The Solano County Sheriff's Office confirmed Wednesday that it has reopened the investigation into the death of the wife of embattled Vacaville pastor Mark Lewis.

The news came one day after Joanna Lewis' mother, Patricia Hunter, spoke publicly about the abusive relationship she believes led to her daughter's death more than two years ago. It had previously been ruled a suicide.

Word of the reopening of the investigation was welcome, albeit long overdue, news to Hunter, who said it is what she and the rest of her family had hoped for ever since learning of her 36-year-old daughter's death on Oct. 6, 2011.

On Monday, Hunter, a peer counselor for victims of domestic violence, addressed a group of local women regarding the dangers of abuse and its many forms in hopes of sparing other families from the pain she has been forced to endure.

Mark Lewis was arrested Jan. 10, a day after a Molotov cocktail was thrown through the window of the Vacaville home where his ex-girlfriend, Sarah Nottingham, and her three children were sleeping. The firebombing also led to the arrests of Kristen Broyles, 30, of Citrus Heights, and Sacramento residents Anthony Newbolt, 33, and Richerd Wright, 28, who investigators say carried out the potentially deadly attack.

Lewis was rearrested Jan. 24 on allegations that he committed fraud and a host of other financial violations in order to post his original $500,000 bail.

Hunter said she learned of the recent reopening of the investigation into her daughter's death after receiving a phone call from Sheriff Tom Ferrara about a week ago.

"As a family, we have tried numerous times, unsuccessfully, to make this happen," Hunter stated. "Now, we have some hope in finding justice for Joanna as we never believed that her death was a suicide."

According to Deputy Daryl Snedeker, spokesman for the Sheriff's Office, investigators will be re-interviewing people and conducting followups to any information they uncover. Snedeker credited the family's concerns and recent developments surrounding the controversial pastor with the decision to reexamine the matter.

"We just want to go back over our tracks," said Snedeker, who noted that the development is no indication that a thorough investigation was not performed initially, but rather a "change of circumstances."

"People who didn't talk then, may talk now," he added.

"It's in everyone's best interest to reopen the investigation," Snedeker continued. "If things change, it will be because somebody changed their story or somebody might talk who was reluctant to talk before."

The family is also optimistic that some new information may be uncovered in light of the fact that Dr. Susan Hogan, the coroner who Hunter said did Joanna's autopsy, is the subject of ongoing controversy in a number of Solano County criminal cases.

Hogan, the former chief forensic pathologist, abruptly retired in December, however, recent developments point to the possibility that she was forced out of her position with the Sheriff's Office. On Tuesday, a Solano County Judge E. Bradley Nelson ordered the disclosure of personnel records, including documents pertaining to an internal investigation of Hogan and her "suitability to remain as the primary forensic pathologist for the Solano County Sheriff's Office."

To date, prosecutors have identified 37 cases that Hogan has been involved in where her employment records may become relevant.

The Sheriff's Office, however, rebuffed the idea that Hogan's involvement - if any - had any impact on the outcome of the initial investigation into Joanna Lewis' death.

Though Snedeker said he was unsure whether Hogan was the one who had performed Joanna Lewis' autopsy, "Even if it was, there's been nothing to show at this point that she's incompetent," he stated Wednesday evening.

Still, Lewis' family continues to cling to hope.

"All this has brought everything back up, but it never goes away," Hunter said of the sea of emotions surrounding the latest developments.

Hunter said she always feared for her daughter, especially in light of the "escalating" violence she endured that resulted in multiple trips to the emergency room, several emergency protective orders and two restraining orders against the man she would ultimately be married to for 11 years.

"It's a relief in the sense that people are hearing her voice," Hunter said. "Someone will look at him and hold him accountable. We had hoped it would happen before he hurt someone else or brought fear to another family."

"You can never put the loss of your daughter on the back burner. You just have to learn how to live your life," said Hunter, who added that there were many days that she, her husband of 40 years and their son wondered if they would ever smile or laugh again in the wake of their tragedy. "We have to fight every day to live well."

Staff writer Ryan Chalk contributed to this report. Follow Staff Writer Catherine Mijs at Twitter.com/cmijs.