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June 18, 2012 at 1:16 PM

Plea deal announced in 1978 slaying of Renton woman

Arlene Roberts

Arlene Roberts

A man arrested last year in connection with the 1978 slaying of an 80-year-old Renton-area woman entered an Alford Plea today to a charge of second-degree manslaughter, according to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

The victim, Arlene Roberts was found Oct. 27, 1978, half-naked on the bed of her tiny trailer, her arms and legs bound with nylon stockings, her mouth gagged and her face covered with a pillow. She had been strangled with a hair net.

For more than three decades, King County sheriff’s detectives had no clue who killed the 80-year-old widow and ransacked the yellow-and-white trailer she’d moved into two days earlier in Bryn Mawr, west of Renton Municipal Airport.

Advances in fingerprint technology led detectives last year to Ronald Wayne MacDonald, a 51-year-old laborer who was charged in September in King County Superior Court with first-degree murder. He was arrested in Reno, Nev.

Prosecutors accepted the plea to the reduced charge after the trial court ruled that significant evidence of possible other suspects in the case would be admitted at trial. The state’s case was also significantly impacted by the loss of key witnesses due to the passage of time, including the original fingerprint examiner who found the suspect’s prints at the scene and the original medical examiner, both of whom are deceased, the Prosecutor’s Office said in a news release.

MacDonald entered an Alford Plea, meaning he he did not admit guilt, but admitted that he would likely be convicted at trial.

MacDonald’s fingerprints were matched to prints left on a traveler’s check, a bank statement and a bank receipt inside Roberts’ trailer, charging papers say.

MacDonald was arrested numerous times for burglary in King County in 1978 and 1979, and in Florida in 1979 and 1980, according to prosecutors. He served time in Washington and Florida prisons in the 1980s and was arrested in Nevada in 1992 and 2001, though the charging documents don’t spell out the reasons for those arrests.

At the time of Roberts’ death, MacDonald was a few days shy of his 18th birthday and was living with family friends about seven blocks from Roberts’ residence in the Lakeshore Manor Mobile Home Park, at 11448 Rainier Ave. S., charging papers say.

Comments | More in The Blotter | Topics: homicide, manslaughter, Renton

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