By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
CHEHALIS – Charges have been increased to first-degree murder for the man who opened fire on two suspected burglars at his Onalaska house last April killing one of them.
Ronald A. Brady
Ronald A. Brady, 60, was initially charged with first-degree manslaughter for the death of Thomas McKenzie, 56, of Morton and first-degree assault of McKenzie’s estranged wife Joanna McKenzie, but an amended information has been filed in Lewis County Superior Court.
“Just based on the facts of the case,” Deputy Prosecutor Colin Hayes said today of the thinking behind the change.
According to charging documents, Brady admitted shooting at the pair outside his house he was renovating on the 2100 block of state Route 508, describing to deputies opening his garage door and finding two flashlights shined in his face.
He told sheriff’s detectives he was staying overnight at the unoccupied house in case burglars from earlier in the day returned. Brady resides in a nearby rental home.
Elected Lewis County Prosecutor Michael Golden wasn’t in today, but Senior Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher described the reason for the the upgraded charge this way:
“This guy laid in wait, based on what the deputies said, he throws the garage door open and, bam,” Meagher said.
The change brings to six the number of homicides this year in Lewis County which have brought first-degree murder charges. No one has been charged in a seventh homicide that occurred earlier this year.
While McKenzie’s death occurred April 19, Brady was not charged until almost the end of September.
Sheriff Steve Mansfield, after his office’s investigation was finished in mid-July, announced he concluded Brady’s use of deadly force was justified and that he would not arrest the homeowner. The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office, however, passed the case on to the prosecutor for his review.
Brady remains free on a $50,000 unsecured appearance bond.
First-degree murder is a class A felony with a possible penalty of life in prison and a $50,000 fine. Its elements include intent and premeditation.
The amended charge was filed last Thursday.
Brady, a retired bachelor who used to work as an electrical engineer at The Boeing Co. according to his landlord, is represented by Centralia defense attorney Don Blair.
He’s been renting from neighbors Jack and Sharon Tipping for about 15 years, following a fire at his nearby state Route 508 house.
A trial date was set for the week of Jan. 10. It is expected to last five days.
Brady’s defense is general denial and self defense, according to documents filed in his case.
Thomas McKenzie died from a gunshot wound to his chest and leaves behind nine children and other family members.
Joanna McKenzie, 32, escaped the gunfire on April 19 without injury, but she was charged with and made a so-called Alford plea to attempted burglary, not admitting guilt.
As a first-time offender, she was sentenced last month to 15 days in Lewis County Jail.
However, she was jailed last night after police say they found methamphetamine and stolen property from a shoplifting spree during a traffic stop in Centralia.
She hasn’t yet served her 15 days, according to Deputy Prosecutor Kjell Warner. She was charged today with possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia.
Joanna McKenzie’s bail was set at $20,000 today.
Other homicides in Lewis County in 2010
• Morton teenager: Austin King, 16, of Morton, was found on a logging dead with a cracked skull on July 20 a month after he disappeared from his home. An acquaintance, Jack Arnold Silverthorne, 20, of Renton, was charged Nov. 10 with first-degree murder.
• Frost Road Trailer Park: Jackie Marie Lawyer, 64, of Winlock, was fatally shot the morning of Nov. 4 in the Frost Road Trailer Park where she lived. A neighbor Richard Joseph Frank Roth, 65, was arrested the same day and charged Nov. 5 with first-degree murder.
• Salkum-Onalaska triple slaying: David J. West Sr. 52, his son David J. West Jr., 16, and Tony E. Williams, 50, of Randle, were fatally shot at the West’s home on Aug. 21. Two men are charged in the case, that included a fourth gunshot victim who survived. John Allen Booth Jr., 31, Onalaska, was charged Aug 23 with three counts of first-degree murder but the charges were upgraded on Oct. 1 to aggravated first-degree murder for the deaths of the younger West and Williams. Ryan McCarthy, 29 of Redmond, was charged Sept 3 with three counts of first-degree felony murder.
• Randle homicide: Guy LaFontaine, 58, of Federal Way, died from injuries following an assault the evening of March 13 at the 11,000 block of U.S. Highway 12 in Randle. A relative was initially arrested and booked for second-degree murder, but was released and no charges have been filed.
Read previous story on Ronald Brady for more details of what prosecutor’s believe occurred:
• “Onalaska man charged in April’s fatal shooting of suspected burglar” from Sept. 24, 2010 here