The Ronda Reynolds Death

I tried to make every effort to separate my feelings in my book blog when I reviewed the book "In the Still of the Night" by Ann Rule.  I first heard about this case on a recent episode of I believe Dateline.  Ann Rule was on that show as well as Ronda Reynolds' mother, Barb Thompson and it talked a lot about their quest and their belief that Ronda was murdered, likely by her husband, or maybe by her stepson.  I had looked at a few articles on the subject at that time but that was a few weeks ago and once I started the book I stayed away from them so I could give an objective view on the book itself.  That blog can be found here:  http://mybookblogger-susan.blogspot.com/2012/05/in-still-of-night.html 

It was a large struggle for me not to search for information while reading the book because I knew and felt that Rule's book was slanted towards one side and I also felt that it was full of holes.  To give Rule a small amount of credit, I realize that she became friends with Barb Thompson, but I also know that it was Thompson who gave her permission to write the book and all those supporting Thompson in her quest also supported Rule and answered questions while Ronda's husband, Ron and most of his family would not do.  

I also even debated on if this qualified as a "True Crime" issue.  After reading what I can and knowing the case much better I am not sure that the crime was Ronda's death but possibly the witch hunt that has gone on since, spearheaded by Thompson and a handful of supporters.

I will be truthful in saying that I do not know for sure if Ronda Reynolds was murdered or if she committed suicide and I do not believe that question will ever be answered for anyone.  Much of the reason for that is because of the way the crime scene was handled.  There are multiple stories by multiple police saying different things about the position of her body, the position of the gun, the position of her hands and there was even question on if the wound on her skull was an entry or exit wound.  Crime scene photos were not taken until after the body and the weapon had been moved so there is no way to know who's story was true.

Now, before I go further I should state that I do not know that I think everything seemed Kosher in the way the husband reacted or the actions he took later.  However, this also seems to be one of those cases in which someone dies and suddenly becomes a saint and does very little wrong and when things are found that cast a dark shadow on the person who died they  are brushed away.  This is also a case in which suicide was ruled and the family and friends of the person who died are adamant that the person was not and had never been suicidal.  It largely comes off a case in which the family and friends refuse to accept the answers given and are not happy until they get different ones.  They proclaim to want to know the truth but every time the "truth" did not fit what they wanted they pushed further.

On the morning of December 16, 1998 Ron Reynolds, an elementary school principal, called 911 around 6:20 in the morning claiming that he had found his wife's body in a closet and that she had committed suicide.  Ron and Ronda had been married less than a year and had recently officially decided to separate and divorce.  This should be no surprise to anyone.  Both Ron and Ronda had been married to other people, just the year before.  Ron and his wife Katie had been married for over 20 years and had 5 boys and while neither of them had any business giving counseling in their church that is what they were doing and had counseled Ronda and her husband Mark Liburdi.  Soon after both couples divorced.  Mark happened to marry the real estate agent he was having an affair with and Ronda and Ron were married.  Ron and Ronda were married in January 1998,  within a month of her divorce being final.  By summer Ronda knew that Ron and his now ex-wife Katie were having an affair and had stated to many people this.  So despite whether or not they supposedly officially decided to divorce on the night of December 15th is truly moot.  It is not like this decision would have been a surprise to her and she knew that Ron intended to reconnect with Katie.  In the same respect Ronda was having lots of conversations and communication with an ex fiance of hers named David Bell.  The day before her death he had gone to her home, helped her pack some things and had driven around the town holding hands with her.  He was returning the next morning to take her to the airport so she could spend a few days visiting her family.  After her death David spent a lot of time supporting Ronda's mother, Barb and she was quoted as saying David was who Ronda should have been with and how he was more of a son in law to her than either of her true son in laws had been.

Apparently, at least in the at area, not sure about other areas, it was common for the county coroner to not necessarily be certified but to be a physician's assistant.  The deputies in the office simply had training it seems but no real medical degrees.  The county coroner at that time was Terry Wilson.  He apparently made it a habit of having the deputies attend the crime scenes and perform the autopsy and then based on their information he determined the cause and manner of death.  In the case of Ronda Reynolds he determined the cause was a gunshot wound to the head.  I think this is one of the few things not disputed in the entire case.  He determined the manner of death was suicide.  A few years later, after being pushed by Thompson the case was reopened and investigated.  At that time Wilson changed the manner of death as undetermined.  One has to understand that to come to a conclusion of manner of death many things are factored in and much of that information comes from the investigation by the police.  Yes, the angle of the bullet would come from an examination but things like the position of the body, the position of the gun, and the crime scene surroundings come from the investigation.  Once it was once again determined to not be murder Wilson changed the manner once again back to suicide.  This was not acceptable to Barb Thompson or many friends and family of Ronda Reynolds.  After many years of fighting that manner of death she was able to have an unusual trial conducted against Terry Wilson claiming basically that he failed to do his job and that suicide was not the correct cause of death. This took place in 2009, 11 years after Ronda's death. In that case Thompson and her team won.  However, that decision is under appeal last I understood and many have stated that Wilson lost his own case by a) not being present in court most of the time since he was not required and b) by the fact his lawyer did not put on any witnesses.  Apparently his lawyer believed that because his client did not have to prove anything and Barb Thompson's team did that all was good.  

In January 2010 a new coroner, Warren McLeod was elected and he immediately changed the manner of death once again to undetermined.  In 2011 he called for a jury inquest and that jury determined that the manner of death was homicide and named Ron Reynolds and his son Jonathon as being suspects.  The prosecutor had already informed McLeod that he did not have the evidence to charge anyone and that he likely would not do so despite the outcome of the jury inquest.  However, McLeod took it upon himself to use a rarely used statute established in 1863 to issue arrest warrants for both Ron and Jonathon despite what the prosecuted stated.  Both Ron and Jonathon turned themselves in but were later released since no charges would be filed. 

Some very interesting information came out in the jury inquest however.  The one thing I found most interesting involved $15,000.  Throughout the preceding 12 years since Ronda's death there had been much made about this amount.  Ronda's mother claimed that when Ron and Ronda bought a new house a few months into their marriage she had borrow $15,000 to help with the down payment.  Supposedly Ron felt burnt from his last marriage and did not want Ronda on the deed of the new house and she had allowed that.  According to her mother Ronda planned to pay this money back to her when she received a "retirement" check from the state from the fact that she had resigned from being a Washington State Trooper as well as when she received her portion from the house she had owned with her ex husband.  Ron had claimed several times that Ronda had not invested in the house they bought after their marriage.  At the jury inquest Ronda's ex husband stated he spoke to her on the phone the night before and that she owed $15,000 to the IRS and that over the last several months she had been pushing him to help her pay this amount but on that night had told him not to worry about it.  It should be stated that Mark Liburdi, her first husband, also stated that she was "tough and confrontational" but not suicidal.  It seems that all of her friends and family agree that Ronda was horrible with money, spent beyond her means and supposedly tended to "forget" to pay bills.  Aside from the affair Mark had he and others contend that this was a large reason for the breakdown of their marriage.  While Ronda was apparently close to her mother, although I tend to believe the mother thinks they were closer than they actually were, they did live a few hours away from each other.   After seeing what Mark said at the inquest I am left to wonder if the $15,000 she got from her mother (which I do believe she did) did not go to the IRS and her attempts to get Mark to help her pay it was actually going to go to her mother.


I will concede that there were some questionable things said about the crime scene as well as the actions and statements of Ron Reynolds.  He claims that Ronda was suicidal the night before and he had remained awake with her until about 5am.  He says his alarm woke him at 6 and when he woke Ronda was not in bed.  He said he looked all over the house for her and did not find her until he went back into the bedroom and she was in the closet.  Now, I was unclear as to whether this closet was actually in the bedroom or in the bathroom.  There has been a lot made of the fact that it was supposedly 12-15 feet from where Ron slept and he, nor supposedly any of his 3 sons that were in the home heard a gunshot wound.  There was also a lot of speculation on why he would not have seen her as investigators claim the door did not shut all the way and basically her body was wedged in the door.  In the latter claim I am not so sure. Ron claims the door was shut and with all the conflicting stories and the moving of the body and what not I am not sure investigators can claim that the body was blocking the door.  Pretty much all evidence shows that once the shot was fired Ronda would have at the very least had been brain dead even though her heart would have remained pumping from anywhere to a few minutes to possibly an hour which accounted for the puddle of blood found under her body.  There has been a dispute to whether a pillow was used to muffle the sound and just how loud that sound would have been.  Giving the benefit of the doubt that Ron was where he said he was and did not wake, I think of the times that I have been jarred in bed by something I think I have heard but went right back to sleep and not remembered it for days, if at all.  Of course in the same respect you have to consider that this would have had to occur to 4 people in the house.  I also question the fact that she supposedly had an electric blanket turned on and running into the closet and on her body.  According to her ex husband she hated those but aside from that why would she have it on in the first place?  Speculation is that it was placed there to keep the body warm in attempts to keep the body temperature up so that he time of death went more with the story that was given.  But, through everything, no matter what position is taken in this no one has explained in any way why she would have been in the closet and there was no sign of blood or struggle (or clean up) anywhere but right there in the closet in the home.


One of the biggest things that struck out to me that makes me believe this was a suicide and not a murder was defensive wounds.  By ALL accounts this was a very strong woman who could take men larger than her down, who had defensive training in her jobs and pretty much has been portrayed as a pretty hotheaded and confrontational woman.  There were NO defensive wounds on her body what so ever.  She had one broken fingernail that the ex-finance David Bell said she did not have earlier in the evening when he saw her and people who knew her said she was meticulous about her nails.  It was determined many years later there was no DNA under the nail and has has been dismissed as a defensive wound and likely happened as she was packing her things in the house earlier in the evening. 

Throughout Rule's book it seemed that she glossed over many things that were going on in Ronda's life that could have pushed her to the edge or things in her personality that could have made suicide a plausible choice.  As I mentioned earlier there was the issue of her handling of money.  Not only was there the disputed issue of the $15,000, there was an issue involving "double dipping" when she was a State Trooper.  Apparently she had taken time off for a work injury and was drawing pay both from her work and the state.  I was left unclear why she was to receive money from her resigning from the force (unless it was a 401K or something) but out of that settlement she was going to have to pay back the money from the double dipping.  I felt like the reasons behind her leaving the force were glossed over also.  There were rumors that she was harassed on the job.  This may have had some partial truth to it considering the fact that it had been a man dominated profession for the most part, even in the 1990's.  I found no record though of her actually filing complaints or following through with things.  I found this odd and seemed to go against all the comments about her assertiveness.  According to Rule's book she had supposedly rubbed people the wrong way and she was receiving less than stellar progress reviews due to her work and had been written up for a few things.  Rule claims these were unwarranted but I found nothing to prove that, and again, I think if she would have fought them as her personality proclaims she would have Rule would have been quick to point that out.  She often talked of how Ronda's motto was "no fear" and yet in this case she made it out that she just rolled over.  It just feels that there was way more to this than anyone is willing to tell.  

It was also mentioned several times that Ronda wanted children.  Her first husband Mark had three children from a previous marriage and in the 7-8 years they were married Ronda suffered many miscarriages and she was quite devastated by these.  The longest she carried a child was for 5 months and in that case she had become very optimistic in the pregnancy and when she lost the baby boy many saw a change in her.  After her marriage to Mark ended and she married Ron, who was 15 years older and already had 5 children, supposedly she continued to hope to have a child.  The miscarriage of the 5 month old boy was one of the causes of her drawing medical leave at her work.  It was also said that she was devastated that her first marriage ended in divorce and also when her second marriage began to falter.  Others say that she was fine when she and Ron ultimately decided to divorce.  I personally do not think it was a surprise to her as she knew about his issues with his ex wife and it appears she was moving on with her ex-finance David Bell.  But even those that say she was fine with it say that Ron was telling her that he was keeping her furniture, would not get the supposed $15,000 back that she says she invested in the house and also claim that while she was supposedly fine with the divorce she had said she was not going to sign anything until she had and received the results from an AIDS test.  Ron's ex wife Katie was known to have a drug problem and she apparently was scared that since he had been unfaithful that she may have contracted something.  For me, these latter things tell me she was not so fine with this divorce.  The AIDS issue itself does not sit right.  Not that I agree with anyone being unfaithful but I am unsure how the results of such test would have impacted the divorce.  As well as the fact that according to many sources she knew for several months that Ron and Katie had an ongoing affair.  If she was concerned for her health she would have gotten a test when she discovered this.  This just seemed like a tactic to drag things out, indicating she was not as acceptable to the idea as people want to proclaim in order to say she was ready to move forward in her life.  There was also a report made by Katie, who had been friends with Ronda prior to the divorces and remarriage, that Ronda had a sister that had died and she had been very upset by this.  In Rule's book this was the ONLY time that this issue, or even the issue of a sister was even mentioned.  She had gone into great detail of Ronda's life.  Rule never mentioned a sister yet she brings up that Katie mentioned a sister.  Rule did not go on to explain or dispute it.  It was as if it was simply said and nothing else was ever mentioned again.  I found this extremely odd.  


Of course in any death investigation the spouse is the first person of interest and in this case I do admit Ron gave the investigators reason to have a few doubts, at least in the beginning.  He did not seem to express much emotion after the time of Ronda's death but it was later said by many people who were in and out of his life that he rarely did show emotion.  Of course there were questions of his accounts of the previous night and that morning.  However, there were also questions about his son Jonathon.  He apparently did not get along with Ronda.  According to friends and family Ronda had told them that Jonathon had likely killed one of her dogs and that she had caught Jonathon peeking in on her in the shower several times, the last of which she had physically taken him down.  Again, Rule puzzled me on this and I could find no accurate information to follow this up.  Rule claims that Ronda filed a report and that Jonathon then went to live with his mother and was ordered by the court to to take anger management classes.  Nothing else was ever brought up about that.  It was never explain why he apparently still lived in the house even though she said he did not, nor was it ever brought up in any other theories or court issues beyond the claims that Ronda supposedly made.  It was based on these statements that this had happened and that Jonathon did not like Ronda that placed him as a suspect.  It also so often appeared that Barb Thompson would adamantly state she thought Ron killed Ronda but then teeter that if it was not Ron it was Jonathon.  Even in 2011 after the prosecutors refused to file charges against either of them Ronda's mother said it was ok that no one was arrested, she just wanted the suicide off the table.  And, that's exactly as it appears. 

In my opinion Ronda's mother was not out for the truth.  She was not about to accept that her daughter committed suicide and it was her quest to get that removed, to which she did even if she did have rarely used, or ancient tactics to do so.  She just finally found someone who would take suicide off the death certificate and now suddenly she is ok if no one is ever arrested.  For me this has come off as a modern day witch hunt.  No one will ever know with complete certainty what really happened in that house that morning due to the botched crime scene and investigation.  There is no way to absolutely prove either way.  Barb Thompson fought just as hard to have the investigation to continue when the death certificate said "undetermined" as she did when it said "suicide."  I really truly try to extend compassion to Barb Thompson for the loss of her daughter, I really and truly do.  I know that if one of my children died I would be hard pressed to accept facts that I did not want to but there comes a time when you have to finally look at those facts and accept what is in front of your face.  Barb Thompson claimed after the jury inquest and the failure to press charges that she has determined it is time to move on with her life.  I do not believe that will happen.  She will fight until the day she dies as her website says for Justice for Ronda.  I cannot honestly say that I would not try the same but I would hope that after all these years  would have given up and accept things as they were.  She has attempted to ruin the lives of at least two people in her quest for "justice."



Comments

  1. I can't believe that you actually "think" that Rhonda committed suicide, even after reading this book.

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    1. I agree - aft reading everything about ronda why is her so called husband being ignored as a suspected murderer. The police really need to check every part of his life- ex - wife sons - everyone he may have threatened POLICE DO YOUR JOB - INVESTIGATE!!

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  2. We are all entitled to our opinions. If I was the only person to think this is possible there would be no question that this blog fit into the true crime category.

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  3. I also want to add that I'm not extremely impressed with Ann Rule as of late. Her early work was decent but more and more she puts her opinions in her books and they come off as facts instead of just that... opinions. In this particular case she was not in it just to write a book, she was in it to investigate it for Rhonda's mother. I am sorry for Rhonda's mother that she lost her child but the only difference between her and every other family that does not want to hear suicide is she has Ann Rule putting it in the spotlight. Were the circumstances fishy? Yes. Was the investigation mishandled? Yes. Beyond that there is not proof of anything.

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  4. I thought you were a man writing this blog by the way you were putting down Ms. Rule and sticking up for that murderer Ron Reynolds. Just because he has not been convicted does not mean he did not do it, it just means that the police botched up the crime scene. And your whole blog sounds like you are either Ron's lover or a relative. Jealousy will get you nowhere. Shame on you!

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  5. Gail, your comment cracks me up. So only men put down the writing style of Ann Rule or can be objective. I would love to know how I sounded like Ron's lover or relative and where in the world you got that I am jealous. LOL

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  6. I just saw the story of Ronda Reynolds and can not believe that she committed suicide. From the demenor and statements of her ex-husband and her stepson I believe the son was a pervert and her ex-husband did not care or really love Ronda. The police department failed to investigate the case properly and then discarded and/or destroyed the evidence. The American justise system failed. One of those two likely killed Ronda.

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    1. I certainly agree. Ronda was murdered by either one of them or both of them together. The husbands story makes no sense. He said he sat up with her until 5.00am and by 6.00am she had shot herself in the head head and nobody had heard anything. A wire running into a cupboard for an electric blanket a d nobody noticed it. Was she supposed to think 'Oh I'll just kill myself and then keep myself warm'? They killed her the evening before and put the blanket over her to baffle the investigators.

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  7. I read your entire blog. The last sentence intrigues me. You state she attempted to ruin the lives of two people? Which two people would that be?

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  8. I believe she made it a manhunt against the husband and his son. Do not get me wrong... I have a fair amount of sympathy for a mother who lost her child but a witch hunt will not bring her back and sometimes you just have to accept what is.

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  9. in dubio pro reo ... publishing accusations as facts using full true names is not even allowed in a number of countries. There are countless cases where everything pointed to one suspect but later a hard fact cleared that person beyond doubt. In this case, the possibility of a suicide may seem totally unreasonable to people who were close to the deceased but that is true of so, so many suicides. It does not make their suicide impossible "beyond a reasonable doubt" in the judicial sense. Everybody is entitled to think that it was more likely a homicide and that they know who did it - but unless it is proven beyond a reasonable doubt and determined by a judge or a jury, everyone must accept that all suspects are to be considered innocent.

    In recent news, just read up on Fernando Colon and how his life was destroyed by obviously false accusations from Cleveland abductor Ariel Castro.

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  10. I have read the book In the Still of the Night...there is no way that Ronda killed her self.. Fact one being a female won't shoot her self.. I just read a statement that Ron made he said he didn't hear the gun (just a few feet away) but when asked how he knows that the oldest son didn't kill her he said if he had came into the room he would have woke up... Ron and his son need in a cage for killing this beautiful lady... Ron is a money hungery SOB..he and his son r monsters

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  11. Dear Susan I hope that ya never have to feel the pain of your child being murdered... but you are the type that would yell the loudest if you were told that no it wasn't murder he or she killed themself...so why don't ya reread the book or better yet go have a set down with Ron and really listen to all of his lies...then maybe you will then back up off it with all this with Barb and Ann ..Ronda didn't kill herself..

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  12. ron did it for sure

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  13. I don't know if anyone will see this. I am coming in rather late. I have just read Ann Rule's book. I am a fan of her's, but can still remain objective. Whoever wrote the almost book at the top is just plain insensitive. This story grabbed at my heart greatly. Any one that could be that cruel and cold to a Mother that has just lost her child ( Ron) is for sure guilty of something. He didn't even try to fake any kind of sympathy or concern. What about the people across the street that saw some kind of party or gathering over there, and the blood stained shirt she washed. How about how Ron wouldn't give Barbara things of Ronda's he had no use for. How trained men like Jerry Berry, Marty Hayes, etc. found so many descrepencies. The ex wife!!! Spending the night after with Ron. Come on now. and then there's Jonathan.... Really? Sounded like Ronda was looking forward to starting a new life to me. She had a loving, kind and caring family who loved her, a man (David) who loved her and was hoping for a future with her, a good job, many friends, just doesn't make sense that the night before she was to leave to spend Christmas with her family she would take her own life. I do NOT believe she would do that to her Mother, her Gammie, her brother, or to David. I also have been through a lot in my life and have been very depressed at times,but like Ronda I am a strong woman and would not do that to my family. She was strong and kindhearted. I have never lost a child, but I am a Mother to one daughter and I know I would have done the exact same thing Barbara did. Fight for Justice!!! There is nothing like giving birth to a child. it is such a Blessing and a gift from God. To do what this woman did is NOT a witch hunt. It was for her beautiful daughter that she loved with all her heart. Anyone who thinks Barbara Thompson did this for attention or for anything other than justice is just plain ignorant. Barbara Thompson has my complete and heartfelt sympathy and my admiration and support. You go Honey!! God Bless You. Mary Hughes

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    1. I agree with you, please pray for Barbra, www.change.org/inquestformichelle
      Plz sign share

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  14. Where is my comment? Mary Hughes

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  15. I do not necessarily agree with all of your theories but I think your article is very well written. I do agree that Ann rule's opinions have become more and more prevalent in her books.

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  16. I have a clear mental picture of you!!! How dare you!!! open minded noooooo just a very pathetic troll you are!!!

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  17. open minded no you are not that for sure. ANYONE that has truly researched this case would most definitely come to the same conclusion of MURDER!!! How dare you!!!! I've read a lot of input on this case and have been appalled at a few responses to it!!! But this takes the cake honey !!! You are one incredible piece of work lady.

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  18. When police foul up investigation it is so hard for victims family, but i feel Rhonda was murdered. Did police ask Barbara questions my family was not allowed to speak, witnesses turned away in my daughters homicide. www.change.org/inquestformichelle

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  19. Did it ever occur to anyone that Ronda was murdered by someone other than Ron and his son? There are too many questions unanswered to point the finger at Ronda's husband and/or stepson. Just because you may find someone unlikeable, doesn't mean they are killers. Ann Rule's book is so biased, I won't make a decision about anyone's guilt or innocence. If Ronda was murdered, then only God, Ronda and the killer(s) know the truth about what happened to her so I refuse to play the blame game. RIP Ronda.

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  20. I'm coming in late in the game, too, but this case intrigues me. I agree that Ann Rule's book is totally biased and since this is where most people are getting their facts, I'm not sure it's possible to form an objective conclusion. Her insistence that Ronda was this strong willed, independent, fearless woman who would never have succumbed to suicidal thoughts bothers me. She clearly had some issues with depression. Diagnosed or not, the condition is written all over her life choices. Immediate marriage to a gigantic asshole who just happened to be her marriage counselor is a giant flag waving. Couple that with her immediate hook up with Dave before she'd even moved out of the house she shared with Ron and I think we can safely say this was a woman terrified of being alone. So terrified, in fact, that she made really, really crappy choices to avoid it. Not throwing stones here because if you can show me a woman who hasn't made crappy man choices, I will show you a unicorn, but I wish Ann Rule had been just a bit more honest in her portrayal of Ronda. She was obviously more fragile than presented. This doesn't mean she absolutely committed suicide, but it lends some credence towards the idea that she might have. I honestly don't know.

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