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Details of alleged murder unsealed

By Izaskun E. Larrañeta

Publication: The Day

Published June 02. 2010 4:00AM
Woman charged with beating death of mother 17 years ago

Bertha Reynolds died as "the victim of a violent, bloody assault, which occurred in the master bedroom and ended at the bottom of the cellar stairs" in her Norwich home.

Seventeen years ago, according to an arrest warrant unsealed Tuesday, Irene Reynolds allegedly pushed and punched her mother with her bare fists and then pummeled the 60-year-old woman with a brass lamp.

The Southeastern Connecticut Cold Case Unit, which reopened the investigation into Bertha Reynolds' death, charged Irene with murder on May 14.

The vicious attack was witnessed by Irene's former roommate, Kim Stone.

Stone, who told police that she lived with her boyfriend, Curtis Askew, and Irene Reynolds at 17 Boswell Ave., said they became roommates after Reynolds' mother asked Irene to move out of the home at 84 Laurel Hill Ave, the warrant said.

Stone said she also briefly lived with the Reynolds family at the Laurel Hill Avenue house and had witnessed many fights between mother and daughter, some of them physical.

Stone told investigators that on July 9, 1993, the day of the murder, Stone and her 1-year-old daughter went to the Laurel Hill Avenue house with Irene Reynolds so each of them could pay back money Bertha Reynolds loaned them for rent on the Boswell Avenue apartment.

Bertha Reynolds was sitting in her rocker in the living room, watching the noon news. When she saw them, she got up and held Stone's daughter and sat at the kitchen table.

Stone said she paid Bertha $100 but Irene Reynolds refused to pay the $100 she owed her mother.

Bertha and Irene Reynolds started to argue, Stone said, so she took her daughter from Bertha's arms "because she could see that things were getting heated."

Bertha got up and opened the door, signaling for her daughter to leave the apartment, the warrant said.

Stone said Irene forcefully pushed her mother, causing her to fall backwards onto the floor in the master bedroom.

"Irene got on top of Bertha and started hitting and punching her," Stone said, according to the warrant. "... Bertha was yelling for Irene to get off of her. Stone could see that Irene was angry and she just keeps hitting Bertha. Stone remembered that Bertha was screaming for Stone to get Irene off of her while Stone was begging Irene to leave."

Stone told police she witnessed Irene grab a brass lamp from the living room and smash Bertha Reynolds in the head with it about four times.

Stone said she screamed for Irene to stop and went outside.

After the attack, Stone said, Irene drove to a nearby package store and bought beer. Stone said she asked Irene to check on her mother, to which Irene allegedly said, "(expletive) the bitch," the warrant said.

Throughout the 17 years that the crime went unsolved, police interviewed Stone on several occasions, each time revealing more information. Stone told police she didn't fully tell what she witnessed because she did not want to get in trouble for not stopping the attack.

On the day of the murder, Stone said, she went back to Bertha's home with her boyfriend, Askew. Askew needed to use the phone, and Stone used that as an opportunity to check on Bertha Reynolds.

It would be Stone who would call 911 when Askew found Bertha's bloody body at the bottom of the cellar stairs.

Stone said she never told Askew what happened.

Police also interviewed Bertha's husband, James Reynolds. He said he did a quick inventory of the house and noticed that $230 was missing. He said $200 of it was from Stone while the other $30 was from Irene, who paid to use the car.

He said the day after the murder Irene moved back into the house and starting collecting Bertha's personal belongings. She threw away some items and stored others in the attic.

James told police Irene would constantly steal from him and his wife. He said he built a wooden cabinet with a lock on it and installed it inside another wooden cabinet to keep Irene from stealing.

Bertha kept the key to the cabinet around her neck. The key was never recovered, the warrant said.

Irene Reynolds took a polygraph test in October 1994, which she passed.

Police re-interviewed Irene Reynolds in February 1997. She initially denied any physical confrontations with her mother but later admitted to throwing a high chair at her during an argument.

She also admitted to putting Valium in her mother's tea so she would fall asleep. Irene would then take her car.

On Jan. 12, 2010, Irene spoke to Norwich police. She admitted to stealing so much money from her mother that she told police she could have "bought a house and then some."

She is being held on a $2 million bond and is scheduled to appear in court June 7.

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