Posts Tagged ‘By Sharyn L. Decker’

Littlerock man convicted after injury hit and run at scouting event

Monday, October 17th, 2011

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A 24-year-old South Thurston County man was found guilty by a jury this afternoon of two counts of vehicular assault and also hit and run.

Kody M. Chipman, whose residence has been described as both in Rochester and Tenino, was on trial in Thurston County Superior Court.

Two men were seriously injured when Chipman knocked them down with the open door of his car when he fled a confrontation about his speeding on a private driveway in Olympia in late March.

Chipman most recently lived with his grandmother in Littlerock whom he has been helping take care of.

Sharon Hallman, 64, said psychiatrists from both sides agreed about her grandson’s ‘fearful response” to the men’s confrontation, but jurors weren’t allowed to hear from them.

Chipman’s attorney spoke to the jury after they reached their verdict and they told him regardless of what the two men did, the car outweighed them, Hallman said.

Dee L. Cooper, 70, of Olympia, and Daniel I. Kitchings, 37, of Rainier, were attending a scout meeting off of South Bay Road and were standing on the driver’s side of the car, when Chipman put the car in reverse and drove off, according to the Washington State Patrol after the March 31 incident.

Hallman said she was told her grandson faces as much as 10 years when he is sentenced on October 26.


Read more, here

Breaking news: Gifford Pinchot remains positively identified as Tahoe woman

Monday, October 17th, 2011

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Skeletal remains found the weekend before last in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest have been positively identified as Marie Hanson of South Lake Tahoe, the Skamania County Sheriff’s Office announced today.

Hanson, 54, had been reported missing from the Skookum Meadows area, southeast of Mount St. Helens during the Rainbow Gathering in early July.

Th identification was made through dental records, according to Undersheriff Dave Cox.

“We are thankful that we can help Marie’s family and friends work towards some closure on her disappearance,” Cox stated in a news release this afternoon.

The investigation is continuing as to the cause and manner of Hanson’s death, Cox said.

Coroners inquest: Crime scene reconstruction expert saw “earmarks” of suicide

Sunday, October 16th, 2011

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A Portland consultant visited by members of the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office less than a month after Ronda Reynolds death testified on Friday it had all the earmarks of suicide.

pc.ronda Copying_2

Ronda Reynolds

Rod Englert gave his opinion to lead detective Jerry Berry and detective Sgt. Glade Austin after viewing limited evidence, he said, that included photographs of the scene, a pillow with its case, a green plaid electric blanket and a gun.

Englert, testifying by telephone in the coroner’s inquest, said he has 48 years in law enforcement and specializes in crime scene reconstruction and blood pattern analysis.

Much of the information he shared Friday was based on pictures of Reynolds’ body laying on its left side on the floor of the closet in her Toledo home on Dec. 16, 1998.

More specifically, his conversation was based on five pages of notes he took on Jan. 13, 1999. On Friday afternoon, Englert said he hadn’t received from the coroner’s office copies of the photos from the film he gave Berry and Austin after the visit.

Englert described various reasons for his conclusion her body was not moved after she was shot, primarily viewing the blood on her neck and face, noting gravity and that he’d been told a pillow was said to have been covering her head.

He didn’t see signs of a struggle, he testified.

The trajectory of the bullet would be consistent with the position she was in, Englert said.

Englert had an explanation for those who wondered with firearms expert Marty Hayes how Reynolds possibly could have held the gun to her own head with the wound path that resulted.

It’s a fallacy to assume a right handed person would always shoot themselves with their right hand, he said.

“Most often what happens in cases like this is the barrel of the weapon is held with the right hand and you just reach up and pull the trigger with the left thumb,” he said.

One key observation is the site of the bullet’s entry is a classic site, Englert said. If Reynolds pulled the trigger, she went to a classic site, her right temple area, he said.

The gun and her hands were positioned the way he would have expected, he said. He would have been suspicious if the weapon was actually in her hand, he said.

Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod noted to Englert he hadn’t seen a photo of the body and gun together, and that he’s heard varying testimony throughout the inquest on where the gun was positioned before it was removed.

The consultant said he looked at the .32 caliber Rossi handgun, and was told a fiber had been removed from it that was similar to the blanket.

He examined the pillow itself and found it had no defects, but said the pillow case – very near its edge – had a bullet defect and what appeared to be powder burns, he said.

On the top edge of the electric blanket, he observed blood stains and what also might be powder stains, he said.

Englert noted his experience in what he said were hundreds and hundreds of suicides: They go to a secluded place, maybe out in the woods or in a closet, getting under something, he said.

“I’ve seen several of them in closets,” he said.

There’s not evidence, that he saw, someone else could have done it without her being aware, he said.

“Could she have been asleep? It’s possible,” Englert said.

He added before his testimony ended that, according to the literature, 99 percent of all contact gunshot wounds – as was Reynolds – are suicides.

Englert was the final witness in the first week of McLeod’s inquest. His testimony followed the testimony of Barb Thompson, mother of the former trooper, who had just told the inquest jury she was certain her daughter was murdered.

Thompson after the proceedings adjourned, declined two of her friends’ attempts to get her to stay the night in Chehalis with them. She said she wanted to get home to Spokane for the weekend.

“I need some alone time,” Thompson said.

Reflecting just briefly on what she’d just heard in the courtroom, she said: “Rod Englert made some good points. I’ll have to think about it.”


Photo of Ronda Reynolds on floor of closet, without gun or electric blanket, Dec. 16, 1998

Coroners inquest: Mother of former trooper says it was murder

Saturday, October 15th, 2011

Barb Thompson, mother of Ronda Reynolds speaks on the witness stand in Chehalis. / Courtesy photo by Bradd Reynolds

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – When Barb Thompson took the witness stand yesterday during the coroner’s inquest into her grown daughter’s death she told those in the courtroom she was certain it was a homicide.

“There is no doubt in my mind, I am 100 percent convinced without a doubt that my daughter was murdered,” Thompson said.

The Spokane mother answered questions for almost an hour and a half about what she has learned since Dec. 16, 1998 when she was told her daughter, 33-year-old Ronda Reynolds, had committed suicide in her Toledo home.

Ronda Reynolds, a former trooper then working security at the Bon Marche, was found dead on the floor of a small walk-in closet, with a bullet in her head and covered up by a turned-on electric blanket.

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Ronda Reynolds

Her new husband, Toledo Elementary School Principal Ron Reynolds, told sheriff’s deputies the marriage was ending and his wife was talking about suicide the day before and through the night. Ron Reynolds said he woke up around 6 a.m. and realized she was no longer in bed with him, according to previous testimony.

Thompson testified she spoke with her daughter on the telephone twice that night and at first her daughter was going to move out that day, but changed her mind and decided she would leave on her own terms. She was not suicidal, she was upbeat, Thompson said.

Ronda Reynolds purchased an airline ticket to fly to Spokane the following afternoon.

“She was going to come home, spend some time with family and make some decisions and plans,” Thompson said.

Some 30 witnesses have been heard in Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod’s inquest in Chehalis as its first week came to a close.

Thompson described how she went to Toledo and her conversations with the son-in-law she was meeting in person for the first time.

Ron Reynolds told her she couldn’t have any of her daughter’s personal belongings because he planned to sell them to cover debt he blamed on his wife, Thompson testified.

She asked him about a funeral, and he said he said he didn’t know because he didn’t have any money. She asked if she could bring her daughter’s body back to Spokane, and cremate her, she said.

“He said he didn’t care as long as he didn’t have to pay for it,” Thompson said nearly breaking into sobs on the stand.

He told her she left him bankrupt, and never once did he say he missed her, Thompson said.

Thompson testified Ron Reynolds told her how he discovered a life insurance premium his wife hadn’t payed, that he thought it was $300,000 and was going to put it in the mail that afternoon.

Thompson has spent the years since poring through records, working with private investigators and an attorney to find out for sure what happened to her daughter. It always comes back to homicide, she said on Friday.

Neither Ron Reynolds nor his three sons are taking the opportunity to testify during the proceedings, as they invoked their fifth amendment right against self incrimination.

Thompson spoke of one of Ron Reynolds’ teenage sons she believed had a very deep hatred for her daughter, after a previous incident in which she was told he peeked at Ronda Reynolds in the shower, and she jumped out and tackled him.

He went into a rage and threatened to kill her daughter, Thompson said. The sheriff’s office was called and he had to go live with his mother, Thompson said.

When asked yesterday under oath what Thompson believed could be a motive, if indeed her daughter was killed, Thompson spoke of the Reynolds’ boys and their teenage friends said to have been hanging out and partying at the house that night, one of which told a private investigator Ron Reynolds left the house that evening.

Thompson said she believes there were several individuals at the house that night, including an older Reynolds’ boy who is not named in any of the police reports as having been present. She’s been told by three people Micah Reynolds’ truck was there, she testified.

Thompson spoke of then-17-year-old Jonathan Reynolds.

“I’ve been told he talked about ways he’d like to see her killed,” she said.





Coroners inquest: Lie detector examiners testify

Friday, October 14th, 2011

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Ron Reynolds took a polygraph days after his wife’s death which was inconclusive and another months later that indicated he was being truthful when he said he did not shoot his wife, experts said today.


Ron Reynolds

The elementary school principal called 911 early on the morning of Dec. 16, 1998 and said his wife committed suicide inside their Toledo home

The classification of her death has vacillated between suicide and undetermined ever since.

Today, during the coroner’s inquest into the death of 33-year-old former trooper Ronda Reynolds, a local polygraph examiner testified he reviewed both tests in the autumn of 2001 when the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office reopened the case.

Steve Birley, who opened his business after a 30-year-career with the Chehalis Police Department, said he concurred with the findings on both tests.

The examiner who conducted the second test in July 1999, at the behest of Ron Reynolds’ attorney, described to the inquest jurors the questions he asked the Toledo man.

“Did you pull the trigger on the gun that killed your wife?” and “On or about Dec. 15, did you shoot your wife?”

Terry Ball then read from his report: “Based on my polygraph examination, it’s my opinion he was being truthful.”

Ball was asked if such tests are always accurate.

He said 90 percent to 100 percent of the time they are.

“But they’re probably the most accurate method of determining truthfulness or deception,” Ball added.

Ron Reynolds is not taking part in the inquest in Chehalis, as he and his three sons were excused by Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod after asserting the privilege against self incrimination

More later


Meanwhile read more about the inquest:

• “Mother: Ronda Reynolds was murdered by her step-son” from on Friday October 14,  2011 at 5:51 p.m. p.m., here

Coroners inquest: Homicide experts disagree about Ronda Reynolds’ death

Friday, October 14th, 2011

Laura Reynolds was joined at the courthouse by her longtime companion when she testified in the inquest into her son's wife's death. / Courtesy photo by Bradd Reynolds

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Although Toledo Elementary School Principal Ron Reynolds has refused to testify in the coroner’s inquest into his wife’s December 1998 death, his elderly mother took the stand yesterday and spoke of her last contact with her daughter-in-law.

“She called me three times that day,” Laura Reynolds said. “She told me she could not go on living without him.”

Laura Reynolds said she met Ronda Reynolds a short time before  the couple was married, less than a year earlier.

Her daughter in-law- was crying, she said, saying she couldn’t give up her husband to another woman, she loved him so much.

The following morning, the 33-year-old former trooper was found dead on the floor of a closet, with a bullet in her head and covered up by a turned-on electric blanket.

The couple were separating and she had purchased a ticket to fly home to her family in Spokane later that day.

As the inquiry in a Chehalis courtroom nears the end of its first week, a similar question has been posed to most of the witnesses by Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod.

Did she ever say she was going to hurt herself? What do you think happened?

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office admits some responsibility in what has come to be known as an error-plagued first investigation.

At the urging of Barb Thompson, the dead woman’s mother, the sheriff’s office requested a well-known New York homicide expert to review the case.

Vernon Geberth was highly critical of their work and their conclusion of suicide.

Geberth concluded it was a staged crime scene, with only one individual interviewed who said they believed she killed herself.

“The only person who stated suicide was the husband, whose gun was used and discovered her body,” Geberth wrote in his report.

Later the same year, then-Sheriff John McCroskey sought another review, from a trio of homicide experts in the state Attorney General’s Office. The case file by then included new interviews conducted by then-detective Sgt. Glade Austin, who supervised the sheriff’s detectives.

George Fox testified yesterday he and his partners at the Attorney General’s office concurred it should be classified as a suicide.

Missing evidence did not and would not alter their findings, Fox said.

Among those who knew Ronda Reynolds and testified was Mark Liburdi.

Their eight year marriage ended a year before her death, Liburdi said.

“Yes I was surprised about the suicide, I remember saying to others, ‘no way’,” Liburdi said.

The woman he called “tough as a pistol” never conveyed such sentiment in words or behavior, he said testifying by telephone.

However, the relationship between the two state troopers was less than close in some ways, according to his testimony. They didn’t mingle their finances and he didn’t learn until after their divorce her medication was for bi-polar disorder, he said.

“Here and now, do you have an opinion, suicide or murder,” Coroner McLeod asked.

“You know, I really don’t know,” Liburdi said. “Sometimes I think no and sometimes I think she could have been killed.

I don’t know. I hope you guys find out”


Barb Thompson, mother of Ronda Reynolds. / Courtesy photo by Bradd Reynolds


Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer / Courtesy photo by Bradd Reynolds

Coroners inquest: What the forensic experts say

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Much of today was spent by inquest jurors listening to experts who conducted tests related to Ronda Reynolds’ death.


Joe Upton, handwriting analyst

A handwriting examiner who is a commander at the Lacey Police Department concluded it was more likely than not Ronda Reynolds who wrote the message on her bathroom mirror that then-detective Jerry Berry found appeared to be written with lipstick.

“I love you! Please call me 509-206-4688″

Joe Upton said he looked at several pages of samples authored by both Ronda and Ron Reynolds to make his determination.

Laurie Hull didn’t see it when she was at the house helping Ronda that afternoon.  But it was there in the morning when deputies arrived after the 911 call in which Ron Reynolds said his wife had committed suicide.

The fourth day of  Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod’s inquest in the Dec. 16, 1998 death of the 33-year-old former trooper included testimony from several Washington State Patrol crime lab technicians.

Crime lab technicians described how they found her blood on her finger nails but none when they analyzed water from a drain and a blue wash cloth.

Retired forensic expert Charles H. Vaughn said he found no blood on the sleeves of Ronda Reynolds’ pajamas, but when asked if that was unusual, said that would have depended upon positioning and could possibly have been blocked by the pillow.

A finger print expert checked for prints on the Black Velvet bottle found in the master bedroom and the .32 caliber Smith and Wesson long handgun, plus five live rounds and one spent round.

“No latent impressions were developed for examination,” Jill Arwine told the jurors.

Arwine said it’s not uncommon for people to touch something and leave no print.

Marty Hayes conducted two types of tests for Barb Thompson, mother of Ronda Reynolds, attempting to show some of the findings did not make sense as she was trying to get the sheriff’s office to take another look at the case after it was reviewed by the state Attorney General’s Office in early 2002.

Since the homicide investigators suggested the gun was in her right hand, Hayes conducted recoil tests attempting to replicate where the gun reportedly fell onto her forehead, he told the inquest jury.

With repeated firing of a virtually identical gun, he could not get the firearm to come to rest on the sandbag depicting her head, he said.

“I found their version of what happened was implausible,” Hayes said.

Hayes, who operates Seattle Firearms Academy in Onalaska, also attempted to shed light on how someone 15 feet away, even beyond a closed door might not hear a gun shot.

When he fired six rounds into a sandbag-filled item in the bathroom of his own home, his decibel meter measured between 92 and 101, he said.

To put that in perspective, Hayes measured an alarm clock at 62 decibels, he said.

More later


Firearms expert Marty Hayes demonstrates possible positions of a gun and Ronda Reynolds on the closet floor. / Courtesy photo by Bradd Reynolds


Read more about the inquest

• “Homicide experts split on Ronda Reynolds’ cause of death” from on Thursday October 13,  2011 at 7:15 p.m., here

Read previous stories on the corner’s inquest

• “Coroners inquest: New investigation points to murder” from Thursday October 13,  2011 at 9:11 a.m., here

• “Coroners inquest: Detective reveals staged “suicide” statement from Ronda Reynolds” from Wednesday October 12,  2011 at 8:51 a.m., here

• “Coroners inquest into Ronda Reynolds death: Responders ponder, suicide or homicide” from Tuesday October 11,  2011 at 7:33 a.m., here

Coroners inquest: New investigation points to murder

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Jerry Berry, homicide. Gordon Spanski, suicide. David Bell, homicide. Laurie Hull, don’t know. Catherine Huttula, suicide.

Five witnesses during yesterday’s session of the coroner’s inquest were asked what their opinion is now about the December 1998 death of former trooper Ronda Reynolds.

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Ronda Reynolds

They ranged from the lead investigator and the then-undersheriff to a longtime gentleman friend, a close girlfriend and the ex-wife of Ron Reynolds.

Yesterday, the inquest jury heard testimony about a Toledo teenager who gave his mother bloody clothing to launder about two weeks after the death.

He said it belonged to his friend, former detective Berry related to the jurors.

Berry, who was testifying by telephone from his home in Texas, recounted interviews he conducted in early 2010, long after he left the employ of the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office, while he worked as a private investigator.

Berry spoke with the man, Joshua Williams, during a series of jail house meetings in which he was told Williams and others were at the Reynolds’ boys’ house, hanging out, playing video games and partying the night before Ronda Reynolds was found dead.

Jonathan Reynolds had asked Williams previously to kill Ronda Reynolds, Williams told Berry.

Williams said his best friend, Jason Collins, was the one who did it and showed up later at Williams travel trailer asking for clothes to wear.

“He stated when Jason came in, he stated quote, it is done, end quote,” Berry recounted.

Williams said he brought the bottle of Black Velvet whiskey to the Twin Peaks Drive home.

Belinda Rodriguez, Williams’ mother, testified yesterday her son was trying to strike a deal because he was going to prison and he couldn’t handle the burden of the secret any longer.

But both Williams and Collins were then interviewed by sheriff’s detectives and passed polygraph tests, Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod told the detective during yesterday’s proceedings.

McLeod asked Berry how he reconciled some of the inconsistencies, and Berry replied that most were chronological differences, which could be explained because the boys were using drugs.

Do you still believe this was a homicide? McLeod asked Berry.

As far as he’s concerned, beyond a reasonable doubt, it is, Berry replied.

“It is my opinion, it is absolutely murder,” Berry said.

Rodriguez, the mother and nearby neighbor of the Reynolds’, also related something she said she tried to report to the sheriff’s office days after the death, but couldn’t get her phone calls returned.

Early on the morning of Dec. 16, 1998 – about 6:30 a.m. – she was on her way to work when she saw a Ford Taurus and a small pickup peel out of the Reynolds’ driveway.

They stopped on the side of Drews Prairie Road and she heard yelling, she said. She saw Jonathan Reynolds being shaken by the shoulders by his older brother, Micah Reynolds, she said.

Also testifying yesterday was Catherine Huttula, Ron Reynolds’ ex-wife.

She confirmed her ex-husband had phoned her on Dec. 15, asking about possible reconciliation.

Huttula knew Ronda Reynolds previously, as they were in the same religious group, she said. They were friends when she was married to Ron Reynolds and when Ronda was married to Mark Liburdi, she said.

What do you believe happened to Ronda? McLeod asked.

“I believe she committed suicide,” she said.

Two close friends who spent time with Ronda Reynolds the day before her death spoke of her packing up belongings because Ron Reynolds had asked her to move out.

Laurie Hull helped drain the Reynolds’ waterbed, which apparently later was put back together when Ronda Reynolds’ decided not to leave that evening.

She didn’t see a broken fingernail on her friend’s otherwise manicured hands, Hull said.

Hull last spoke to Ronda Reynolds on the phone around 10:30 p.m. She sounded calm, not upset as she had been that afternoon, Hull said.

David Bell, a Des Moines police officer who had known Ronda Reynolds about 10 years, told the inquest jury yesterday of going to the Toledo house around 7 p.m., as she had asked him to help her move.

“She was all packed up when I arrived, she was crating her dogs up to put in my truck,” Bell said.

He was there about a half an hour before they drove to Winlock to drop off some keys and made a stop at Marys Corner, he said.

She had thought she’d come stay at his place, but he told her that wouldn’t work, Bell said. So about 9 p.m., he returned her to the Toledo house.

Ron Reynolds was just walking in, he said. Bell said he spoke to her on the phone twice after midnight. She wanted him to give her a ride to the airport the next day.

Ronda Reynolds had a ticket to fly home to Spokane.

More later

Read more about the inquest:

• “No fingerprints found on gun, ammo in Reynolds’ death” from on Wednesday October 12, 2011 at 6:19 p.m., here

Former police officer pleads guilty to illegal gun show sales

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A former Bremerton police officer faces as much as five yeas in prison after pleading guilty today to unlawful dealing in firearms, in a case that included undercover agents purchasing guns from him and others at gun shows in Centralia and Puyallup.

Roy Alloway, 56, was one of four men charged in May  following a lengthy undercover investigation into illegal sales at gun shows, according to the U.S. Attorneys Office for the Western District of Washington.

The Kitsap Sun reports Alloway retired in May 2010 after 32 years as a police officer.

Coroners inquest: Detective reveals staged “suicide” statement from Ronda Reynolds

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Barbara Thompson with her attorney, Royce Ferguson, during a break at the coroner's inquest into her daughter's death. / Courtesy photo by Bradd Reynolds

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – After hours of questioning, retired detective Sgt. Glade Austin volunteered information about a witness he had not previously testified about in the coroner’s inquest into Ronda Reynolds death.

Austin said he spoke to a woman friend of Reynolds who relayed a conversation that had taken place between the pair years before Reynolds death, during Reynolds’ previous marriage to Ron Liburdi.

The woman told him, he said, that Reynolds once told her: “If she were to get divorced, she would commit suicide, she would ‘do it right’, she would use a gun and make it look like someone else did it.”

Whether Reynolds, a 33-year-old former trooper killed herself or was shot by someone else 13 years ago in her Toledo home is a question Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod is hoping can be answered during his inquest being held in Chehalis.

She was found on the floor of a small walk-in closet, with a bullet in her head and covered up by a turned-on electric blanket.

A panel of jurors seated on Monday are expected to hear some 40 witnesses throughout this week and part of next, from law enforcement officers and friends and family to experts who analyzed evidence.

Reynolds’ manner death is currently classified as undetermined, following repeated changes over the years by the Lewis County Coroner’s Office.

Austin, who supervised the sheriff’s detectives who investigated the Dec. 16, 1998 death, closed the case as a suicide, despite protests from the lead investigator detective Jerry Berry.

Austin also led the inquiry when the case was reopened almost three years later by the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

He thought it was a suicide then, and he still does, Austin told the panel of jurors yesterday.

Coroner McLeod asked the former law enforcement officer about an interview with a different woman who indicated Reynolds opposed the idea of suicide.

So, McLeod asked, in the reports there are several people who thought Ronda could be suicidal and several people who did not?

Under questioning – which included primarily McLeod and Austin reading aloud various portions from reports a decade old – Austin related numerous details that Reynolds had troubles not widely known.

“I actually came to conclude she pulled the blanket over her head, had the gun in her right hand and pulled the trigger,” Austin said.

Austin had interviewed Reynolds’ husband, Toledo Elementary School Principal Ron Reynolds, an individual who won’t be testifying during the inquest.

He, and his three sons who were present at the Toledo home when the first deputies arrived have asserted the privilege against self incrimination and are excused by McLeod from appearing.

Austin interviewed Ron Reynolds years ago in his lawyers office.

“His answers did not seem rehearsed, and I came away from the interview with the feeling he was believable, not seeing any of the signs that would indicate someone was not being truthful,” Austin read from his early report.

Austin told McLeod yesterday the oldest son, Jonathan Reynolds, struck him similarly.

Austin noted in his report Ron Reynolds appeared neat and well-groomed, dressed in slacks, a tie and a jacket.

Following is some of what Austin said he learned from the interview:

There were a number of reasons Ron Reynolds didn’t hear a gunshot in the next room in his house, according to Austin.

He was tired, the doors were closed, the closet was carpeted and stuffed with materials that would soak up the sound, according to Austin.

Ron Reynolds told his wife that day he wanted her to leave, their marriage was over, the “trust” was broken over her dishonesty regarding her spending; he was going back to his ex-wife, Austin related.

Also testifying yesterday was former detective Dave Neiser.

He said he’d investigated as many as 600 death scenes in his 20 years as a detective.

Neiser said it was his mistake to move the gun from the body before any photographs were taken. He said he was told it had already been done.

“That was a lesson to me,” Neiser said.

Dr. Daniel Selove, who performed the autopsy, testified yesterday as well.

The cause of death was a contact gunshot wound, with a bullet that entered in the sideburn area of her right temple and lodged near the back of her skull, Selove said.

Selove concluded the manner – suicide, homicide or something else – could not be determined, he said.


Pathologist Dr. Daniel Selove demonstrates a shooter could have been positioned in a variety of locations around where Ronda Reynolds lay. / Courtesy photo by Bradd Reynolds


Read more about the inquest:

• “Inquest reveals confusion over Reynolds crime scene” from on Tuesday October 11, 2011 at 6:15 p.m., here

• “Detective stands by Reynolds suicide conclusion” from The (Longview) Daily News on Tuesday Oct. 11, 1011 at 5:31 p.m., here

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011


• A pickup truck and a travel trailer were among the items lost when a shop building in Winlock went up in flames overnight. The resident woke up to the sound of several small propane containers exploding on the 200 block of Marttala Road shortly before 1:30 a.m.,according to Lewis County Fire District 15. Arriving firefighters found the building fully involved, Assistant Chief Kevin Anderson said. “Basically, the roof and walls had collapsed,” Anderson said. “It was surround and drown, there wasn’t much we could do.” Besides the trailer being stocked up for a coming camping trip, the owner lost things like bikes, a lawn mower and and air compressor, Anderson said. No injuries were reported. The cause is under investigation, but it appears it could have been electrical in nature, Anderson said. The resident said when he first looked, he saw fire coming from the engine compartment of the truck, which was plugged into a block heater, Anderson said.


• Centralia police arrested a 34-year-old man yesterday for illegally possessing metal knuckles, according to the Centralia Police Department. Daniel L. Carpenter, of Centralia, was cited and then released after an incident connected with the 400 block of East Magnolia Street, according to police.


• A deputy called about a possible collision about 10 p.m. last night  found a 50-year-old Ethel man standing in a ditch where his vehicle was stuck, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. It happened on Oyler Road near Jackson Highway. Frank J. Lyons, of Ethel, was taken to the hospital for unspecified reasons, according to the sheriff’s office report. He was cited for driving under the influence, Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said.

News brief: Man stabbed in Centralia

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A 21-year-old man was arrested after he allegedly stabbed another man on the 1100 block of South Tower Avenue in Centralia last night.

Police and aid were called just before 8 p.m. and told the suspect was running away and being chased by acquaintances of the victim from inside the victim’s home, according to Centralia police.

Police were told Arnulfo Alaniz had chased the victim around a car, the victim fell down and he began stabbing him, Officer John Panco said.

An arriving officer found the suspect running and he was taken into custody following a small scuffle, according to Panco.

Alaniz, 21, of Centralia, was booked into the Lewis County Jail for two counts of first-degree assault and one count of third-degree assault, Panco said.

Alaniz reportedly swiped at one of the people chasing him but missed, Panco said.

Panco said this morning there was a a dispute over something related to the past, but he didn’t yet know the details.

The victim, said by police to be 20 and by the fire department to be 25, was treated and taken to the hospital with lacerations on the back of his neck, his forearm and his wrist, according to responders.

Panco said a photo of the weapon found on the ground the next block over depicted what looked to be a butcher knife.

Coroners inquest into Ronda Reynolds death: Responders ponder, suicide or homicide

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod presides over the inquest into the 1998 death of former trooper Ronda Reynolds. / Courtesy photo by Bradd Reynolds

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Janice Nielsen had been an emergency medical technician about three years when she was summoned to 114 Twin Peaks Drive in Toledo early on the morning of Dec. 16, 1998.

Nielsen, another EMT and a deputy went into the small walk-in closet where the victim lay.

“There was a lot of blood,” Nielsen said.

On Monday, when she spoke from the witness stand, Nielsen said she recalled finding “everything unusual.”

Nielsen was the first to give testimony in the coroner’s inquest in Chehalis into the controversial death of former trooper Ronda Reynolds.

Her account of what she saw has not been heard publicly before; she was not among the many individuals who testified two years ago when the related civil case was heard in Lewis County Superior Court.

Nielsen’s report from the call has never been found, she told Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod.

The EMT said she looked over the body and attempted to find a pulse. She said she moved the blanket a little to look under Reynolds’ pajama top to “visualize” her back.

“We are allowed to determine death in part based on lividity,” she explained.

A pillow was resting up off her head, and Nielsen could see the entry wound and a gun resting on the side of Reynolds’ face, she said.

Under further questioning, Nielsen said she didn’t recall that she moved the blanket to check the victim’s neck, and was very careful not to touch the gun.

Nielsen described to the inquest jury what she felt was “odd.” Such as the writings on the bathroom mirror and items in the car as though Reynolds were getting ready to go somewhere, she said.

And Reynolds’ husband, Ron Reynolds, was particularly calm, she said.

“I guess I can’t tell you why it struck me the way it did, but it struck me different than I had seen in the past,” Nielsen said.

There were no smudge marks that she recalled, if someone had already checked the pulse, she said.

She estimated she was inside the house about 25 to 30 minutes after being toned out, but didn’t know for sure what time she arrived because of the missing report.

She says she did not move the body.

Nielsen was the first of five individuals who gave testimony on Monday, in a Lewis County District Courtroom. She took the stand after lunch, after a morning of Coroner McLeod whittling down 20 potential jurors to seven.

More than 40 witnesses are expected over the next week or so as the 13-year-old case is aired once again

pc.ronda Copying_2

Ronda Reynolds

Reynolds, 33, died with a bullet in her head in the home she shared with her new husband, Toledo Elementary School Principal Ron Reynolds. The couple were separating and she had plans to fly home to her family in Spokane later that morning.

Over the years, her manner of death was changed repeatedly by the coroner back and forth between suicide and undetermined as it was reinvestigated and then more recently underwent a judicial review.

Newly elected Coroner McLeod and his chief deputy swore in the jury of five women and two men after lunch on Monday.

McLeod told them the following are what they would attempt to determine: the name of the deceased, when the death occurred, where the death occurred, by what means and cause did the death occur and finally, the manner of death.

A small number of members of the news media and the public were in the courtroom yesterday, along with persons deemed “especially interested” such as Ronda Reynolds’ mother, her lawyer, the elected Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer and representatives of Sheriff Steve Mansfield. Elected coroners from both Cowlitz and Thurston counties are sitting in.

McLeod announced that not only would the jurors not hear testimony from Ron Reynolds or his three sons, he has also excused former Chief Deputy Coroner Carmen Brunton from testifying, for health reasons.

Brunton was at the scene that morning, and signed the death certificate. She was not called to give her account in the judicial review two years ago.

Also testifying yesterday were the first arriving deputies, their sergeant and then-detective’s Sgt. Glade Austin who oversaw the sheriff’s office investigation. Austin is expected to finish up on the witness stand this morning.

Retired Lewis County Deputy Gary Holt said he got the call at about 6:21 a.m. and arrived at the house about 6:42 a.m.

The victim’s husband said she shot herself, basically there was an argument with her talking of suicide and when he woke up he couldn’t find her at first, Holt told the coroner and the jury.

The three sons were allowed to leave, he said. They weren’t interviewed.

“I think he said (he woke) around 6,” Holt said about Ron Reynolds.

Holt, mostly viewing and re-reading what he wrote in his reports 13 years ago, said he saw the pillow – back a little bit – saw the weapon and the electric blanket was turned on. He said he wasn’t sure if the gun was under the blanket.

As McLeod had him look through photos, he said for some reason pictures he took came up missing; he didn’t know why.

Reading from a report, Holt said Ron Reynolds told him they were separating; she was talking of suicide, and he was trying to keep her with him to keep her safe but he fell asleep around 5 a.m.

After Ron Reynolds found his wife in the closet, he said he did move the pillow a little bit to check the pulse,” Holt said.

Holt described Ron Reynolds’ manner as somber, saying he didn’t show a lot of emotion, until his wife’s friend Laurie Hull showed up; then he cried, Holt testified.

He confirmed the medics didn’t move the body.

Former Reserve Deputy Robert Bishop recounted what he had already told a panel of jurors in November 2009 during the judicial review.

He was skeptical then and remains so.

“I do not believe she committed suicide, I believe this was a homicide,” Bishop said.

Bishop said he arrived at the home at 6:45 a.m. and looked at Ronda Reynolds’ body from outside the closet.

“My recollection was the blanket was pulled up and the right hand was under the blanket and the left hand was visible,” he said.

Under questioning, and reading aloud reports, Bishop said he overheard Deputy Holt ask Ron Reynolds why he didn’t hear the gunshot. His answer was both the closet and bathroom door had been closed, Bishop said.

Bishop returned to the bathroom and observed the position of the body.

“It did not appear the door could have been closed, due to Mrs. Reynolds being in the way,” he said.

Bishop testified he noted Ron Reynolds was not wearing a wedding ring, and that he observed a wedding ring in the soap dish in the bathroom.

The bathroom was humid, as though someone had taken a shower, he said.

Sheriff’s Cmdr. Steve Aust briefly took the stand, noting that back then, it wasn’t common practice for patrol sergeants to write a report; his wasn’t written until 2001 when the case was reopened.

Aust recounted arriving to the house at 7:12 a.m. and then taking then-Chief Criminal Deputy Joe Doench to view the closet.

He directed Deputy Holt to take a taped statement from Ron Reynolds, he said.

Former detective’s sergeant Austin testified last yesterday and addressed a wide variety of topics, including his decision five months after the death to close the case as a suicide.

Austin testified he did not go the scene, but he interviewed numerous individuals and reviewed the reports and evidence.

His May 27, 1999 report cited two outside experts, one he wrote agreed the death was likely a suicide and another – blood spatter expert Rod Englert – he wrote told him the death was a suicide.

Under questioning by Coroner McLeod, Austin acknowledged his report was a poor characterization of Englert’s opinion.

“In my report, I said he said it was suicide,” Austin testified. “Really, what he said, is he agreed with us it could be suicide. So that was probably an error of semantics on my part.”

Austin will resume testifying this morning.

Retired detective Sgt. Glade Austin testifies about the sheriff's office investigation into Ronda Reynolds' death. / Courtesy photo by Bradd Reynolds

Schedule for today:

Today Oct. 11
Morning, 9 a.m. until noon

• Glade Austin, continued
• Dave Neiser – retired Lewis County sheriff’s detective

Today Oct. 11
Afternoon, 1:30 p.m. until 4:45 p.m.

• Jerry Berry – retired Lewis County sheriff’s detective
• Dr. Daniel Selove – forensic pathologist who conducted autopsy
• Joe Doench – retired Lewis County sheriff’s chief criminal deputy
• Gordon Spanski – retired Lewis County undersheriff

See the rules governing the procedures for McLeod’s coroner’s inquest, here

Read about the November 2009 judicial review, here

News brief: Elderly woman injured in Napavine collision

Monday, October 10th, 2011

Courtesy photo by Lewis County Fire District 5

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A 92-year-old Winlock woman was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center after a single car wreck today just south of Napavine, according to the Washington State Patrol.

Margaret J. Perrotti had to be extricated from her 1993 Dodge Spirit after it left the roadway and struck an embankment, a power pole and tree before coming to rest on its driver’s side, according to responders.

Fire and aid units from Lewis County Fire District 5 were called shortly after 1 p.m. to the accident on Highway 603, according to District 5 Lt. Laura Hanson. They were assisted by members of District 15, according to hanson.

The state patrol said she was traveling southbound near milepost 8 before the crash occurred. The car was described as totaled.

Perrotti suffered trauma to her chest area, according to the state patrol. The cause is under investigation.

Update Tuesday October 11, 2011: The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office reports the driver died.

The state patrol noted Perrotti passed at 10:35 p.m. the night of the wreck.

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Monday, October 10th, 2011


• Two people were arrested yesterday after an incident at the 900 block of North Pearl Street in Centralia. Police were called about 12:20 p.m. because someone was thought to be inside the house. After a search, police found nobody inside, but did locate an item left behind – with a suspect’s name on it, according to Sgt. Kurt Reichert. Christopher Snipes, 34, of Centralia, and April L. Jones, 28, of Toledo, were found a couple of hours later walking along Pear Street and booked into the Lewis County Jail first-degree burglary, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• Police were called just after 10 a.m. on Friday to the 600 block of North Tower Avenue in Centralia where a 58-year-old man allegedly struck a clerk who tried to stop him for shoplifting three 24-ounce cans of beer. Terrance G. Miller, Centralia, was booked into the Lewis County Jail for second-degree robbery, according to the Centralia Police Department.


• A 49-year-old Centralia man was arrested on Saturday evening for possession of marijuana with intent to deliver, according to Centralia police. Steven T. Reis, of Centralia, was arrested and then released after contact with police at the 800 block of Pear Street, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• Two people were arrested in Centralia on Saturday afternoon for possession of methamphetamine. Kari A. Freudenthal, 37, and David A. Haslip, 40, both of Olympia, were booked into the Lewis County Jail after contact with police at the 1100 block of Harrison Avenue, according to the Centralia Police Department.


• Chehalis police were called Saturday afternoon to the 200 block of Southwest Fourteenth Street where a 27-year-old resident said someone else in the home poked him the ribs with a small dagger. They struggled and the resident pushed him away, according to a Chehalis police report. Police will be investigating the incident at the home where several unrelated individuals live, according to Deputy Chief Randy Kaut. The man was not injured, according to Kaut.


• Centralia police were called about 5 p.m. yesterday to the 600 block of M Street about slashed tires.


Correction: An item above was corrected on Oct. 16, 2011 to reflect that Steven T. Reis of Centralia was not booked after his arrest by Centralia police for possession of marijuana with intent to deliver.

Coroners inquest into Ronda Reynolds death: Selection of jurors starts Monday

Friday, October 7th, 2011

Updated 12:25 p.m. Saturday October 8, 2011

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod released a tentative schedule today of which witnesses will testify when during the inquest into the controversial 1998 death of former trooper Ronda Reynolds which begins on Monday.

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Ronda Reynolds

New to the witness list originally released a little more than a month ago are a friend and co-workers of Ronda Reynolds, the mother of Ron Reynolds, a neighbor, a retired forensic expert C. Vaughn and a set of Lewis County detectives who investigated new leads as recently as last year.

The courtroom is expected to have seating available for 20 members of the public, on a first come, first served basis each day.

It’s been some 50 years since a coroner’s inquest has been held in Lewis County, as best McLeod has been able to figure.

Reynolds, 33, was found dead early on the morning of of Dec. 16, 1998 and the case was closed as a suicide by the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office in May of 1999.

She was discovered with a bullet in her head on a closet floor in the Toledo home she shared with her new husband, Toledo Elementary School Principal Ron Reynolds. The couple were separating and she had plans to fly home to her family in Spokane later that morning.

Over the years, the manner of death was changed by the coroner back and forth between suicide and undetermined as it was reinvestigated and then more recently underwent a judicial review.

The inquiry comes as newly elected McLeod has attempted to comply with court orders given to his predecessor, ex-Coroner Terry Wilson.

Not on the witness list are Ron Reynolds and his three sons who were at the house when the first deputy arrived, but have asserted the privilege against self incrimination and are excused by McLeod from appearing.

McLeod today indicated he has set aside the first half of Monday for selection of an inquest jury of five, plus two alternates.

The first of more than 40 witnesses may take the stand after lunch, depending upon how long it takes to seat the panel of jurors, according to McLeod.

The first batch of witnesses are individuals who were on the scene that morning almost 13 years ago, and the later witnesses are primarily experts and individuals who looked at evidence and reports.

McLeod’s tentative schedule has the last witness testifying a week from Tuesday.

The proceedings will be held in Lewis County District Court in Chehalis and begin at 9 a.m. each week day.

Following is the tentative schedule:

Monday Oct. 10
Morning 9 a.m. until noon

• Selection of inquest jury

Monday Oct. 10
Afternoon, 1:30 p.m. until 4:45 p.m.

• Janice Neilsen – emergency medical technician
• Gary Holt – retired Lewis County sheriff’s deputy
• Robert Bishop – former Lewis County sheriff’s deputy
• Steve Aust – Lewis County Sheriff’s Office commander
• Glade Austin – retired Lewis County sheriff’s detective’s sergeant

Tuesday Oct. 11
Morning, 9 a.m. until noon

• Glade Austin, continued
• Dave Neiser – retired Lewis County sheriff’s detective

Tuesday Oct. 11
Afternoon, 1:30 p.m. until 4:45 p.m.

• Jerry Berry – retired Lewis County sheriff’s detective
• Carmen Brunton – former Lewis County coroner’s chief deputy
• Dr. Daniel Selove – forensic pathologist who conducted autopsy
• Joe Doench – retired Lewis County sheriff’s chief criminal deputy
• Gordon Spanski – retired Lewis County undersheriff

Wednesday Oct. 12
Morning, 9 a.m. until noon

• Laurie Hull – friend
• David Bell – friend
• Tom Lahmman – former Toledo School District superintendent

Wednesday Oct. 12
Afternoon, 1:30 p.m. until 4:45 p.m.

• N. Weller – co-worker of deceased
• D. Pearson – co-worker of deceased
• B. Rodriguez, neighbor of deceased
• Juanita Vaughn -friend of deceased
• Cathryn Hatulla (sp) – Ron Reynolds’ ex-wife

Thursday Oct. 13
Morning, 9 a.m. until noon

• Mark Liburdi – decedent’s ex-husband
• Vernon Geberth – homicide expert
• Barbara Thomspon – mother of decedent

Thursday Oct. 13
Afternoon, 1:30 p.m. until 4:45 p.m.

• George Fox – former Attorney General’s Office investigator
• Ronald Wojciechowski – Washington State Patrol crime lab
• Kenneth McDermott – Washington State Patrol crime lab
• David Stritzke – Washington State Patrol crime lab
• C. Vaughn – retired forensic expert
• Joe Upton – handwriting examiner
• Jill Bartlett – Washington State Patrol fingerprint division
• Gary Aschenbach – forensic statement analyst
• Laura Reynolds – mother of Ron Reynolds

Friday Oct. 14
Morning, 9 a.m. until noon

• Marty Hayes – firearms examination
• Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds- pathologist
• Terry Ball – polygraph expert
• Marty Hayes – again, if needed
• Dr. John Demakas – pathologist

Friday Oct. 14
Afternoon, 1:30 p.m. until 4:30 p.m.

• Steve Birley – polygraph expert
• Rod Englert – forensic expert
• Sherri Murphy – former Washington state trooper

Monday Oct. 17
Morning, 9 a.m. until noon

• Kevin Englebertson – Lewis County Sheriff’s Office detective
• Jamey McGinty – Lewis County Sheriff’s Office detective
• Bruce Kimsey – Lewis County Sheriff’s Office detective
• Dusty Breen – Lewis County Sheriff’s Office detective sergeant

Tuesday Oct. 18
Morning, 9 a.m. until noon

• Dusty Breen – continued
• Isabelle Williams – Lewis County Sheriff’s Office, evidence

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

News brief: Pe Ell teenager hurt in morning wreck

Friday, October 7th, 2011

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A 19-year-old Pe Ell woman was injured this morning when her car rolled off state Route 6 near Spooner Road, according to the Washington State Patrol.

Angelina L. Phelps suffered head trauma, cuts and scrapes, the state patrol reported. She was taken to Providence Centralia Hospital.

A trooper called about 8:15 a.m. to the scene described her vehicle as totaled.

Phelps was traveling eastbound when she lost control of her 1999 Acura which came to rest on its top in a ditch, according to the patrol.

News brief: Semi versus dump truck collision closes Interstate 5 in Centralia

Friday, October 7th, 2011

Courtesy photo by Washington State Patrol

Update at 2:55 p.m.: All lanes are now open, although traffic is still slow back to the Labree Road interchange

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Northbound Interstate 5 is closed in Centralia with an overturned semi-truck carrying household chemicals blocking the roadway.

It began just before 6 o’clock this morning when the semi and a dump truck collided at the Mellen Street overpass, according to the state Department of Transportation.

It’s not expected to reopen before about 10:30 a.m., according to a DOT spokesperson.

The Department of Ecology is on scene to conduct containment and preparation for cleanup; some of the materials spilled, DOT spokesperson Abbi Russell said this morning.

The Washington State Patrol reported only minor injuries, but Riverside Fire Authority said no one need to be transported to the hospital.

DOT is recommending motorists avoid the area.

Trooper Ryan Tanner said troopers were also called to a log truck wreck on state Route 505 near Interstate 5 about 8 a.m.


Backup in northbound lanes at 13th Street interchange in Chehalis at 1 p.m.

News brief: Car crashes down embankment into Toledo creek

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Two young men escaped serious injury when their car ran off the road and down an approximately 25-foot embankment into a small creek yesterday afternoon in Toledo, according to Lewis County Fire District 2.

Fire Chief Grant Wiltbank said one of the pair wasn’t able to walk so firefighters, with the help of several bystanders, used ropes and lifted him up on a stretcher.

It happened off state Route 505 near the Toledo Salmon Creek Road, less than a mile east of town, Wiltbank said.

The Volkswagen landed on its side and fortunately there was only about six-inches of water in the creek bed, according to responders.

Both were taken to Providence Centralia Hospital to be evaluated, Wiltbank said.

The chief said there was a fatal accident a little more than a year ago there in the exact same spot.

One of his firefighters who has lived in the area his entire life told the chief he can think of 15 and maybe even 20 wrecks in the same place over the years, Wiltbank said.

The water there can sometimes be as deep as three to four feet, according to the chief.

“So it looks like this road, it probably needs a guard rail,” he said.

Just Sunday, he was flagged down by a bicyclist there who alerted him to a car at the bottom of the ravine, he said. It’s occupant had apparently gotten out on their own after an accident the night before, the chief said.

A car discovered Sunday afternoon, unoccupied, off state Route 505 near the Toledo Salmon Creek Road / Courtesy photo by Grant Wiltbank

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Thursday, October 6th, 2011


• A deputy was called yesterday to the 100 block of Beck Road in Onalaska after a neighbor’s dog reportedly attacked three little pigs. Two of the three-month-old swine were fine, except for having been chased, but one of them suffered severe lacerations as it had been held down by the Malamute, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. The canine’s owner, 42-year-old Cameron D. Phillips, was issued a citation for having a dog at large, Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said. The case is being referred to county authorities to possibly pursue further under the “dangerous dog” ordinance.


• Centralia police were called yesterday morning about a break-in to a concession stand at the soccer field on Pioneer Way.

• Chehalis police were called yesterday morning to the 300 block of Chehalis Avenue where a check had been stolen from inside an unlocked vehicle. About an hour later, an officer responded to a report of sunglasses and a portable GPS unit missing from an unlocked vehicle on the 100 block of Southwest Alfred Street. Tip of the day from detective Sgt. Rick McNamara: “Two things, don’t leave valuables in your vehicle, and lock your car up.”


• Centralia police report a drug-sniffing dog found a large amount of suspected methamphetamine in a couch at a motel room last night on the 1200 block of Alder Street. A 27-year-old woman to whom the room was rented was arrested for possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver, according to the Centralia Police Department. Roxanne Chipman was booked into the Lewis County Jail after the approximately 10:30 p.m. search, according to police.

Salkum triple homicide: Attorney seeks to relocate November trial for John Booth Jr.

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – John A. Booth Jr.’s lawyer filed a motion today asking that his client’s triple murder trial be moved to a different county because of so much pre-trial publicity by the news media.


John A. Booth Jr.

Booth, 32, is charged with murder and other offenses related to last summer’s gunshot deaths of two men and a teenage boy inside a Salkum-Onalaska area home.

The trial is scheduled to begin November 7 in Lewis County Superior Court in Chehalis.

Booth’s former cell mate Ryan J. McCarthy was sentenced last week to 14 years in prison, following a plea agreement, for his role in the events of August 21, 2010.

Defense attorney Roger Hunko said he wants a different jury, that hasn’t heard so much about the case.

Lewis County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher says lawyers always make that kind of request.

The two attorneys are set to go in front of a judge on Monday to hash out that and other disagreements such as jury questions, a request to dismiss the attempted extortion charge and what if any of Booth’s criminal past can be brought up at trial.

“The purpose of that (last issue) is so people can be tried not on what they’ve done before, but what they’re charged with,” Hunko said today.

Prosecutors allege Booth and McCarthy visited the house on Wings Way in connection with collecting money for drug debts or a “perceived” debt owed to Robert “Robbie” S. Russell. One of the victims, David West Sr. 52, was a witness in a pending case against Russell.

Also found dead were David West Jr., 16, and a friend Tony E. Williams, 50, of Randle. Denise Salts, then 51, who was also at the home survived a gunshot wound to her face.

Booth, formerly of Onalaska, was picked up in Spokane on a $10 million warrant four days after the slayings.

He has since then been held in solitary confinement in the Lewis County Jail.

Twice last month, a sheriff’s detective visited Booth inside the jail and recommended new charges to the prosecutor, once after Booth allegedly “became enraged and began smashing windows” outside his cell and then after guards reportedly found a metal file portion of a fingernail clipper in Booth’s pocket.

Just days before lawyers finalized a plea agreement for McCarthy, Booth allegedly used a metal handle from a mop bucket to break four panes of safety glass, according to the sheriff’s office.

It happened about 10:30 a.m. on Sept. 1, and was captured on surveillance video, according an incident report.

The detective writes that Booth was on his “one hour out” of his cell that day when he walks around in the Pod (adjacent secure and otherwise vacant day room) and attempts to make a phone call.

He uses the broom and dust pan to clean out his cell and then returns to the mop bucket location, detective Dan Riordan writes.

“(H)e removes the yellow squeegee portion of (the mop bucket), examines it for some time and then begins to smash the windows,” Riordan writes.

Then Booth put the implement back down, went into his cell and closed the door, according to Riordan.

When asked about the windows, Booth stated it was “spontaneous combustion,” Riordan wrote.

Jail Chief Kevin Hanson said he didn’t have any reason to think his inmate was attempting to escape.

“I suspect he may have been angry about something,” Hanson said.

The shatter proof glass is three-quarters-inch thick and very durable, according to Hanson.

“I’ve seen people hit, kick, punch and throw stuff at them, but only on three occasions in my 20 years here have I seen the glass break,” he said.

The detective referred the report to the prosecutor for a charge of first-degree malicious mischief, but no charge had been filed as of yesterday.

Neither has a charge been filed of possession of a weapon by a prisoner, recommended by Riordan after a find on Sept. 10.

Jail guards were patting Booth down as they were returning him to his cell after a cell “shakedown” and discovered what appeared to be the file portion from a pair of finger nail clippers Booth had been allowed for temporary use, according to Riordan’s report. It was approximately two-inches long.

Booth said it was nothing and asked for it back, according to the report.

“This item is easily transformed into an instrument that can be used for stabbing, i.e., a prison shank,” the detective wrote.

Also seized by the detective were two handwritten notes from Booth’s cell, one that reads as a poem about a prison shank, and a similar writing about a rifle.

Booth didn’t want to talk with the detective about the nail file, according to the incident report.

Jail Chief Hanson said the replacement cost of the safety glass is close to $4,000 and the county would be seeking restitution from Booth.

Hanson also said Booth has lost all his privileges, such as being able to make purchases at the jail commissary.

He now is locked down in his cell 24 hours a day, except for one hour out every three days, Hanson said.

Booth is charged with attempted extortion, attempted murder of Salts, second-degree murder of West Sr. and first degree murder of David Jr. and Williams, as well as unlawful possession of a firearm.

Read most recent story, “Court hearing reveals more details about Salkum triple slaying” from Saturday October 1, 2011, here