Attorney Rick Cordes, standing, introduces the Reynolds' family, starting left and moving clockwise, Si, David, Joshua, Jonathan, Linda and Ron.
Updated at 5:09 p.m. and 9:26 p.m., and Friday Nov. 11, 2011 at 11:18 a.m.
By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
OLYMPIA – The oldest son of Ron Reynolds told a throng of news reporters today the sheriff’s office investigation into his dad’s wife’s death included mistakes that left legitimate questions, but the inquiry turned into a crusade and witch hunt based on hearsay, rumors and lies.
“It’s gone so far as these two men, Jon and Dad, were publicly declared murder suspects, and basically ruined their lives,” Si Reynolds said.
Si Reynolds, who was 24 years old, married and living in Snohomish County when former trooper Ronda Reynolds was found dead in the Toledo home she shared with Ron Reynolds and his three youngest sons, defended his father and then-17-year-old brother.
“Dad lost his job, Jonathan has this reputation now that he can’t live down,” Si Reynolds said. “All based on lies.”
Ronda Reynolds, 33, was preparing to leave her husband of less than a year when she was found with a bullet in her head, covered up by a turned-on electric blanket on the floor of a closet almost 13 years ago.
She took her own life, and left behind a lot of sadness, Si Reynolds said. But the speculation it was anything but suicide has turned their family upside down, he said.
“It just needs to end,” he said.
Ron Reynolds – the Toledo Elementary School principal who has been put on administrative leave – and three of his other sons took turns addressing the news media this morning in a press conference their attorney hopes could make some headway into clearing their names.
Rick Cordes organized the gathering at his Olympia law office. Ron Reynolds present wife Linda Reynolds joined the family but did not speak.
What prompted them to finally go public is last month a coroner’s inquest jury declared the death a homicide and named Ron and Jonathan Reynolds as responsible. The Lewis County prosecutor has declined to file any criminal charges, saying there’s no evidence remaining.
Cordes told news reporters the Reynolds family has had to live with groundless accusations of homicide and wrongdoing.
“They’ve come to the point now where they don’t feel they have an alternative but to come forward to put an end to these irresponsible allegations,” Cordes said.
The three boys, now men ages 23, 27 and 30, stood at a podium and articulated a fondness for their step-mother which wasn’t apparent from any of the information heard during the eight-day inquest.
None of them attended those proceedings, having invoked their fifth amendment right against providing testimony that might incriminate themselves.
“I’m Josh, I was 10, when Ronda died,” Joshua Reynolds said.
He encouraged those present not to believe everything they hear.
“It’s been a tragedy,” he said. “Losing Ronda was really hard.”
David Reynolds, then 14, said it took a long time to understand his step-mother taking her own life. He said he’s even tried to understand her mother, Barb Thompson’s position.
“It was pretty hard to deal with,” he said. “I don’t think people understand, we were close.”
He told of he and his brothers that night watching television and doing homework. There was no party at the house like some have suggested, he said.
“I was there, I would have know if something else happened,” David Reynolds said. “I would have said something.”
Jonathan Reynolds, now 30, didn’t offer any prepared remarks to the news media, but he answered their questions.
His recall of that night was it was uneventful, he said.
He remembered Dave Bell showing up at their house, and also hanging out with his younger brothers, he said.
“We played video games, did our homework, went to bed, that’s about it,” he said. “Then we woke up and our step-mom was dead.”
He was only a kid, he said. The first time he was interviewed was months later, he said.
“Until after that day, you didn’t even know you were supposed to remember what time you went to the bathroom,” he said.
On his relationship with Ronda Reynolds, he said after a blow-up with her, he moved out to his mother’s but then returned and he and Ronda Reynolds made up, he said.
Jonathan Reynolds said he does construction work, although he’s in between jobs. He said he has a family of his own, and a child.
It’s wrecking his life, not knowing if people are staring at him in the grocery store; he’s upgraded his security system at home, he told news reporters.
“I think it’s the fear of the unknown,” he said.
Jonathan Reynolds said he would like people to know they are telling the truth; and tired of being hurt.
“Really, we just want Ronda to be able to rest,” he said.
Ron Reynolds, now 60, began with telling reporters finding his wife dead was the most horrifying thing he’d ever experienced.
“I can remember going into a state of shock and confusion right away,” he said.
He described the reason their marriage was ending; she was running up credit he didn’t know about and wasn’t being honest when he asked about it, he said.
Ron Reynolds spoke of living in a small town where some believe the stories they’ve heard and others know he could never have killed his wife.
“At the time I was asking her to leave, I still loved her and wouldn’t have wanted anything to happen to her,” he said.
When asked, Ron Reynolds walked reporters through the hours before her death.
The day before, he had gone to his cardiologist in Olympia, he said. As he drove toward Toledo, he had a long cell phone conversation with his wife and she was depressed, he said.
He was worried about her, because she had talked about suicide before.
“I was trying to encourage her and tell her things would get better,” he said.
Ron Reynolds said he was going to stop at home to see her, but then she said she was okay, so he picked up a sandwich and went to the elementary school Christmas program, their biggest event of the year.
Afterward, he arrived home and David Bell was there helping her get things together, he said.
He and his wife were together that night and he tried to encourage her that things would get better, he said.
“I don’t know what time I fell asleep, it was sometime kind of late,” he said. “I was exhausted, I had put in a very long day.”
“When I went to sleep, she was beside me,” he said. “At one point, I remember thinking she was still beside me, but I didn’t turn over and look.”
He said he remembered looking at the alarm clock in the early morning hours.
When the alarm clock woke him, she wasn’t in bed, he said. He got up and looked for her in the living room.
“I go in the bathroom, I notice the door to the walk-in closet is mostly shut, all except for a crack,” he said.
He saw the cord for the electric blanket.
“Then I was worried,” he said.
“The door was blocked, so I somehow had to reach around and move her feet and legs so I could get the door open,” he said.
“That’s when I saw what I saw,” he said.
He said he was sick to his stomach when he called 911. The dispatcher sent him back to check for a pulse, which he did, he said.
“Ronda felt cold at that time,” he said.
The dispatcher asked if there were any children in the house, and suggested he send them somewhere else,’ he said.
“This thing has just been so unfair to my family,” Ron Reynolds said. “I’ve been hoping for years justice would happen, but it hasn’t yet.”
Q and A with Ron Reynolds
Did you kill your wife?
Why didn’t you hear a gunshot?
“There’s been a lot of discussion about that,” he said.
The door to the bathroom was closed, the walk-in closet was actually at the far end some 20 feet away, he said, with two walls in between. And the closet was stuffed with clothes, he said.
“I understand she shot through the pillow,” he said. “Maybe the shot disturbed me, but didn’t wake me up,” he said.
How do you know someone else didn’t shoot her?
“The way that I know, they would have had to go past me to do that,” he said. “I’m sure I would have heard that.”
Someone would have had to walk within a foot of his bed to get to the closet, he said.
What about the bottle of Black Velvet?
There was a bottle of Black Velvet sitting on her night stand, and he assumed she might have had a drink, he said.
The lipstick writing on the mirror?
It was there when he got home from the music program, he said.
“I think she was planning to travel to Spokane and left me a note,” he said. “I thought she was being kind of dramatic, it was lipstick.”
Why not testify?
“I’ve gotten a lot of legal counsel and I was advised by legal counsel not to testify in that situation,” he said. “And I think the way it turned out, we can see why.”
Do you remember how Ronda was laying?
“There are parts of that that are blank in my mind,” he said.
“I don’t think I told anyone at first about moving her legs, I remembered that later,” he said.
He said he thinks the gun probably moved at that point, from her forehead, falling to “just sort of between her hands.”
The time you fell asleep and woke up?
He said he fell asleep later than normal. Normal would be 11 p.m. or 11:30 p.m.
“Some have said she was alive at 5 a.m.” he said. “Well I didn’t say that. I looked at the clock and thought she was there, but I didn’t look.”
Was there one thing that prompted you to speak out now?
“It’s kind of important when I’m looking at losing my profession,” he said, adding it is also for his family.
You reaction when you heard you were murder suspects?
It gave him a sick feeling he can’t describe, he said.
“My reaction was, we’re getting arrested for something we didn’t do,” he said.
Your demeanor others noted after her death?
“For one thing, you don’t know how you’re gonna act until you get in a situation like that,” he said. “When I found Ronda, nothing in my life had prepared me for that shock.”
He said he’s a low-key person who doesn’t show much public emotion.
What were the “issues” you mentioned Ronda had?
He said he didn’t know of her previous criminal charge for taking money out an account, and that she had been doing community service, he said.
She was having a lot of financial problems, and that was why she was doing things with his credit card, he said.
“I think she had it in her mind when her and Mr. Liburdi’s house sold, she would take care of debts, but that wasn’t panning out, because of the market or something,” he said.
“So I think she got despondent,” he said.
What message do you have for Barb Thompson?
What do you want for the rest of your life?
“I want to live with my family in peace,” he said.
Was your other son Micah at the house that night?
No, only Joshua, David and Jonathan, he said.
Watch one hour of raw video from the press conference from KIROtv.com, here
Jonathan Reynolds faces a crowd of news reporters
Toledo Elementary School Principal on administrative leave, Ron Reynolds, answers numerous questions about his former wife's death.