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Slain Boy Feared Father, Mother Testifies

Times Staff Writer

The former wife of a Sylmar man charged with killing his 9-year-old son in a murder-suicide attempt testified Monday that the boy feared his father and cried at the prospect of visiting him.

“He told me he doesn’t want to stay overnight with his father,” said Punnee Rennie, 38, a Thai immigrant who lives in North Hollywood. “He was crying, but I said, ‘Honey, just go and see your father because he wants to spend time with you.’ ”

Ronald Rennie, 37, has pleaded not guilty to a murder charge with the special allegation that he administered poison to his son, Christopher Rennie, who died last Father’s Day weekend in his father’s Ralston Avenue condominium.

If convicted of the charge, Ronald Rennie could face the death penalty. His preliminary hearing began in Van Nuys Municipal Court last week and will continue March 7.

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The coroner ruled that Christopher Rennie’s death was caused by insecticide poisoning. Authorities found nine canisters of insecticides inside Rennie’s condominium and books on how to commit suicide with passages underlined, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Susan M. Speer.

Both father and son had also taken an overdose of tranquilizers and antibiotics, Speer said.

Punnee Rennie, who divorced the boy’s father in 1983, testified that Ronald Rennie had been strict with Christopher and that the boy “always obeyed him.”

Punnee and Ronald had joint custody of Christopher, she testified, but the boy spent most of his time with his mother and saw his father occasionally.

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Punnee Rennie, wearing a locket with a picture of Christopher, testified that the boy had told her he was going to Disneyland with his father the weekend of his death.

Rennie’s attorney, Robert C. Swanson, has said that the boy wanted to commit suicide and that his client merely “aided and abetted” his death.

However, Punnee Rennie said her son was a happy child who “had never said a word about death or suicide.”

Ronald Rennie, who owned a Thai restaurant in Van Nuys, had written a letter to a friend who testified in the preliminary hearing that said he wanted to die to “be born again as a Thai.” Rennie’s letter said that he had discussed suicide with his son and that “I’m taking Chris with me so he can be with his Dad,” according to testimony.

Rennie is being held in County Jail without bail.


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