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Riffe maintains innocence in face of sentence of more than a century for Maurin murders

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013
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Ricky Riffe, in red, listens as the judge pronounces his sentence of 1,234 months in the 1985 slayings of Ed and Minnie Maurin.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – All for a lousy $8,500, the judge said.

An elderly couple taken from their home, probably at gunpoint, and then made to withdraw cash from their bank before getting shot in their backs and tossed in the brush like garbage.

“There is no justification, mitigation or excuse for that type of conduct,” Lewis County Superior Court Judge Richard Brosey pronounced to the courtroom this afternoon.

And then he sentenced Ricky A. Riffe to just shy of 103 years in prison.

Riffe, 55, unshaven and outfitted in red jail garb and shackles, didn’t appear to change his expression as Brosey gave him everything prosecutors asked for. And they had asked for the everything they could.

Today’s hearing in a fairly packed courtroom ends a trial that came nearly three decades after Ed and Minnie Maurin were found dead on a logging road outside Adna days after vanishing from their Ethel farmhouse.

Brosey acknowledged that if the defendant’s younger brother were still alive, he would likely be facing the same fate. Brosey alluded to the belief of some that the former Mossyrock men were not the only people involved in a crime that shook the community in December 1985.

The judge called it commendable the old case was brought to trial, and commendable the tenacity shown in pursuing it by Minnie Maurin’s now-87-year-old son, Denny Hadaller.

Hadaller and his sister both addressed the court today.

The retired logging contractor and former county commissioner told the judge it will soon be 28 Christmases his family has had to live with what happened and it may take generations for the healing.

“The safety and trust of the family and Lewis County citizens was violated,” Hadaller said.

The Mayfield Lake area resident wondered aloud how anyone could be so cruel, act with such malice, killing and leaving the bodies in the forest to the elements and wild animals.

“I also miss visiting with my mother and my step dad,” he said. “All the great grandchildren were not able to know them.”

Ed Maurin was 81, his wife Minnie was 83 years old when their lives ended.

Hadaller’s sister Hazel Oberg’s hand shook as she followed the words she read from a yellow legal pad.

Oberg spoke of finding a job at a cannery when she was just in the eighth grade, and continuing to work ever since. There were jobs to be had back in the mid-1980s, she said.

“It has been very difficult to understand why anyone would take another’s life to get their money,” Oberg said.

Actually, the first to address the court was Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer.

Meyer said there is not a sentence long enough to request for what was the most heinous crime he has seen in his career.

“I can’t emphasize enough how much the defendant has earned the sentence the state is recommending,” he said.

When it came time for Riffe’s defense attorney John Crowley to appeal to the judge, he instead said his client directed him to read his prepared statement.

He has no remorse for anything he did not do, Crowley said.

Riffe believes the Maurin’s lives were stolen from them, as has been his by virtue of this trial, Crowley continued.

“That’s why he makes no apologies whatsoever,” Crowley said.

Crowley repeated what his own thoughts were after the jury returned guilty verdicts in mid-November, following a six week trial.

“Mr. Riffe does not understand how the witnesses can look themselves in the face,” he said.

He contended that no fewer than 10 of them of them testified to something different than what they told investigators in the beginning.

His client expects to be back in the courtroom again within 18 months, Crowley said.

Riffe, when asked by the judge if he had anything to say, replied simply no.

When asked if he had any questions about his rights of appeal, said “No sir.”

As he was escorted away, two spectators called out, “Burn in hell.” A brief round of applause broke out.

Riffe, a resident of King Salmon, Alaska since the late 1980s, who was arrested in July of last year, was sentenced for seven felonies, from murder and robbery, to kidnapping and burglary. All were first degree. There were also special verdicts finding aggravating factors allowing for exceptional sentencing.

He had been charged as the principal player or as an accomplice, and only the jury knows exactly what it believed occurred and what Riffe’s role was. The only eye witness was one individual who briefly saw Ricky and John Gregory Riffe inside the Maurin’s Chrysler Newport with the couple on U.S. Highway 12.

Each count of first-degree murder, from the statutes in 1985, had a standard sentencing range of 240 months to 320 months. The other offenses came with long but somewhat shorter terms.

Meyer had asked for the top of the standard range for each of them, and asked for them to be served consecutive to each other. Judge Brosey agreed. They added up to 1,234 months.

Brosey also agreed to numerous fines and fees, and a date in the future to discuss restitution such as the $8,500 and burial expenses. Riffe, through his lawyer, said he wouldn’t attend.

His former step-daughter also spoke to the court briefly, directing her comments to the man who married to her mother the same year as the slayings.

Shelly Lev said she wished he’d be man enough to say what he and his brother did to this family.

“Because you know you did it,” she said.

Riffe still faces a trial scheduled for this coming February, based on charges filed earlier this year that he raped and molested his then-9-year-old step-daughter in the mid-1980s.

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Denny Hadaller, center, and his sister Hazel Oberg listen to sentencing proceedings for the murder of their mother and step father from the front row.

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Ricky A. Riffe leaves the courtroom after being given nearly 103 years in prison.

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Denny Hadaller leaves the courthouse.

Structure fires cause damage near Morton, Ethel

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A family is displaced after a fire broke out in an Ethel area home on Friday afternoon.

A teenaged grandson was home but he got out when a neighbor knocked on the door, Lewis County Fire District 8 Chief Duran McDaniel said.

When crews arrived they found lots of smoke rolling out from the house, McDaniel said.

It happened about 2:30 p.m. at the 2000 block of U.S. Highway 12.

McDaniel said the fire was contained to the single loft-type room on the second level. There was so much smoke, it seemed the entire room was burning and firefighters had to access it from the roof, he said.

“They’ve got more water damage than anything else,” he said.

Then yesterday, firefighters from Salkum and Glenoma joined Lewis County Fire District 4 when a fire in a motorhome spread to a shop building west of Morton off state Route 508.

Responders were called about 2 p.m. to the scene on Sidorski Lane, and battled the blaze for roughly four hours, according to McDaniel.

“By the time they got there, both were fully involved,” Lewis County Fire District 18 Chief Ed Lowe said. “The wind was not our friend.”

About an hour later, Salkum-area firefighters were called to another motorhome fire, this one in Ethel on the 100 block of Pinkerton Road.

McDaniel said he wasn’t certain, but believed someone was living in the roughly 40 foot RV which was destroyed. Nobody was injured.

The ladies at the office and the gift of life

Saturday, November 30th, 2013

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – She’s a mother of six, grandmother to six and great grandmother to three more.

She bowls in a league, and belongs to the Southwest Washington Fair Association’s booster club.

For Thanksgiving, she gives thanks for her family, friends and co-workers.

Kathryn Estep, 69, born and raised in Chehalis works part time at a call center with a group of women who saved her life.

“A co-worker said Kathryn dropped a pen,” Paramedic Steve Busz said. “I guess Kathryn was slumped in her chair.”

Her heart had stopped pumping, according to Busz.

Lyla Spears, the supervisor at Service Bureau then on Bishop Road, recalled what she and her co-workers did next after one of them sitting near Estep, Donna Lavigne, hollered out, “She needs help.”

Spears said she came out from the back room, took one look at Estep and knew right away what was going on; she’d witnessed her sister take her last breath not long before.

Spears checked her pulse and helped move Estep out of the chair onto the floor, she said.

“Jennifer’s the one who gave chest compressions the whole time, Charlene did mouth to mouth,” she said.

Carmen Lyon called 911 and stayed on the phone with them, while Rhoda Mendoza waited outside to flag down the ambulance, she recounted.

“Everybody just fell together, like we knew what we were doing,” Spears said.

What happened in August is something Estep has only heard about from others.

“I went to work that day and the next thing I knew, I woke up in the hospital,” she said.

Estep said apparently the condition that struck her is something that runs in her family, but her doctor has said her heart is fine now. She got back to work in October, and began bowling again earlier this month.

“I had no idea Jennifer knew the CPR like she did,” Estep said. “But they all did. I’m so grateful, words can’t express. They’re all angels.”

Paramedic Busz sees the events of that day as something that others could learn from, and easily mean more lives being saved.

“Everything that happened that day was perfect,” he said.

The lesson, for Busz, is something the American Heart Association calls the chain of survival, five steps that can mean the difference between life and death when it comes to cardiac arrest.

Overall, only 8 percent of cardiac arrest patients survive, according to AHA statistics.

“It’s not something we get to see all that often,” he said.

But effective Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation provided immediately can triple a person’s chances for survival, Busz said.

What’s important for non-medics to know, is a good portion of what needs to be done can be implemented even before emergency responders arrive, Busz says.

The first is immediate recognition of cardiac arrest and calling 911 and the second is right away starting CPR with the emphasis on chest compressions, according to Busz.

“All of the links in Kathryn’s case were met that day, as you can see, it proved itself to work,” he said.

Busz and Firefighter-EMT Greg Folwell work for Lewis County Fire District 6, protecting the rural areas surrounding Chehalis and a population of about 8,000.

When they arrived at mid-morning that day to Service Bureau’s office, the pair took over CPR, put Estep on a heart monitor, defibrillated her and administered other interventions. Medics from AMR joined them.

They got a pulse back on Estep before she was even transported, he said. She was taken to Providence Centralia Hospital and then transferred to Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia where she stayed for a week.

The third link in AHA’s chain of life is the “shock” which in Estep’s case was done by the medics, but which can also be handled when workplaces have on site Automated External Defibrillators, according to Busz. He’d like to see more of them out there, he said.

The fourth step is effective advanced life support by professionals like the medics and the final step is the post cardiac arrest care provided at a hospital.

Busz said its his understanding Estep is doing phenomenally well.

Busz said they’d like to increase the 8 percent survival rate to 15 percent, to 25 percent or more and it seems possible, if only more folks reacted the way the six women did that day at Service Bureau’s office.

The message he wants to share with Estep’s story is, saving lives of those whose hearts stop begins with ordinary people.

“Sixty percent of everything that can be done to increase the odds of survival can be done prior to us getting there,” he said.

The other message: Take CPR training, Busz says.

“Call your fire department, if they don’t do it, they know someone who does,” he said.

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Kathryn Estep is surrounded by co-workers and two of the medics who helped get her heart restarted after a sudden cardiac arrest.

Maurin murder trial: Final judgement to be handed down early next month

Saturday, November 23rd, 2013

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The sentencing for the man convicted in the 1985 abduction, robbery and murders of Ethel residents Ed and Minnie Maurin has been scheduled for the week after next.

Ricky A. Riffe, 55, faces a maximum penalty of life in prison. A jury in Lewis County Superior Court found him guilty as charged early this week.

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Ricky A. Riffe

The resident of King Salmon, Alaska has been held in the Lewis County Jail on $5 million bail since his arrest in July of last year.

Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer said yesterday he is in the process of looking at the details of the laws from 1985 to calculate the standard sentencing range for Riffe’s case. However, since the jury found there were so-called aggravating factors –  vulnerable victims, deliberate cruelty and egregious lack of remorse – the judge will be free to give Riffe more than the top of the standard range.

Meyer said he already knows what he will recommend.

Ed, 81, and Minnie, 83, Maurin were found dead of shotgun wounds on a logging road near Adna on Christmas Eve morning in 1985, five days after they withdrew $8,500 in cash from their Chehalis bank and vanished.

Riffe and his brother John Gregory Riffe became suspects in the early 1990s. The younger brother died last year before he could be charged.

Riffe was convicted on Monday as the principal or an accomplice with one count of burglary, two counts of first-degree kidnapping, two counts of first-degree robbery and two counts of first-degree murder.

The former Mossyrock man still faces charges filed earlier this year alleging that in the mid-1980s, he raped and molested his then-9-year-old step-daughter. The allegations were first investigated in 1986 but no charges were filed until this past February.

Meyer has said new information came up during the Maurin investigation.

Riffe’s attorney called it a ploy to smear his client as he faced murder charges. The attorneys disagree as to whether the statute of limitations has passed.

That trial is scheduled for the week of Feb. 18.

Riffe’s sentencing for the Maurin case is set for 1 p.m. on Dec. 3 in Lewis County Superior Court.
•••

For background, read “”Attorneys dispute statute of limitations rules on surprise child sex charge for Maurin double murder defendant” Saturday February 23, 2013, here

Lewis County coroner at dead end locating family of deceased veteran

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Authorities are turning to the public for help to find the relatives of a Centralia man who died last month

Robert Aita, 63, passed away at Providence Centralia Hospital on Oct. 3 of natural causes, according to Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod.

Among his office’s responsibilities is notifying next-of-kin but so far, they have found none, according to McLeod.

“Everyone we have spoken to during our follow-up investigations who knew the decedent stated he never spoke of any family,” McLeod said in a news release.

The coroner indicates he’d rather not have someone read about the death of a loved one in the news media, but after conducting various unsuccessful searches, felt it was prudent.

Aita lived in Centralia with his girlfriend who also recently passed away, and a law enforcement database search turned up only his deceased wife Cynthia Aita, according to McLeod.

Some possibilities arose by looking at Facebook, including a Robert Aita Jr. but so far subjects contacted in Pennsylvania and Florida said he wasn’t their relation, according to the coroner.

Aita is a U.S. Army veteran, and if no family is located to claim his remains, he would be covered for burial under the Operation At Ease program established by the coroner’s office in 2011.

McLeod says they are developing information Aita may have come from Chicago and  was the son of a pediatrician. He’s learned the father and son founded a youth camp in East Troy, Wisconsin and is pursuing that lead.

McLeod asks anyone who may have known him who has any information regarding possible relatives of Aita to contact his office at 360-740-1376.

Review of 90-plus-year sentence for juvenile drive-by shooter postponed

Thursday, November 21st, 2013
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Guadalupe Solis-Diaz Jr. looks to see who is sitting in the courtroom benches this afternoon.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Guadalupe Solis-Diaz Jr., now 23, will have to wait two extra months to find out if his nearly 93-year sentence might get reduced.

The former Centralia High School student was given the lengthy term for a drive-by shooting in downtown Centralia days before his 17th birthday, an incident in which several bar patrons on a sidewalk escaped injury.

Last year, the state Court of Appeals last year tossed out his  virtual life sentence referencing various matters that should have been handled more thoroughly, given that he was a juvenile.

The expected half-day hearing was set for mid-December, but Lewis County Superior Court Judge Nelson Hunt will be out for several weeks.

This afternoon, Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Sarah Beigh and defense attorney Robert Quillian told the judge they could conduct the proceedings on Feb. 21.

Solis-Diaz made a brief appearance in court, shackled and chained at the ankles. His mother and other family members were among those in the courtroom, clad in matching black T-shirts featuring the young man’s face, his name and the words, “Needs a second chance in life.”

Solis-Diaz was convicted in 2007 of numerous offenses, including multiple counts of first-degree assault while armed with a firearm the terms for which state law mandated must be served consecutively.

Quillian said he’s still waiting to hear back from the judge about his request for funds for an expert to evaluate his client’s emotional and mental maturity, something Quillian said he understood the appeal decision called for.

The decision came from a personal restraint petition filed by Kimberly D. Ambrose of the University of Washington School of Law Race and Justice Clinic in 2011. A number of other attorneys filed briefs as well on Solis-Diaz’s behalf.

The challenge was made in light of a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision that held a sentence of life without parole is forbidden for a juvenile who did not commit homicide, however the appeals judges focused on the deficient performance of the court-appointed attorney.

A U.W. law school student of Ambrose’s among those assisting Quillian traveled to the courthouse as well today and met with the family, but declined comment.
•••

For background, read: “Lewis County judge takes issue with forced do-over of drive-by shooter sentencing” from Wednesday September 11, 2013, here

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Guadalupe Solis-Diaz Jr.’s family wear their support of him on T-shirts.

Arson suspect: Voices, hallucinations lead to kerosene and a torch at Ethel store

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The 58-year-old man who allegedly admitted he tried to burn down his brother’s business in Ethel over the weekend is scheduled for an arraignment tomorrow in Lewis County Superior Court.

Mark S. Breitenbach, of Castle Rock, told law enforcement officers when he was contacted at the Ethel Store he was trying to destroy the place as voices were telling him they were going to kill him and his brother had put a “hit” on him, according to the allegations in court documents.

Breitenbach remains held in the Lewis County Jail on $100,000 bail.

According to court documents, officers arriving about 3:20 a.m. on Saturday to the  1400 block of U.S. Highway 12 found the glass to the front door busted out and puddles of Coleman stove fuel and a newspaper “torch” inside the building. A deputy observed two black burn marks on the floor inside the front door, according to documents.

A trooper had already arrived because of a vehicle found in the ditch on the south side of the highway, and Breitenbach had come out from his hiding place near a port-potty to give himself up, according to the documents.

Breitenbach reportedly told the deputy he initially tried to enter by ramming his car through the doors but when he tried to get a running start, he lost control and put it in the ditch. After lighting the torch and tossing it inside, he ran eastbound, but fell into a water-filled ditch and was waiting on the roadside for a semi truck to pass so he could run in front of it and be killed, he told the deputy.

Lewis County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Matt Schlecht noted that as he spoke with Breitenbach, he seemed worried about passing cars, saying they were the hit man who was going to shoot him in the head, according to court documents.

Breitenbach has a 1987 conviction out of Los Angeles for assault with a firearm, according to charging papers.

He was appointed a lawyer on Monday afternoon when he was charged with second-degree arson and second-degree burglary.

Breaking news: Jury finds Ricky Riffe guilty in Maurin homicides

Monday, November 18th, 2013
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Ricky A. Riffe, right, stands before Judge Richard Brosey as he is pronounced guilty in the 1985 deaths of Ed and Minnie Maurin today.

Updated at 6:34 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Ricky A. Riffe has been found guilty in the slayings of Ed and Minnie Maurin, the elderly Ethel couple whose bodies were found off a logging road near Adna on Christmas Eve day in 1985, shotgun wounds through their backs.

The jury took about a day and a half of deliberating to reach its decision.

Denise Snell was among the many family members and friends of the couple who gathered in Lewis County Superior Court in Chehalis this afternoon to hear the verdicts. The trial lasted six weeks, the investigation nearly three decades.

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Ed and Minnie Maurin

The Onalaska woman said now that it’s over, her grandparents can be remembered like the wonderful, loving people that they were and not just as homicide victims.

“I want them remembered like that, like it should be,” Snell said.

Two of Minnie’s children, now in their 80s, were in the front bench in the courtroom as they have been throughout the proceedings.

Hazel Oberg said simply, “I’m relieved.”

Denny Hadaller’s emotions kept him from finding exactly the right words, he said.

“I’m elated, and I’m sorry for his family,” Hadaller said. “I knew he was guilty, I knew it in 1992. We just couldn’t prove it.”

Riffe, now 55, was arrested last year in at his home in King Salmon, Alaska and returned to Lewis County. The sheriff’s office has said he and his younger brother were suspects as early as the 1990s, but previous prosecutors wouldn’t file charges.

Hadaller hired private investigators 10 years ago who reviewed the apparent abduction of the couple from their home. New witnesses came forward, according to the sheriff’s office.

On Dec. 19, 1985, Ed Maurin withdrew $8,500 in $100 bills from Sterling Savings Bank in Chehalis and the couple’s blood stained car was found abandoned the following morning at Yard Birds Shopping Center. It wasn’t until five days later they were located.

Investigators found they were shot from behind while sitting in their car on Stearns Hill Road, their bodies dumped.

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Ricky A. Riffe

A jury of eight women and four men began their deliberations late on Thursday and at lunchtime today indicated they were nearly finished with their duty, sending a message to the judge that they’d made a mistake on two of the forms and needed new ones.

An hour later, about 60 people crowded into the spectator side of the courtroom. Judge Richard Brosey began reading the verdicts at 2:10 p.m.

Riffe was found guilty on all counts, including first-degree murder, although the jury had the option of second-degree given to them in their instructions.

They found him guilty also of two counts each of first-degree kidnapping, first-degree robbery and one count of first-degree burglary as well.

The jury answered yes on the special verdict forms, that they found the crimes involved particularly vulnerable victims, deliberate cruelty and the defendant showed an egregious lack of remorse.

Ed Maurin was 81, his wife Minnie was 83 years old.

“They answered everything we wanted to be answered,” Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer said.

Meyer gave credit to the hard work of detective Bruce Kimsey and Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead.

“And to the family, for never giving up,” Meyer said.

Riffe’s partner of 24 years, Sherry Tibbetts, and her son and another relation left the courtroom once he was taken away. It didn’t appear he even looked their direction before leaving.

Local attorney Sam Groberg stood in for Riffe’s lawyer, John Crowley, who had to be in another court today.

Riffe was charged as as the principal player or as an accomplice, and only the jury knows exactly what it believed occurred.

One witness testified he saw both brothers inside the Maurin’s vehicle the morning of Dec. 19, heading away from their home. Other witnesses who saw the car that day at key places saw one person in the backseat.

Numerous witnesses picked out both brothers from montages, brothers who some witnesses said did everything together. John Gregory Riffe died last year at age 50 before he could be charged.

Crowley this evening said he’s not a sore loser but it wasn’t a fair prosecution, and the things he saw were appalling.

“I’ve never seen a case where as a rule, witnesses changed from what they told police initially to when they testified,” Crowley said. “And the prosecutors did it with a straight face.”

It’s not over, according to Crowley.

“We’re not giving up, we’re going to investigate and Rick’s gonna get justice,” he said.

Sentencing has not yet been scheduled.

•••

For background, read “Maurin murder trial: What will the jury decide?” from Saturday November 16, 2013, here

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Hazel Oberg and Denny Hadaller embrace, surrounded by family after the verdict comes in guilty in the 1985 deaths of their mother and step father.

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Ricky A. Riffe’s longtime girlfriend Sherry Tibbetts, center, and family wait for the verdict to be read.

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Hazel Oberg talks with a news reporter while her niece Denise Snell looks on.

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Denny Hadaller sits with his daughter while Ricky Riffe talks with his stand-in lawyer today in Lewis County Superior Court.

Maurin murder trial: What will the jury decide?

Saturday, November 16th, 2013
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Ed and Minnie Maurin

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The 28-year-old double murder case is in the hands of the jury now, who will return to the courthouse on Monday morning to continue deliberations.

While Ed and Minnie Maurin have long rested in the cemetery next to the St. Francis Mission Catholic Church in Toledo, one of the two longtime suspects waits in the Lewis County Jail since his arrest last year.

Ricky A. Riffe, 55, is charged as the principle or an accomplice in the Dec. 19, 1985 shotgun deaths of the elderly Ethel couple. The former Mossyrock man relocated to Alaska in the late 1980s.

His trial in Lewis County Superior Court began in early October and concluded Thursday afternoon. His younger brother John Gregory Riffe died last year before he could be charged.

Defense attorney John Crowley says there’s nothing more than rumors and gossip that connect his client to the case. Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer and his senior deputy Will Halstead have told the panel that circumstantial evidence is just as valuable as direct evidence.

The jury of eight women and four men was sent to begin deliberating shortly before 5 p.m., on Thursday but went home at 5:30 p.m. and reconvened yesterday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Meanwhile, for anyone who wished they’d followed the court proceedings more closely, now is a chance to catch up and perhaps draw some conclusions before the jury finishes its work.

Below, find below the complete coverage of the trial with headlines and links to the stories:

• “Maurin murder trial: Final words to the jury” from Friday November 15, 2013 at 3:28 p.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: Defense points to fear, distorted memories” from Friday November 15, 2013 at 9:18 a.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: Prosecutor points to defendant as accomplice” from Thursday November 14, 2013 at 9:27 a.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: Defense decides to call no witnesses” from Tuesday November 12, 2013 at 1:20 p.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: Reporter’s notebook” from Monday November 11, 2013 at 11:35 a.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: Testimony of Riffe admission to inmate leads to dual complaints” from Saturday November 9, 2013 at 7:59 p.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: Internet chat with the suspect” from Friday November 8, 2013 at 9:28 a.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: Suspect is ‘witty’” from Thursday November 7, 2013 at 9:03 a.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: The arrest” from Wednesday November 6, 2013 at 9:02 a.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: What suspects told detectives, and more” from Saturday November 2, 2013 at 3:59 p.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: Money for drugs” from Friday November 1, 2013 at 8:42 a.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: Former drug dealer claims defendant admitted involvement” from Thursday October 31, 2013 at 8:57 a.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: Lab tests turn up little to nothing” from Wednesday October 30, 2013 at 1:20 p.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: Jason Shriver talks” from Tuesday October 29, 2013 at 8:52 a.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: Riffe’s buddy tells what he knows” from Sunday October 27, 013 at 8:37 a.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: Witnesses pick out Riffe brothers as men they saw at Yard Birds” from Saturday October 26, 2013 at 4:35 p.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: Robin Riffe’s family talks” from Friday October 25, 2013 at 9:17 a.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: Ed and Minnie go to the bank” from Thursday October 24, 2013 at 9:03 a.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: More testimony, and the arrest” from Wednesday October 23, 2013 at 9:12 a.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: New information in old case takes both sides by surprise” from Tuesday October 22, 2013 at 7:31 p.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: What jurors didn’t hear about” from Tuesday October 22, 2013 at 1:21 p.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: Witnesses testify about a green sedan” from Monday October 21, 2013 at 8:55 a.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: Testimony takes day off for death of defendant’s dad” from Friday Oct. 18, 2013 at 9:27 a.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: Surprise witness implicates dead Riffe brother” from Thursday Oct. 17, 2013 at 8:52 a.m., here

• “Defense: Maurin murder trial jeopardized by hearsay evidence” from Wednesday October 16, 2013 at 9:10 a.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: Jurors hear of autopsy and finger prints” from Tuesday October 15, 2013 at 9:38 a.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: What the crime scenes showed” from Saturday October 12, 2013 at 7:06 p.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: Testimony continues about slain Ethel couple” from Thursday October 10, 2013 at 9:13 a.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: Defense attorney tells of two other suspects” from Tuesday October 8, 2013 at 11:51 p.m., here

• “Jury may be picked tomorrow in Maurin murder trial” from Monday October 7, 2013 at 9:15 p.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: Twenty-seven-year-old case to commence in Chehalis ” from  Friday October 4, 2013 at 9:45 p.m., here

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Ricky A. Riffe, 53, of King Salmon, Alaska, makes his first appearance in Lewis County Superior Court in July 2012.

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Ricky Riffe, 55, far right, and lawyers during trial in mid-October.

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Ricky Riffe talks with a jail guard during a recess in court early this past week.

Maurin murder trial: Final words to the jury

Friday, November 15th, 2013
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Rick Riffe, right, and his lawyer listen to prosecutors offer a rebuttal in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The prosecutor summarized his case, the defense offered its closing statements and the state got one last chance to address the jury yesterday before deliberations began on the 1985 slaying of Ed and Minnie Maurin, the Ethel couple who instead of hosting their annual Christmas party that year, were taken out to a logging road and shot in the backs.

Ricky A. Riffe, 55, is represented by a Seattle attorney who says the sheriff’s office got the wrong man. Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer and his senior deputy prosecutor contend the former Mossyrock man at the very least was an accomplice to their other longtime suspect who is dead, the defendant’s younger brother John Gregory Riffe.

Riffe’s attorney had said at the beginning of last month his client would take the stand, but he didn’t.

Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead took and hour and a half at the end of yesterday to rebut Crowley’s closing.

Crowley did what defense attorneys do when they don’t like what’s happened in the courtroom, Halstead said.

“What’s the defense, did you hear one?” Halstead asked. “Did you hear Greg was not involved?”

“No,” he answered himself.

Crowley’s insinuation prosecutors backpedaled from pinning it all of his client in their opening to suggesting two or more people were responsible when they gave closing arguments was an unfair characterization, according to Halstead.

“I thought I made it clear,” Halstead told the jury. “One person involved is dead, one is alive, and, there possibly could be more.”

The fear Crowley kept alluding to is the real fear witnesses felt about testifying, he said.

Nearly 100 individuals took the stand during five weeks of testimony to tell what they noticed at the Maurin’s house from where prosecutors say the couple was abducted, to the bank where prosecutors say they were forced to withdraw $8,500, to Stearns Hill Road where their bodies were found and on roadways in between where prosecutors say the Maurin’s 1969 Chrysler traveled on Dec. 19, 1985.

Item by item, Halstead picked apart Crowley’s contentions.

The event witness Les George described about Riffe tearing the page out of the book after his shotgun purchase at Sunbirds: “It’s not really relevant to this case.”

As far as the money the Riffes seemed to have to spend after the crimes, Halstead said he never claimed Greg Riffe purchased a log truck and detectives didn’t seek out the registration for the boat Rick Riffe bought because he admitted he bought it.

“The Christmas gifts, where’s the money for that?” Halstead asked. “Mr. Crowley glazed over that. He never explained to you where the money came from.”

Crowley said no one saw a sawed-off shotgun, he said, but several people testified they saw a person with a shotgun.

“Mr. Crowley wants you to believe there really were three people in the car,” he said. “Does it really make a difference? No.”

The burglary: “This is where you’re allowed to consider circumstantial evidence,” Halstead said.

The Maurins were in their 80s, all someone needed to do was knock on the door, or enter through an unlocked backdoor, he said.

It’s plausible, in that Minnie Maurin clearly had warning something was wrong, and hid her purse behind the couch beneath a newspaper, according to Halstead.

And the bank documents found on the bathroom floor, he said. Somebody got them and took them into one of the only places in the house where they could not seen from the outside, he said.

“Let’s talk about why Ricky left Washington,” Halstead said. “Oh, the rumors are the reason he left? Who came in here and testified about that? Not one person.”

Halstead told the jurors it was entirely up to them to decide which witnesses they felt were credible and which they did not. The defense attorneys opinion on that doesn’t mean anything, he said.

“Mr. Crowley suggested Deputy Forth didn’t see what he saw,” Halstead said. “It’s ridiculous. He saw the red blanket, he picked the person out the montage.”

Halstead said if jurors wanted to ignore Erwin Bartlett’s testimony, it wouldn’t matter to the case. The former fellow inmate wanted his case dismissed in exchange for telling about what Riffe told him, he said.

Marty Smeltzer. “Again, you can do what you want,” he told the jurors.

The state doesn’t need that testimony, he said.

Halstead said he understood why the defense tried to get jurors to disregard Jason Shriver’s testimony that he saw Ricky and his brother with the Maurins inside their car on the foggy morning of Dec. 19, 1985.

“Because Mr. Shriver is an extremely important witness in this case,” he said. “Is that really what they’re going to hang their hat on? Because Jason said it was clear that day?”

Halstead told the jury if they believed Shriver, the state has proved its case.

“Erwin Bartlett and Gordon Campbell, if you don’t believe them, don’t consider them,” he said.

Halstead’s parting words before the jury was sent to deliberate: “Common sense. Use it. Rely on it.”

The jury of eight women and four men was sent to begin deliberating shortly before 5 p.m. yesterday, but chose to go home at 5:30 p.m. and returned this morning to continue.

Riffe is charged as the principal player or as an accomplice with one count of burglary, two counts of first-degree kidnapping, two counts of first-degree robbery and two counts of first-degree murder, or, in the alternative, two counts of second-degree murder.

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Ricky Riffe’s longtime girlfriend Sherry Tibbetts and her son Jeremy Kern watch proceedings from the defense side of the courtroom.

Bucoda man fights armed intruder

Friday, November 15th, 2013

Updated at 12:06 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A Centralia man was arrested after he allegedly broke into a Bucoda home wearing a mask and armed with a handgun last night.

Police were called about 10:35 p.m. to the 100 block of Perkins Street North where a 34-year-old man said he was awakened by the intruder who ordered him to come with him, according to the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office.

The resident put on his shoes as though he was going to comply but then turned on the man and began punching him, according to the sheriff’s office. The two fought, the victim was pistol whipped and the intruder fired a single shot into the floor in between the victim’s feet before grabbing his cell phone and fleeing, according to Sgt. Ken Clark.

Clark says the victim recognized the man as the soon-to-be ex-husband of a female friend, as he had pulled the man’s mask off.

The sergeant called it a scary nightmare kind of scenario which the victim decided not to take meekly.

“The victim decided, you know, it’s not going to happen today,” he said.

Clark said it wasn’t clear where the intruder planned to take the man, he just kept demanding he leave with him.

Thomas Denegar, 26, was arrested a short time later in the Grand Mound area after he called to report he was the victim of an assault, according to Clark.

Denegar was booked into the Thurston County Jail for first-degree burglary, assault and robbery, according to the sheriff’s office.

Maurin murder trial: Defense points to fear, distorted memories

Friday, November 15th, 2013
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Defense lawyer John Crowley gives his closing arguments in Ricky Riffe’s murder trial.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Ricky A. Riffe’s lawyer gave his closing arguments yesterday telling the jury hearing the 1985 double-murder case that if they followed the rules given to them, they would see there was no real evidence against his client and they would acquit him.

John Crowley pointed to the fear that gripped the community nearly 30 years ago when the elderly couple vanished from their home in Ethel and turned up shot to death off a logging road outside Adna.

It caused folks to sleep with guns and warn their children, Crowley said. As professional as they were, even the police were affected by it, he said.

“Fear is illogical, it knows nothing about time,” Crowley said.

The key instructions the jury must look at, he said, are the presumption of innocence and reasonable doubt.

Checking the ‘guilty’ box requires that jurors can, with conviction, walk out of the courthouse and say his client did it, he said.

The Seattle-based attorney spoke for about four hours in Lewis County Superior Court after five weeks of testimony and more than 600 items were presented as physical evidence.

He repeatedly offered the phrase, “false evidence appearing real.”

What prosecutors presented did not connect his client to it, Crowley said, although there were many appearances it did.

“Thirty years plus six weeks of trial, it is obvious nobody knows what happened,” he said. “Nobody.”

Riffe, 55, is charged with numerous offenses in connection with December 1985 deaths of Ed and Minnie Maurin. He and his now-deceased younger brother have been the prime suspects since the early 1990s but he was only arrested last year.

Crowley spoke in partial sentences and run-on sentences, from his podium he placed next to his client.

He moved from topic to topic and back again in a courtroom in which eight family and friends sat behind the defense table while about 30 spectators crowded onto the benches behind prosecutors.

Crowley laced his recitation with phrases including the words “friendly”, “hostile”, “scammer” and “invader” in apparent reference to whomever took the Maurins. He spoke of witnesses who have been “cued” for nearly 30 years.

Why do they keep saying sawed off shotgun, he asked. What witness actually saw the sawed off shotgun?

Government is a structure run by people with resources and personalities, he told the jury.

“When it says a sawed off shotgun was used, you believe it, it’s human nature,” Crowley said.

He pointed out witnesses who saw a man around Yard Birds – where the Maurin’s bloody car was found – who spoke of a long gun.

“Make them prove it, make them do something they cannot do, which is prove beyond a reasonable doubt,” he said. “Because at the end, Rick is entitled to an acquittal.”

Prosecutors made it sound as though his client was kind of a freeloader, he said, but he was a logger who was hurt on the job, he told the jury.

“He also consumed some amount of drugs, but we don’t know how much,” he said.

Crowley said his client’s friend Les George seemed like a hardworking guy, and it sounded as though he was a suspect at one point, he noted.

Why would Riffe rip the page out of the registration book at Sunbirds when George bought his gun there, and how much did it even mean if it happened 14 months before the homicides, he asked. If it even happened, he added.

As for the burglary at the Maurin’s home, there’s no evidence how entry was made, he said.

“There was real evidence,” he said. “There was the purse between the couch and that wall, but it doesn’t take you down any path.”

Crowley re-characterized his client’s answers to law enforcement as similar to anyone else who is asked about events from perhaps six years earlier from a day that had no significance.

His client did ask his brother-in-law if shotgun shells could be traced, he said. But they were also talking about goose hunting, and he had a felony conviction which meant he shouldn’t handle firearms, he said.

Crowley showed the jury pictures of his client taken during that summer, and on Christmas Day, claiming his beard couldn’t match up with the few days growth of facial hair described by witnesses.

He listed the various purchases prosecutors implied the Riffe brothers made with the proceeds of the crime, suggesting $8,500 couldn’t be stretched that far.

“They nailed Rick at White Pass on Dec. 19 doing a drug deal,” he said. “But remember, (Jeff) McKenzie had him at the AM/PM that night.”

He pointed out no physical evidence linked Riffe to the crimes. No DNA, no hair, no fiber, no trace evidence, nothing, he said.

And where is the registration or any sales document for a supposed white car Riffe owned, he asked.

Early in the investigation, when photos were shown and nobody was picked, the detectives didn’t record it, he told the jury. So nobody knows how many people looked at his client’s face and didn’t choose it, he said, when their memories were fresher.

Crowley kept speaking of how unreliable people’s memories are, noting that witnesses who picked Riffe from a montage made their choice 9,835 days after the homicide.

“I should say this,” he said. “Those witnesses are not lying, they are gripped with fear.”

Adna resident William Reisinger testified the Maurin’s sedan was speeding down Bunker Creek Road at 11:35 a.m. on Dec. 19, 1985, he said.

And former Lewis County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Billy Forth – who testified he saw the same car and identified both Riffe and his brother as the lone driver – was already back at the courthouse looking at his watch at 11:10 a.m., he said.

“He’s not lying,” Crowley said. “He’s a mistaken witness that blamed himself.”

Crowley reminded the jury of the long list of witnesses at or passing through Ethel that morning who told of how foggy it was and of the ones who saw the Maurins in their green car with another person.

The one person who said they saw a fourth person in the vehicle was adamant that happened on a clear day, he said.

Jason Shriver was 17 years old and on the way with his mother to a dental appointment, and the “split second” look he got at the Riffe brothers in a car probably occurred, Crowley said.

Crowley suggested Shriver’s memories were jumbled by time and emotion, and the narcotics he was given after his oral surgery.

“Whatever day this was, it undoubtedly was not Dec. 19,” he said.

According to the defense attorney, Frank Perkin’s testimony was preposterous. Marty Smeltzer’s was nonsense. Witness Gordon Campbell is like Erwin Bartlett in that he knew he wasn’t telling the truth, he said.

Campbell is the kind of person who thinks if someone is charged they must be guilty, he claimed. Bartlett committed perjury, he said.

Why is the prosecution even offering witnesses like that, Crowley asked the jury.

“Because fear knows no bounds, it has caught them,” he said.

His client had nothing to do with it, he concluded.

“Rick did not do this, there’s no real evidence he did this,” Crowley  said, raising his voice. “He’s entitled to an acquittal based on real evidence, not perjury.”

The jury of eight women and four men was sent to begin deliberating shortly before 5 p.m., but chose to go home at 5:30 p.m. and return this morning to continue.

Maurin murder trial: Prosecutor points to defendant as accomplice

Thursday, November 14th, 2013
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Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead gives his closing arguments with an early 1980s mug shot of Ricky Riffe as a back drop.

Updated at 7:27 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Jurors in the Maurin murder trial listened all day yesterday to a prosecutor explain how Ricky A. Riffe is responsible for the December 1985 slaying of the elderly Ethel couple.

Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead asked almost as many questions during his closing as he gave answers to.

“The state’s not going to stand up and tell you we know what happened in this case,” Halstead said. “We do not.”

His hours-long recitation of weeks of testimony left it clear that Ed, 81, and Minnie, 83, Maurin were shot in the backs with double-ought buck inside their car which was then parked and empty at Yard Birds Shopping Center in Chehalis on Dec. 19, 1985.

Ed Maurin had withdrawn $8,500 cash in $100 bills from his bank at about the same hour that day the couple was expecting guests to begin arriving to their home for an annual Christmas party.

Prosecutors believe the couple was forced from their home to drive to the Chehalis bank and had numerous witnesses who believe they saw the 1969 Chrysler Newport at various key places, mostly with the couple in the front seat and a man in the backseat.

But Jason Shriver saw the Maurins as well as Ricky Riffe and his now-deceased brother in the car driving west on U.S. Highway 12, Halstead reminded jurors.

“I want you to ask yourself, what motive does a 17-year-old high school boy have to make up a story?” Halstead asked. “To  make this up?”

Shriver knows the Maurins, he knows the Riffe brothers, he said.

“Jason looks over, he sees Rick in the front passenger street facing straight ahead,” he said. “He sees all of them, recognizes them, IDs them.”

Halstead pondered what the Riffe brothers might have done.

“At this point, there’s no turning back, they are accomplices,” he said. “At this point, a burglary and kidnapping have occurred.”

Halstead reminded jurors of the white car seen leaving the Maurin’s driveway that same morning and to ask themselves who might have been driving it and if it were perhaps waiting on the side of the road.

“The question is, what happened to the other person in the back of the car?” he said.

Numerous witnesses have picked out both Ricky and John Gregory Riffe from photos, seen at various places. They’re brothers, they look alike, he said.

The deputy prosecutor pointed out at the bank, Ed Maurin told Pat Hull something like the kids were going to help them buy a car.

“If this is true, why don’t any of the kids know it?” Halstead asked. “He’s under duress, he’s being told what to do.”

Ed Maurin also said his wife didn’t feel good, he said.

“Why would they go to Seattle or Tacoma to buy a car if Minnie doesn’t feel good?” he said. “These people are 80 years old.”

Halstead recounted to the jury that William Reisinger who saw the green car speeding down Bunker Creek Road – near the logging road where the couple’s bodies were found five days later – remembered seeing the male driver’s two hands on the steering wheel, wearing gloves.

Remember how one witness said he saw the Riffe brothers standing next to the green car in the Yard Birds parking lot and detective Richard Herrington said he thought he’d find more finger prints on the car? he asked.

“But not if you’re wearing gloves. Not if you’ve wiped it down,” he said.

Numerous witnesses described seeing a man carrying a gun who could have been one of the Riffes at multiple places around the shopping center that day.

“My question is, are all these witnesses seeing the same person?” he said. “Or are there possibly two men walking around there with green jackets?”

Halstead spent the next several hours yesterday in Lewis County Superior Court recounting witness testimony that pointed to the Riffe brothers.

Rick and Robin Riffe had little money before the homicides but seemed to have money to spend afterward. His friend, long haul trucker Les George, testified Riffe has possession of his shot gun during that period, as he was cutting it down for him to use as a truck gun.

Halstead offered that the burglary could have been as as simple as someone knocking on the Maurin’s front door that morning, or walking through their back door with a gun. And that prosecutors believe Minnie was shot first while the car was still moving, having partially opened her door leaving a trail of her blood on the logging road.

As he concluded, he told the jury they were allowed to use their common sense to make inferences. In Washington, circumstantial and direct evidence can be weighed equally, he said.

“So, was it Rick or John? Who was the shooter?” Halstead asked.

“It doesn’t matter,” he said.

Both were selected from the montages.

“They’re both accomplices, it does not matter who was the shooter,” he said. “They’re both equally liable for all these crimes.”

“Could there be someone else out there who had a part in it? Absolutely,” he said.

Judge Richard Brosey sent the jury home before 5 p.m. with the same reminders not to read or listen to news about the case, and to return this morning when they would heard the defense closing.

“You’ve only heard half the closing arguments, so don’t jump to any conclusions,” Brosey said. “Remember what I told you, there’s always two sides to every story.”

Maurin murder trial: Defense decides to call no witnesses

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013
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Sherry Tibbetts, the woman Riffe has been with for 24 years in Alaska, waits to make sure he sees her before leaving the courtroom this afternoon; with her son Jeremy Kern. Tibbetts was kept out of the courtroom until now because she was listed as a witness.

Updated at 8:21 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – After arguments, motions and rulings this morning without the jury, murder defendant Ricky Riffe’s lawyer told the jury his client instructed him not to put on any defense witnesses.

Prosecutors rested their case just before 11 a.m., and Seattle-based attorney John Crowley stood up and announced to the courtroom:

“Mr. Riffe has directed the defense to call no witnesses and rest our case,” Crowley said. “On behalf of Rick Riffe, we rest our case.”

Then Crowley sat down.

The abrupt conclusion of the weeks-long witness testimony portion of the trial set the stage for closing arguments to begin tomorrow morning.

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Ricky Allen Riffe

Riffe, 55, is charged in Lewis County Superior Court with numerous offenses in connection with the December 1985 shotgun deaths of Ed and Minnie Maurin, an elderly couple from Ethel. He and his now-deceased younger brother have been the prime suspects since the early 1990s but he was only arrested last year.

Based on conversation by the court about scheduling, Lewis County prosecutors will take several hours tomorrow for closing, summarizing what they think the evidence has shown.

Then the following morning, Crowley will offer his closing arguments. Prosecutors get the last word with counter arguments and then the jury can be sent to begin deliberations.

The jury was given a long break until after lunch.

Outside the presence of the jury this morning, the judge heard arguments on the previously filed defense motion for prosecutorial conduct, regarding the jailhouse snitch who denied on the witness stand he got anything in exchange for his testimony against Riffe.

The judge had harsh words for both Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead and Crowley

Crowley argued it should lead to a mistrial or dismissal and to disqualify Halstead.

He told the judge the incident deprived his client of a fair trial and that also prosecutors had concealed from him there was a plea deal in place with Erwin Bartlett by not sharing the documentation during the discovery process.

“He was perjuring himself and the prosecutor knew he was perjuring himself at that point, and what the prosecutor didn’t know is we knew,” Crowley said.

Judge Richard Brosey said he could only dismiss if there was no other recourse, but that in the case of Bartlett, by the time the jury heard Crowley’s cross examination and Bartlett’s attorney was put on the stand to verify what occurred, it should have been very clear to the jury there was a deal.

The judge suggested the proper channel for the complaint was not through himself, but through the bar association.

On the matter of Crowley emailing prosecutors that he would not file the motion if they would stipulate to certain other matters, Brosey was equally blunt.

“It sure looks to me like that’s extortion Mr. Crowley,” Brosey said. “How do you explain that any other way?”

“All we were trying to do is get them to stipulate to the truth of the matter,” Crowley said.

Before the jury was brought back in, Crowley made a separate oral motion for dismissal of all charges, stating there hadn’t been enough evidence presented.

The judge denied the motion.

Riffe is charged with two counts each of first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping and first-degree robbery, as well as one count of burglary; all either as the principal player or as an accomplice.

Numerous aggravating circumstances are alleged including particularly vulnerable victims and deliberate cruelty.

Prosecutors are leaving room for a variety of possible scenarios.

Halstead told the judge that since there were no eyewitnesses, and nobody knows exactly what occurred, it was possible the jury could conclude whoever drove the Maurins up Stearns Hill Road and shot them, whether it was Greg Riffe or Ricky Riffe, that the killing was not premeditated.

He asked for a jury instruction which would allow jurors to find Riffe guilty of second-degree murder instead of first-degree.

The judge said he would allow the so-called lesser included offense to be contemplated by the jury, noting it was unusual for the state to be proposing it, as such an instruction usually it would be sought by the defense and the state would oppose it.

Judge Brosey read to the jury the lengthy list of jury instructions.

The jury was also read a list of stipulations, facts agreed to by both sides to be placed in the record for jury consideration in lieu of live testimony.

The following are among them:

• Rick Riffe and Robin Giddings married in Reno, Nevada on Jan. 5, 1985

• They two divorced in 1991.

• Robin Riffe died of natural causes in 1994 in Washington state.

• Rick Riffe was convicted of a felony in 1981, and could not legally possess firearms until at least 1986.

Closing statements are expected to begin at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow.

The trial is open to the public. The courtroom is on the fourth floor of the Lewis County Law and Justice Center at Main Street and Chehalis Avenue in Chehalis.

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Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer defends his senior deputy prosecutor to the judge in court this morning.

Maurin murder trial: Reporter’s notebook

Monday, November 11th, 2013
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Ricky Riffe’s lawyer, far right, and his assistant talk with Riffe’s supporters, the family of his longtime live-in girlfriend Sherry Tibbetts, after court recessed for the three-day weekend.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – When the sixth week of testimony begins tomorrow in the 1985 Maurin murder case, it should finally be witnesses for the defense who take the stand.

Prosecutors seem to have called all the witnesses they are going to, but have not yet rested.

Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer has said he hasn’t revealed to the defense or to he judge throughout the trial who his next witnesses would be.

Defense attorney John Crowley over the past weeks has cross examined state’s witnesses extensively, and only has a handful of his own to call.

His client, former Mossyrock resident Ricky A. Riffe, is charged with murder, kidnapping, robbery and burglary in connection with the December 1985 shotgun deaths of Ed, 81, and Minnie, 83, Maurin of Ethel.

Following are a few pieces of information which have come out during the past weeks in Lewis County Superior Court but not previously included in news stories.

• Of the more than 800 people Lewis County Sheriff’s Office detective Bruce Kimsey has spoken to in the Maurin murder case, no one has ever asked about claiming any of the reward money, including the $10,000 offered in newspaper ads after Denny Hadaller hired private investigators in 2003.

• A Winston cigarette butt that turned up among items in the evidence locker last year, and came from a trash can inside the Maurin’s home, was tested for DNA and came back to a partial profile of an unknown male. The Maurins didn’t smoke.

• Of the 19 cigarette butts recovered from the Maurin’s 1969 Chrysler found abandoned in the parking lot at Yard Birds Shopping Center and tested for DNA, one was found to have come from a daughter-in-law of Minnie Maurin, and another came back to an unknown female.

• Ricky and John Gregory Riffe lived in a small trailer park in Adna for about a year in 1981, according to an early witness. William Reisinger who resides on the 400 block on Bunker Creek Road said they were his neighbors he knew from talking to them to say they could have access to the river and from seeing them out and about. “I just seen ‘em go up and down the road, running around. They were young guys, I seen ‘em alot.” he testified.

• Kimsey calculated the distance between Rick and Robin Riffe’s home in Silver Creek in 1985 to the Maurin’s house in Ethel was 4.7 miles, or a five minute drive along U.S. Highway 12.

Maurin murder trial: Testimony of Riffe admission to inmate leads to dual complaints

Saturday, November 9th, 2013
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Jonathan Meyer, Will Halstead and Bruce Kimsey of the prosecution team face the judge’s bench in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Lawyers on both sides in the Ricky Riffe murder trial accused each other of misconduct as the fifth week of proceedings began to wind down.

The conversation in Lewis County Superior Court before the jury was called into the courtroom on the surface was about whether a local attorney should be called to the witness stand but at its root revolved around whether a jailhouse snitch got a deal in exchange for saying Riffe confessed to him.

Defense attorney John Crowley told the judge he would file a motion for prosecutorial misconduct and would be asking  that Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead be disqualified from the case.

Halstead, who is handling the prosecution along with elected Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer, shot back.

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Erwin Bartlett

“I hope Mr. Crowley attaches the threatening email he sent that he would not file it if the state would stipulate to certain facts,” Halstead said. “That in itself is misconduct.”

Judge Richard Brosey ruled the informant’s lawyer should be called, saying the jury is entitled to know if the inmate did or did not get “consideration” in exchange for his testimony.

Under questioning by Halstead late last week, Erwin Bartlett denied he was getting anything in return for taking the stand, but when presented with the plea agreement document, said he didn’t remember much about the hearing as his liver ailment was causing him pain.

Brosey indicated he’s listened to many informants over the years and said his impression was Bartlett may have expressed confusion by design and it might be that he’s “smart like a fox”.

Crowley told the judge his client’s case was irreparably damaged by the matter.

Jurors sent home for the weekend were told to return Tuesday morning because Monday is a holiday. However, court is scheduled to begin for the attorneys early that day as they argue the defense motion.

Crowley represents Riffe, the 55-year-old former Mossyrock resident who was arrested last year at his home in Alaska and charged in the December 1985 shotgun deaths of an elderly couple who lived in Ethel.

Prosecutors contend Riffe and his now-deceased younger brother were responsible, that someone forced Ed and Minnie Maurin to drive to their bank to withdraw thousands of dollars and then to the woods near Adna where they were shot in their backs inside their car and dumped along a logging road.

Jurors since early October have heard dozens of state’s witnesses describe the day the couple vanished from their home, seeing them with someone else in their green sedan and observing  an unshaven man in an Army jacket with a gun at or near Yardbirds Shopping Center in Chehalis where the car was abandoned. Both Riffe and his brother John Gregory Riffe have been pegged as the person in a composite drawing and in photo montages.

A former drug dealer has testified Riffe told him he thought they got away with it, a woman who conducted an online relationship with him has said he made references to it and a Mossyrock man said he remembers overhearing the brothers planning it. But prosecutors have no fingerprints or DNA evidence that ties either brother to what has been described as one of the most horrendous murder cases in Lewis County.

When Bartlett took the witness stand on Oct. 31, he was forthright about his own crimes and how he came to be locked up in the Lewis County Jail, in an adjacent cell to Riffe early this year.

The now-50-year-old told of escaping New Mexico State Penitentiary where he was serving time for two counts of attempted first-degree murder – he said he took an axe handle to two men he caught on his living room floor with his wife.

When asked, he said in prison he built couches for a dental office and one day took the guts out of one of them, climbed inside and got loaded onto a flatbed truck. Bartlett said he was free for six months and 11 days before he was apprehended and ended up serving about 13 and half years.

He returned to Washington in 2007 and this past winter was serving six months in the Lewis County Jail for assault, he testified.

Bartlett lives in Hoquiam, but considers Chehalis his hometown. He told of getting to know Riffe earlier this year.

“I met Rick probably several days after I was in the medical unit,” he said. “I told him what I was in for, he told me what he was there for.”

Later, after Bartlett returned from a medical furlough and was caught trying to smuggle a prescription medication back into the jail, he tried to negotiate for leniency in exchange for information on fellow inmates, he testified.

His charge was a felony, possession of a controlled substance by a prisoner.

“What consideration did you receive?” Halstead asked him.

“None, I was told by you I wouldn’t get any,” Bartlett said.

Under questioning by Halstead, he began to describe the conversations he and Riffe had.

“First, I want to say, when you get locked up like we are, you really tend to say things,” Bartlett said. “I laid my heart out.”

He shared what he knew about his fellow inmate, that he said he lived in Alaska, loved the outdoors and fishing and hunting, and did odd jobs.

“I know he had sleep apnea and COPD, a respiratory problem,” he said.

Bartlett said Riffe showed him pictures of his wife and children and that they both liked to read Westerns.

“I believe this conversation happened through the vent,” he said. “We call it the “cell” phone.”

“He told me that he committed a crime, that he had killed two old people and that’s what happened,” Bartlett testified.

The witness went on to say Riffe told him that he had help, he thought an accomplice who was “no longer here.”

He said they took one of the individuals to the bank, and maybe said the cops might have a picture of the ATM driving through, according to Bartlett.

Riffe also complained about his well-paid attorney from Seattle not coming to see him, not talking to witnesses, he said.

“He told me it was a bad, bad mistake,” he said. “I think the first time he told me he did it, the second time he said allegedly.”

Under questioning by Crowley, Bartlett said he has already pleaded guilty to the smuggling charge and wasn’t sure why he hasn’t yet been sentenced.

Asked if he was receiving anything in exchange for his testimony against Riffe, he said it’s never a sure thing, but he sure hopes so.

The defense attorney put a document in front of the witness and asked if prosecutors were going to recommend he get a 30-day sentence.

“As I said, I don’t remember anyone discussing this with me,” Bartlett said.

The witness recalled he was looking at 12 months maximum, given his background.

The document was signed by Halstead, the one who prosecuted his case.

The jury was sent out of the room, when Halstead objected.

Crowley told the judge he’d gone to the clerk’s office the day before and gotten a copy of Bartlett’s case documents.

Halstead told the judge it was Bartlett’s attorney’s bad habit to attach a copy of the plea offer sheet to the filing.

“This document was not in discovery,” Crowley told the judge.  “Obviously there is consideration, it sticks out like a sore thumb.

“I’m not going to let this go.”

Centralia lawyer David Arcuri was called as a witness subsequently and testified he had no idea what his client Bartlett told law enforcement about Riffe.

The plea agreement however, was if Bartlett testified truthfully in the Riffe case, Halstead would tell the judge he should get 30 days for bringing drugs into the jail but if he didn’t, Halstead would seek the maximum sentence, according to Arcuri.

The state said they expect to rest on Tuesday. The defense will then begin to call its witnesses and closing arguments could take place, or at least begin, by the end of the week.

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John Crowley looks through case exhibits at the end of the day.

Maurin murder trial: Internet chat with the suspect

Friday, November 8th, 2013
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Deb George responds to attorney’s questions about herself and her online relationship with murder suspect Ricky Riffe.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Debra George testified yesterday about online conversations she had with murder defendant Ricky Riffe that over a period of time sometimes included exchanges related to the 1985 Maurin murders.

George, 57, said she had a Facebook account in her and her husband’s name and at some point, Riffe made a friend request meant for his old high school buddy, but he ignored it. A month or so later, she responded and they developed a private long distance email relationship that took place over about a year and a half, according to George.

“What did Rick tell you about sex and dead people? That he used to do that over dead people?” George was asked.

“We talked about different things like that, yeah, but we knew we would never do that,” she replied.

George told the prosecutor Riffe spoke of doing it in graveyards and and such places because nobody could catch him.

Did you tell detective Kimsey that Riffe talked about having sex where the Maurins were killed, she was asked? And what did she say to Kimsey about that?

“I couldn’t tell him much because I didn’t want to be killed,” she said.

George is among the final witnesses for the prosecution in Riffe’s kidnapping, robbery and murder trial that began early last month in Lewis County Superior Court.

Riffe, 55, was arrested and charged last year in the deaths of Ed and Minnie Maurin, the elderly Ethel couple whose bodies were found dumped on a logging road near Adna on Dec. 24, 1985.

The former Mossyrock man who moved to Alaska in the late 1980s chatted with George sometimes daily, according to the woman.

They communicated over Facebook, Gmail and video chat, she said. She testified she deleted all of it.

According to George, she once broached the subject of the homicides with the man she suspected was involved.

“I was telling him a story about some guy talking about a murder back in the 80s,” she said.

Through her testimony and the lawyer’s questions, it appeared she mentioned a name of a local man she’d talked with about it, and Riffe chuckled and said the man was a “snake in the grass.”

She was just very curious, George testified.

“He asked me who they thought did it,” George said.

George spoke of one time simply asking Riffe what happened to the bloody clothes.

He turned off the web cam, but she could still hear him and she thought Riffe was talking to himself, according to George.

Riffe said he said he gave them to someone else to bury by the lake, according to George.

“Do you remember detective Kimsey asking if the clothes were burned?” Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer asked her.

“Yeah, they weren’t. And I was shocked,” George replied.

Do you remember talking to detective Kimsey about Mr. Maurin being struck in the back of the head? she was asked.

“He got hit in the head when he wouldn’t get out of the car,” George said.

George came to the attention of law enforcement because her husband Les George said she’d been communicating with Riffe.

After she attended Riffe’s first court appearance in July of last year, detective Bruce Kimsey asked to interview her.

At times her testimony was confusing, as she repeatedly responded she didn’t recall “at this time.”

She admitted she was afraid of testifying.

Under questioning by defense attorney John Crowley, she acknowledged a head injury that made her forgetful and that she was taking medication for a variety of anxieties.

Crowley queried her about why she only just this week made mention of the injury to Ed Maurin’s head, insinuating it didn’t come from his client.

“Well, how else would I have known that?” George asked.

She denied she followed news of the case or spoke with her sister who had been attending the trial.

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Two of Minnie Maurin’s children, Denny Hadaller and his sister Hazel Oberg, observe proceedings during the Riffe murder trial.

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Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer, left, and detective Bruce Kimsey confer during a court recess.

Lewis County woman dead after trying to swim away from deputy

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

Updated

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A 30-year-old Packwood area woman is dead after she was pulled from the Black River near Rochester last night, apparently in an attempt to flee the law.

The Thurston County Sheriff’s Office said she and a 34-year-old man were contacted in a vehicle parked with its lights off near the boat launch near School Land Road about 8 p.m.

As the deputy was checking information on her, the driver’s door swung open and she ran toward the river, Sgt. Ray Brady said.

“She jumps into the water and starts swimming away from him,” Brady said.

Firefighters responded about 8:22 p.m. and with the use of thermal imaging equipment spotted the woman floating about a quarter mile downstream, according to West Thurston Regional Fire Authority. It was approximately 9:05 p.m., according to Chief Robert Scott.

Her head was above water, but she was hypothermic and incoherent, Scott said. Responders said she was treated for exposure but then medics had to perform CPR enroute to the hospital.

Brady said she passed away about 2:30 a.m.

The woman had arrest warrants from the state Department of Corrections and related to possession of methamphetamine, according to Brady.

As far as they can tell, that may be the reason she ran, he said.

“It’s really kind of tragic, trying to flee some warrants, and have it end in the death of someone,” Brady said.

The Thurston County Coroner’s Office identifies her as Kristina L. Jorden.

Maurin murder trial: Suspect is ‘witty’

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The wife of Ricky Riffe’s high school friend Les George took the witness stand yesterday where she was asked about a long distance email relationship that took place over about a year and a half between herself and the murder defendant.

Debra George tearfully and seemingly reluctantly spoke of sometimes daily conversations over Facebook, Skype and through Gmail.

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Ricky Allen Riffe

“Did Rick ask you if people were talking about the homicides?” Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer asked.

Yes, she said, but they never mentioned the Maurins by name.

Prosecutors have indicated they believe Riffe was keeping tabs on  the Lewis County investigation even as he was thousands of miles away in Alaska.

“Did you save those emails?” she was asked.

“No, he told me not to,” Deb George testified.

She said she thought Riffe didn’t want her husband or anyone else to see them.

Jurors in Lewis County Superior Court yesterday heard that her computer, as well as two computers from the Riffe household in King Salmon were seized and forensically examined a few weeks after a detective last year learned of the exchanges.

As the trial comes to the end of its fifth week, prosecutors continue in their attempts to prove Riffe is responsible for the December 1985 shotgun deaths of Ed and Minnie Maurin, the elderly Ethel couple whose bodies were found dumped off a logging road near Adna.

The now-55-year-old former Mossyrock man was arrested at his home in King Salmon, Alaska last year not long after the other prime suspect – his younger brother – passed away.

Lewis County Sheriff’s Office detective Bruce Kimsey spent his second day on the witness stand yesterday, sharing more of what he learned about the defendant when he flew to Alaska to confront him and subsequently to bring him back to Lewis County.

Riffe told him’d quit drugs cold turkey when he took a job in Alaska and put that part of his life behind him, according to Kimsey.

Kimsey has suggested the suspect’s attitude changed once he knew “the gig was up”, in contrast to the aloof manner he presented during the interrogation.

“It’s totally different,” Kimsey testified. “He’s more open, willing to talk to me. Willing to joke around and show he had a personality.”

After the July 8, 2012 arrest, he found the suspect not only more relaxed but quite witty, he said.

Kimsey spoke of observing Riffe during his court hearing in Anchorage laughing with other inmates, of conversing over lunch at Chili’s and then a fast food stop on their way to the Lewis County Jail.

When they hit Federal Way, they drove through and ordered burgers, according to Kimsey.

Kimsey walked over to a mini mart and brought back Pall Mall filtered cigarettes, apologizing he couldn’t get exactly what Riffe smoked, he said.

“So, he takes the cigarette out, bites off the filter, spits it on the ground and makes a joke to me,” Kimsey said. “Yes, he laughed.”

Kimsey said during the four-plus hour plane ride, he had continued to go through what all the witnesses have said.

“I’m sitting on his left side, detective Riordan on his right,” Kimsey says.

Riffe still had little to say about the case itself.

“He said, I don’t know. I hope justice prevails.”

“I told him, you can save that for your family and friends,” Kimsey recounted.

“He said, ‘well, it doesn’t look good’,” Kimsey said. “I said, ‘it’s bad.’ And he said, ‘yeah, it’s bad’.”

“Did you ask him if he’d worried?” Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead asked.

“I’m talking in his left ear,” Kimsey said. “Did you ever think the day would come when police would come knock on your door and arrest you?”

His answer, “Well yeah.”