RONDA-COURT OF APPEALS-FERGUSON

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE---January 23, 2008

 

In a unanimous opinion, the Washington State Court of Appeals today reversed the trial court decision of visiting Superior Court Judge Richard Hicks, who dismissed Barbara Thompson’s request for court review into the suspicious nature of her daughter’s 1998 death.  The opinion sends the case back to Lewis County Superior Court for further proceedings.  Thompson is the mother of Ronda Reynolds, a 33 year old former WSP trooper who died from a single gunshot to her head while sleeping in her Toledo home.  The Lewis County Coroner has certified that the death was a suicide. 

 

In August 2006, Thompson filed suit against Lewis County Coroner Terry Wilson under a law which provides for judicial review of a coroner’s determination of cause and manner of death.  The suit was dismissed at the request of Wilson’s lawyer on grounds that Thompson had waited too long to file her lawsuit. 

 

Thompson appealed the dismissal, and the appellate court has agreed that her lawsuit should not have been dismissed.  The appellate court explained that Thompson was not required to file her lawsuit until after Coroner Wilson had fulfilled his legal duty to meet with Thompson and discuss his autopsy findings and report with her, which he has refused to do.  Wilson has issued four different versions of the death certificate over the years.  

 

After the death of her daughter, Thompson found experts who conducted an independent investigation into her daughter’s death.  In March 2006, Thompson delivered the results of the investigation to Wilson, which included the detailed analysis and report of firearms expert Marty Hayes, who also ran against Wilson for the coroner’s position in 2002 and 2006.  In his expert report, Hayes concludes that there is probable cause to believe that another person probably killed Reynolds, which is a homicide and not a suicide. 

 

After the independent investigation was delivered to Wilson, he agreed to review the material and later discuss the death with Thompson.  The appellate court found it significant that Wilson did not later meet with Thompson as required by law and as he had promised.  The court determined that Wilson’s refusal to meet with Thompson was the reason for her delay, which should not have been used against her to dismiss her case.

 

Thompson states that she is “thrilled” with the ruling, and vows to pursue her meeting with  the coroner, who must now meet with her and discuss the cause and manner of her daughter’s suspicious death.  Thompson was represented by Everett attorney Royce Ferguson.