OLYMPIA — Toledo Elementary School Principal Ron Reynolds said Thursday he "absolutely" did not kill his wife the night of Dec. 16, 1998, and that he still loved her despite telling her to move out of their house.
"It's not in my heart to have done something like that. I couldn't have done something like that to Ronda," Reynolds said at a dramatic press conference at the office of his Olympia attorney. "At the time I was asking her to leave, I still loved her and I wouldn't have wanted anything to happen to her."
Last month, an inquest jury named Reynolds and his son Jonathan Reynolds as suspects in the shooting death of Ronda Reynolds, 33, who was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head in the walk-in closet of the couple's Toledo home.
Jonathan Reynolds also spoke Thursday, saying, too that he "absolutely did not" kill his stepmother. Jonathan Reynolds, who was 17 at the time of Ronda Reynolds' death, said the murder accusations have been wrecking his family's life.
"You walk into the supermarket and you don't know if people are looking at you and thinking stuff," he said. "It's ripping our hearts out."
Speaking publicly for the first time since Ronda Reynolds' death, Ron and Jonathan Reynolds addressed crush of reporters and television cameras that were crammed into the office of attorney Rick Cordes, who represents both men.
Three of Ron Reynolds' other sons also spoke, and Ron clutched the hand of his current wife, Linda, as he listened to them describe the last 13 years.
Mistakes were made in the investigation of the case and led to a "crusade" and a "witch hunt," said Si Reynolds, who was living in Snohomish County at the time of his stepmother's death. He said his family was "made out to be monsters."
The case has encountered numerous twists and turns since 1998. The manner of death has been switched between "undetermined" and "suicide" multiple times as authorities repeatedly revisited the case. Ronda Reynolds' mother, Barbara Thompson, has long insisted her daughter was murdered.
When Newly-elected Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod took office in January, he changed the death certificate from "suicide" to "undetermined." A five-person inquest jury ruled Oct. 19 the death a homicide and named the father and son as suspects, but Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer said he didn't have enough evidence for a conviction and the two were not charged.
Cordes blasted the inquest trial Thursday, saying most of the testimony was based on hearsay. He also said he believed two of the five jurors should not have been on the jury because they had read a book written by true crime writer Ann Rule about the case.
"Quite frankly, that inquest was a sham," Cordes said.
Cordes and the Reynolds family declined to say whether they plan to file any lawsuits as a result of the case.
Ron Reynolds said he believes the inquest, the book and other media reports have led the public to conclude he's guilty.
"This whole thing has been so unfair to me and my family that I just couldn't believe it," Ron Reynolds said. "I've been hoping for years that justice would happen, but it hasn't yet."
Ron Reynolds says he was asleep the night his wife died, and he woke up to find his wife lifeless on the floor. Asked again Thursday, he struggled to explain how he slept through the gunshot, but awoke to the sound of his alarm about an hour later. He noted that he was tired from a long day, and he suggested a pillow may have been used to muffle the sound. He also hypothesized that the layout of the house and distance from the closet to his bed could have made the gunshot less audible.
When asked how he knew his son Jonathan couldn't be responsible for the death, he said he would have awoken if his son entered the bedroom. Jonathan said he doesn't recall many details of the night. He said he played video games, worked on his homework and then went to bed. He said he didn't learn of his stepmother's death until he woke up the following morning.
"It was a very uneventful night," Jonathan said. "It's really hard to remember what was going on."
Reynolds' sons disputed reports that Jonathan was having a party that night, as well as rumors that Jonathan or one of his friends pulled the trigger after a night of drinking.
"We were watching TV and doing homework," said David Reynolds, who was 14 at the time of his stepmother's death. "We had school the next day. There was no party."
Jonathan Reynolds and his brothers also disputed reports that Jonathan had spied on his mother while she was in the shower. They said Jonathan and Ronda had several arguments, but she had never accused him of peeking on her. The two were on good terms the night Ronda died, his brothers said.
Ron and Ronda Reynolds had recently decided to separate and Ronda was preparing to visit her mother in Spokane.
Ron Reynolds said that he asked his wife to leave because, unbeknownst to him, Ronda Reynolds had taken out credit cards and run up debt. "In August I started getting calls from creditors I didn't even know about."
His wife was not honest with him, Reynolds said, attributing the mounting bills to mistakes on the part of creditors.
Ron Reynolds said he remains on paid administrative leave from his job as Toledo Elementary School's principal. He said he'd like to return to his job, but he believes his future in Toledo will depend on whether the town will accept him. He said he doesn't know whether he can continue to live in a small town if many of his neighbors view him suspiciously.
"That depends on the people of Toledo," Ron Reynolds said. "It's sad to me that there are people that believe everything they read."