Franklin Co. coroner to help solve Lewis Co. slaying

PASCO — Franklin County Coroner Dan Blasdel has agreed to help settle a 12-year-old dispute about whether a Washington State Patrol trooper killed herself.

Blasdel will preside over an inquest in the Lewis County case as a special deputy coroner examining the death of Rhonda Reynolds, who was found shot in the head in December 1998.

Barb Thompson, Reynolds' mother, didn't believe her daughter's death was a suicide and campaigned to get the cause of death changed. Reynolds had been getting a divorce at the time, according to The Seattle Times.

Newly elected Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod changed Reynolds' cause of death to undetermined and appointed Blasdel to hold an inquest and conduct "a full inquiry into the facts and circumstances" surrounding her death, according to a Jan. 17 letter from McLeod.

In 2009, a Thurston County Superior Court judge ruled Coroner Terry Wilson needed to change her death certificate to reflect that she had not committed suicide, according to the Times.

Blasdel said he was asked to act as coroner for the case because the county wanted to an impartial person to take the lead.

He said he also has more experience than other state coroners in conducting inquests, presiding over two in his 16 years as coroner.

Blasdel will act as a judge during the inquest, which he said will be held this fall, likely in Clark County. A change of venue is needed because the case was heavily covered by local media, he said.

The Lewis County prosecutor's office will present facts of the case to be considered by a jury of six, Blasdel said.

An inquest is held so facts of the case are out in public, he said.

Lewis County will reimburse Franklin County for Blasdel's time, benefits and expenses for the inquest, Blasdel said.