings and not just think yourself, but to think about Tom’s children, and other family who is going through the same loss. Tom’s children are an extension of him and they are closest you will ever get to have a part of Tom in your life, and you don’t and haven’t cared since the day Tom was shot and killed.

    Tom I hope you are resting in peace! Your children love and miss you.

  22. Wendy says:

    You are right, there IS justice, even in Lewis County. What Mr. Brady did was wrong. But I would like acknowledgement from McKenzies family that he was not there peddling Girl Scout cookies or to do honest contract work on the property. Two men made bad decisions, one is dead and the other lost his freedom for over 5 years. May the lessons be learned by all!!

  23. George says:

    He pays the price for committing the crime. Good. But he wasn’t just randomly shooting at people…

    I’m still shocked that Joanna wasn’t charged in the death of her cohort in crime… like they do in Seattle with gang bangers and such…

  24. star says:

    well its about time we get justice in lewis county for people just shooting people yahhhhhh!!!!

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