Archive for the ‘Top story of the day’ Category

Mass amount of meth, heroin located at Chehalis area residence, four arrested

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013
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One gallon freezer bag containing methamphetamine is among drugs confiscated yesterday outside Chehalis. / Courtesy photo by Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

Updated at 1:07 p.m.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Law enforcement officers seized more than $200,000 worth of drugs yesterday from a house south of Chehalis, arresting four individuals.

The raid about 12:30 p.m. at a house on the 2500 block of Jackson Highway yielded both brown powdered heroin and methamphetamine, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

A one-gallon freezer bag which was located was nearly filled with chards of meth some as long as a Sharpie felt pen.

“Those are the biggest crystals I’ve ever seen in my career,” sheriff’s Chief Criminal Deputy Gene Seiber said.

The more than two and half pounds of meth is estimated to have a street value of some $200,000. Nearly 150 grams of heroin discovered inside the home is valued at almost $12,000, according to the sherif’s office.

The Lewis County Regional Crime Task Force and the sheriff’s office SWAT team assisted the Thurston County Narcotics Task Force in serving the search warrant.

Lewis County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Sgt. Rob Snaza praised the partnership between agencies as being vital to getting drugs off the streets.

“”We recovered a large amount of meth and heroin (yesterday) which made a positive difference in our community,” Snaza said in a news release this morning.

Arrested and booked into the Lewis County Jail for possession with intent to deliver were:

• Randall D.  Mauel, 42, of Chehalis
• Ryan G. Mauel, 37, of Chehalis
• Jonathan R. Stajduhar, 34, Chehalis
• Tesa M. Hanks, 34, of Centralia

Hanks and Stajduhar are to be released without charges pending further investigation.

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Brown powdered heroin located at Chehalis area residence. / Courtesy photo by Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff’s office: Ryderwood resident shot by roommate

Monday, December 9th, 2013

Updated at 3:24 p.m.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A 69-year-old man who drove himself to a Vader restaurant after sustaining a gunshot wound to his abdomen is recovering at a Tacoma hospital.

His 43-year-old female roommate has been arrested for first-degree assault.

The Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office said deputies responded about 4:40 a.m. to a Ryderwood home after receiving 911 calls from both John Stiller and Linda Cochran.

He said his roommate shot him and he was trying to get out of the house; she said she had just shot somebody inside her house, according to the sheriff’s office.

Stiller was able to leave, get into his vehicle and drive himself to the Little Crane Cafe in Vader where he was met by aid and a deputy, according to responders.

He was airlifted to Tacoma General Hospital where underwent surgery, the sheriff’s office reported this afternoon. The (Longview) Daily News reports the sheriff said the injuries did not appear to be life threatening.

The sheriff’s office stated Cochran stayed on the line with the 911 dispatcher who advised deputies the woman continued to shoot randomly; however Cochran was talked out of of the residence and taken in to custody without incident, according a news release from the sheriff’s office.

It’s unknown why she shot him, but appears she may be dealing with some mental issues, the sheriff’s office said.

Stiller was shot with a hunting rifle believed to be owned by Cochran, the sheriff’s office said.

He is sedated but will remain in the hospital during this initial recovery stage, the sheriff’s office reported this afternoon.

House fires break out in Napavine, Littlerock

Sunday, December 8th, 2013

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A Napavine area family lost everything in a house fire this morning, except their lives.

Crews called about 5 a.m. to the 300 block of Raubuck Road found fire in the front room of the two-story house and extinguished it, according to Fire Investigator Derrick Paul.

Two adults and four children escaped safely, according to Paul.

“There were working smoke detectors throughout the house, that’s what woke the parents up,” Paul said. “The fact is smoke detectors quite possibly saved the lives of all those kids.”

A pet dog was evacuated as well, according to Lewis County Fire District 5. The parents were treated at the scene for minor smoke inhalation, according to Paul.

Five fire departments battled the blaze, according to District 5.

Paul said the the fire damage was confined to the front room, although the rest of the house sustained heavy smoke damage.

It appeared the blaze began next to the chimney, Paul said. A fire had been left burning overnight in a fireplace insert, their only source of heat, he said.

After everyone had cleared the scene, part of the family returned and called 911 about 9:45 a.m. when they saw smoke, according to Paul.

“This time there was fire throughout the residence,” he said. “Basically, it burned to the ground.”

It’s undetermined what caused the second fire, but it’s a possibility an unextinguished ember flared up, Paul said.

“That sort of stuff does happen, nobody wants it to happen, we try real hard to make sure it doesn’t happen,” he said.

Paul said the Red Cross is assisting.

He also noted he wanted to emphasize that especially this time of year when the cold weather has more folks burning in fireplaces, that chimneys should be checked.

Earlier this morning, multiple occupants of a two-story house southwest of Littlerock escaped another house fire.

Crews were called about 3:40 a.m. to the 13900 block of Vue Street Southwest, according to West Thurston Fire Authority.

While there were smoke detectors, an overnight guest was awakened to smoke before they went off and found fire in the laundry room, Chief Robert Scott said.

Five fire departments responded to assist. Flames had extended into the roof in one area, the attic space of the second floor and over the garage, according to Scott.

The home was left with smoke and soot damage to most of the second floor, Scott said.

In that case, one male was treated at the scene for smoke inhalation and a minor burn to his hand, Scott said. Five or six people escaped the fire, he said

The cause is under investigation.

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A house in the Bordeaux area southwest of Littlerock caught fire this morning. / Courtesy photo by Robert Scott

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Saturday, December 7th, 2013

SUSPICIOUS FIRE NEAR ETHEL

• Firefighters were called about 3:30 a.m. today when a car parked at a residence on the 200 block of Larmon Road caught fire. It was fully involved when crews arrived; they extinguished it, according to Lewis County Fire District 5. Assistant Chief Jeff Lee said the vehicle had apparently been sitting for awhile unused. The cause is under investigation, Lee said.

WARRANT ARREST

• Police responded overnight to the area off the 1200 block of Rush Road near Napavine after an individual ran from a traffic stop. Centralia’s police dog Lobo was summoned around 1 a.m. and after a short track, captured 32-year-old Raymond D. Faure with his teeth, according to the Centralia Police Department. Faure was wanted on at least one warrant from Centralia, according to police. He was booked into the Lewis County Jail.

BURGLARY

• Centralia police were called about 6 p.m. yesterday regarding someone breaking into a garage at the 400 block of West Magnolia Street.

WRECKS

• Centralia police responded to five non-injury collisions before noon yesterday, all related to traveling too fast in the snow, according to the Centralia Police Department. Sgt. Kurt Reichert said there was about a half inch of snow in town that had iced over.

Child assault charged in case of 4-year-old Winlock boy

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Prosecutors yesterday filed two charges of second-degree child assault against the boyfriend of the mother of a 4-year-old boy who was brought to the hospital over the weekend with various injuries including bruises on the outsides of his legs he said he got from “knife hand” spankings.

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Ryon T. Connery

Ryon T. Connery, 31, was arrested after a deputy on Saturday spoke with the child and his grandparents at Providence Centralia Hospital and then his mother and Connery at the Winlock area home.

The boy had been brought to the emergency room to be looked at after he was dropped off at his great grandmother’s house that morning.

Connery went before a judge in Lewis County Superior Court on Monday, where he was ordered held on $75,000 bail and prosecutors were given two more days to file charges. At the time, the defense attorney said the boy was currently with his other parent.

He was brought before a judge again yesterday when the charges were filed.

The offense carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

According to charging documents, the boy said he got spanked because he had been breaking “house rules”, including stealing food.

The documents allege the following was learned by the investigating deputy:

The child explained the rug burn on his nose came from when he fell on his face trying to get away from a spanking, an abrasion on his face happened when Connery hit him on the leg and it knocked him over so that he struck his face on the floor.

The child’s mother admitted her son had been made to do wall squats, push ups and being sprayed by a hose at the same time and she knew he’d dropped a weight on his finger – which was broken. She told the deputy the scrapes on his face were from falling down.

But she denied the child was dunked in the outdoor pool and was not aware of the injuries on his chest and back.

When asked what his mother did while he was getting punished, the boy told the deputy she would just watch.

The youngster also had swollen ankle that appeared to have been burned or infected.

The sheriff’s office says the mother and Connery live near Winlock. A document in the court file indicates a Chehalis address for Connery.

The mother said she and Connery have been in a dating relationship about four months.

Connery is represented by Centralia lawyer David Arcuri.

His arraignment was scheduled for today.

Unemployed man who robbed Chehalis bank says he’s sorry

Thursday, December 5th, 2013
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Jerrell S. Redmill , in orange, represented by attorney David Arcuri, faces a judge who accepted his remorsefulness for robbing Chase Bank.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The 54-year-old bank robber whose worst past crimes were mischief and disorderliness when he was in his early 20s apologized to the court yesterday and said he was truly ashamed.

Jerrell S. Redmill was in Lewis County Superior Court to be sentenced following a plea deal in connection with this past spring’s incident at Chase Bank in Chehalis. His wife, son and two grandchildren sat in the benches behind him as he spoke.

“Desperate or not, I’m responsible for what I did,” Jerrell S. Redmill.

The Kelso resident has been locked up in the Lewis County Jail since May 21, when after he handed a teller a note demanding cash, he got into his PT Cruiser and headed south on Interstate 5.

After he was pulled over by law enforcement officers who followed him into Cowlitz County, money was falling out of his shorts pockets, dropping onto the ground.

Centralia defense attorney David Arcuri appealed to the court to treat his client leniently, noting the crime was very desperate conduct out of a desperate situation related to injuries and being unable to work.

What Redmill did was clearly second-degree robbery, it just happened to take place at a bank which made it first-degree robbery, Arcuri said. Which is what Redmill pleaded guilty to.

The difference between the two in terms of penalty, would be a few months in the county jail or around three years in prison, according to the lawyer.

In Redmill’s case, he faced a sentence of something between 31 to 41 months of incarceration.

Judge James Lawler indicated to Redmill he didn’t doubt his sincerity.

“I’ve seen a lot of people come before me,” Lawler said. “I accept that you are one of the few that are truly remorseful.

“I will accept the deal and I will impose the low end of the range, 31 months.”

The little more than $1,000 the Kelso man gained from the robbery was recovered when he was arrested, on the ground outside his car and the rest on the driver’s side floor.

The same bank on South Market Boulevard was robbed in March of last year, by a pair of local men who got away briefly with less than $2,500 from Chase, moments after a failed attempt at the nearby Twin Star Credit Union – which keeps no cash in its drawers.

Alleged Lewis County Oxycodone dealer charged with organized crime

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013
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Forrest E. Amos is facing a third strike charge related to alleged illegal large-scale sales of prescription pain meds from both inside and outside prison.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A local man who has been on police radar since 2010, first for being involved in questionable medical marijuana, then for allegedly becoming a prolific dealer of Oxycodone and working as an informant at the same time, now stands accused by Centralia police of leading organized crime.

It’s a class A felony with a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Forrest E. Amos, 30, is in the Lewis County Jail, facing 26 varied criminal charges that encompass activities which date back to the spring of 2011 and authorities say continued in prison this year while he served a 12-month sentence he secured with a plea deal.

Centralia police’s Anti-Crime Team Sgt. Jim Shannon said he picked up Amos as he was released Monday from Stafford Creek Corrections Center in Aberdeen and took him into custody.

Yesterday, in Lewis County Superior Court, prosecutors requested the former Napavine area man be held on $1 million bail.

“To reflect the direct threat he poses,” Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Eric Eisenberg said. “Even behind bars, he wasn’t really controllable.”

Eisenberg also asked the judge to prohibit him access to a telephone while in the jail.

Defense attorney Bob Schroeter indicated that amount was excessive, calling the allegations apparently sour grapes from a falling out.

“The state used my client, trusted him,” Schroeter said. “And now apparently, they don’t feel that way anymore.”

Amos’s alleged drug trafficking organization from inside prison walls came to light in June when Centralia police revealed an investigation that spanned four counties and caught up to some 20 individuals including a nurse practitioner named Sharol Chavez, whose medical records and other documents were seized in Tumwater and Aberdeen.

Chavez, who allegedly supplied thousands of Oxycodone pills to Amos, is under federal investigation, according to charging documents in his case.

At the time, police said intercepted prison phone conversations and surveillance of the ensuing drug deals led to various arrests, and they were nearing the end of their local investigation.

For Amos, who first went to prison for a violent drug robbery committed when he was 16, a conviction on the main charge of leading organized crime would be a third strike.

His arraignment is scheduled for tomorrow.

More to come.

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.