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Maurin murder trial: The arrest

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013
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Lewis County Sheriff’s Office detective Bruce Kimsey speaks to the jury about murder suspect Ricky A. Riffe.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – It was the fifth or sixth trip detective Bruce Kimsey had made to Alaska as he reinvestigated the December 1985 slaying of the elderly Ethel couple.

Over the previous seven years, Kimsey had scoured thousands and thousands of pages contained in the roughly 20 binders on the murder case at the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

He’d reinterviewed witnesses, managed to make sure every piece of evidence was tested for DNA and he was ready to learn what the only living prime suspect would talk about.

Kimsey had learned former Mossyrock area brothers Ricky and John Gregory Riffe moved to Alaska sometime in the late 1980s.

Just days before, Kimsey learned John Gregory had died. The detective was ready to arrest Ricky.

It was July 8, 2012 and Kimsey, along with a team that included a deputy to cover his back, a prosecutor and a private investigator, had arrived in Alaska two days earlier. They flew to Bristol Bay and checked into Antler’s Inn, the only motel in the town of King Salmon.

As they ordered a late lunch, they realized their waitress was the longtime live-in girlfriend of their suspect so they decided to make their visit then, wanting to catch him home alone.

“I don’t remember a  road sign or a mailbox that said 15 Wolverine Drive,” Kimsey testified.

He described driving a Dodge Caravan on a gravel road toward the neighboring town, where Alaska State Trooper William Gifford knocked on the door of Riffe’s two-story-type home.

“I hear a male say, ‘Who the f*** is it?” Kimsey said.

Gifford identified himself through the door.

“Rick comes down, opens the door and says ‘come inside, I don’t want to let the mosquitoes in’.”

Detective Kimsey took the witness stand yesterday in Lewis County Superior Court as the fourth week of the murder trial opened.

Riffe, 55, is charged with burglary, kidnapping, robbery and murder of Ed and Minnie Maurin, whose bodies were found on Dec. 24, 1985 dumped on a logging road near Adna, with shotgun wounds in their backs five days after they went missing from their home.

Kimsey said he told the suspect they were there to follow up on the murder of Ed and Minnie Maurin.

“He said, who?” Kimsey testified.

Kimsey reminded him it was the same case he’d been interviewed by police about in 1992.

“He said, ‘oh, okay’,” Kimsey said.

Kimsey was inside the home with Gifford and private investigator Chris Peterson. They made small talk, Riffe mentioning he had COPD as he was breathing though an oxygen hose, according to Kimsey. And smoking at the same time, he said.

Riffe’s responses were short, as he was confronted with what various witnesses had offered connecting him to the crimes, according to Kimsey.

The detective said he told him that Jason Shriver had seen him and his brother inside the Maurin’s car with the elderly couple.

And he just responded with “I don’t know what you want me to say’,” according to Kimsey.

Nearly all of Rife’s answers to various questions included I don’t recall, I don’t know, a shoulder shrug or I don’t have anything to add to that, Kimsey testified.

Right in the middle of the relatively serious interview, the phone rang, and to Kimsey’s surprise, Riffe got up and went to answer it, Kimsey recounted.

The detective mimicked a gruff voice on his end of the call offering one and two word responses; it became apparent the suspect must be talking to his girlfriend, he said.

“He got off the phone and said, ‘I just ordered chicken wings’,” Kimsey testified.

Kimsey said Riffe remained well-controlled and matter-of-fact. He described his demeanor as kind of “flat line.”

“Every time I would ask him a question, he would drag on his cigarette and answer me while exhaling,” he said.

But, Kimsey testified, at the same time, he could detect a vein on his neck throbbing.

“My impression, he’s screaming on the inside,” Kimsey said.

Kimsey was asked what he observed as Gifford told him he was under arrest and what for.

“All he said is I’m gonna need my medication and my cigarettes,” Kimsey said. “His shoulders went down; it looked like it relaxed him, to me.”

Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead asked about the trip to the Bristol Bay Jail Jail

“He appeared to be calm,” Kimsey testified. “He, it appeared, like, the fight was over.”

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Ricky A. Riffe, far right, and his defense attorney listen to Kimsey’s testimony in Lewis County Superior Court.

Maurin murder trial: What suspects told detectives, and more

Saturday, November 2nd, 2013
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Ricky A. Riffe, right, listens to defense team member Richard Davis during a trial recess.

Updated at 8:05 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Ricky Riffe may or may not testify in his murder trial but this week, jurors heard second-hand some of the things he’s said when questioned by investigators.

Jurors have already heard the case went cold until 1991 the year detectives reached out to Robin Riffe, his wife.

Former Lewis County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Glade Austin came back to the witness stand to talk about a trip he and three others made to Alaska in 1992 to talk with the former Mossyrock area brothers.

Riffe, 55, is charged in the December 1985 deaths of Ethel residents Ed and Minnie Maurin. Prosecutors contend he and his now-deceased younger brother are responsible for abducting the elderly couple and forcing them to withdraw money from their bank before they were shot in their backs with a shotgun.

The trial in Lewis County Superior Court in Chehalis began early last month; closing arguments aren’t expected for another two weeks.

Austin testified it was February 1992 when he and Deputy Joe Doench visited Riffe at his home in King Salmon, Alaska.

They picked him up at his residence, where he lived with Sherry Tibbetts, and took him to the police department. He went voluntarily, Austin said.

Riffe told them he’d come to Alaska a couple of years before to work, and that he had wanted to get away from a life in Lewis County that sucked, and didn’t want to do drugs anymore, according to Austin.

He confirmed he’d cut off a shotgun for his friend Les George, Austin testified. He confirmed he had a green Army jacket, he said.

When asked about Dec. 19, 1985, Riffe said he no way of recalling what he was doing back then, he said.

He replied: “No, I can’t tell you. Jesus Christ, that was years ago,” Austin recounted.

The former sheriff’s sergeant described the suspect’s demeanor as emotionless. An Alaska state trooper who accompanied them testified previously that the suspect seemed “forcibly relaxed”, although at one point when left alone in the interview room, was observed through the one-way glass and was pacing.

The interview ended with Riffe finally saying he should talk with an attorney, according to Austin.

During the same trip, two others from the sheriff’s office went to see the brother John Gregory Riffe in Ketchikan.

Ted Bachman, then an Alaska state trooper who was present, testified he thought the younger Riffe initially showed a lack of curiosity about why they were there.

“Was he asked if he killed the Maurins?” Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer asked.

“I think he said I don’t know, no, I just can’t remember, I need to think,” Bachman said.

“At some point did Greg start crying?” Meyer asked

“Oh yes,” Bachman said.

The brothers were not arrested.

A private detective hired by the victims’ family took the witness stand yesterday and spoke about last year’s arrest in Alaska, as well as some of what led up to it.

Chris Peterson who retired from the sheriff’s office in Portland, was connected up with Minnie Maurin’s son Denny Hadaller about 10 years ago. Lewis County Undersheriff Gordon Spanski introduced them, he said.

“Denny was interested in finding out who murdered his mother and step-father,” Peterson said. “I think he was hopeful a fresh look might be helpful.”

Peterson said he and another private investigator – Jim McNelly, his former partner in law enforcement – reviewed the sheriff’s office case files and found areas they felt should be revisited. They did that, conducting numerous interviews, according to Peterson.

They put advertisements offering a $10,000 reward for information in newspapers in Lewis County and in Alaska, he said. The Riffes were the primary suspects, according to Peterson.

The two men were pretty active on the case for about five years, he said. They continued to assist sheriff’s detective Bruce Kimsey, with Peterson joining him when Rick Riffe was arrested last year.

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Rick Riffe

They traveled to Alaska in July and went to Riffe’s house in King Salmon. John Gregory Riffe had recently died.

Riffe wouldn’t go to the police station with them, so the interview of approximately two hours took place at his home, according to Peterson.

“It was all very friendly,” he said. “I could see no outward animosity. No unpleasantness took place.”

Most of the interview was done by Kimsey, but Peterson had some of his own questions, he said.

According to Peterson, Riffe confirmed he’d gone to White Pass with his wife in December 1985 to buy two ounces of cocaine from a person named Vickers, but said it was mostly her deal.

He didn’t recall his wife buying a pound of marijuana from Dora Flynn, and said he didn’t recall a phone call to his wife from his friend Les George during that time period, according to Peterson.

The private investigator’s testimony was interrupted briefly when defense attorney John Crowley said he never received during the discovery process the report the witness was looking at.

Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead asked Peterson about Riffe’s demeanor.

“Very nonchalant,” he said. “He didn’t seem particularly bothered by our presence.”

And what about when he was told he was under arrest, Peterson was asked.

“Virtually no reaction, he didn’t seem surprised,” he replied.

The trial will be in recess until 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, as Riffe’s lawyer has to be in federal court in Yakima on Monday.

Numerous other witnesses testified this week and prosecutors have more lined up they say could last until next Friday. After that, Crowley has about three days of defense witnesses.

Below is some of the other testimony jurors heard this week:

From Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013

Jeff McKenzie lived in Toledo back in 1985, and drove truck for M and M Transport.

When what happened to the Maurins hit the news, the widely publicized composite drawing of a person police were looking for reminded him of an odd encounter on Dec. 19, 1985, according to McKenzie.

“I seen that sketch and I told my wife, this is the person that tried to get me to give him a ride to Ethel the other night,” McKenzie testified.

According to McKenzie, he picked up a load at Cascade Hardwood in Chehalis and was destined for Camas but stopped at the AM/PM on Interstate Avenue at 13th Street to get something to drink. It was right after dark, at 6, 7, or 8 o’clock at night, he said.

He parked on the shoulder and began to cross the street when a guy approached him from behind, yelling that he wanted a ride. He was very persistent and wouldn’t take no for an answer, according to McKenzie.

The man was scruffy, his eyes were dilated and he seemed to be on something, McKenzie testified. In his arms, he was cradling something in a crumpled up brown paper grocery bag, he said.

The man looked behind McKenzie, who turned to see a police car and when he turned back, the guy had bolted, right across the trailer hitch on his truck.

He described the man as wearing a green fatigue jacket and a knitted cap that had a white stripe and may have been medium blue.

McKenzie didn’t hear from police again until September of last year when he met with detective Kimsey and picked out photos of two individuals. His first choice was Rick Riffe; his second choice was John Gregory Riffe.

From Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013

Linda and Richard Zandecki took the witness stand this week as well.

She was asked about a time she found a shotgun in the bedroom closet of their home, in the room her son Les George stayed in when he was in town.

It was a shotgun that was altered and she knew it was illegal, she said. Linda Zandecki testified it worried her to have it in the house with her younger son.

“I called Les, he was on the road, and I told him I didn’t want it there,” she said. “Les said, tell Dick to do something with it.”

She knew her husband got rid of the gun, but didn’t know where it went until much later, Linda Zandecki testified.

She was friends with the Maurins, from being members of the Grange. Her husband worked for Denny Hadaller, driving a truck.

Richard Zandecki described it as a sawed off shotgun, about 24 inches long.

He said he took it with him one morning and on the way to work as he headed west across Lake Mayfield, he pulled over to the left lane and tossed it out the window of his pickup truck, he testified.

He couldn’t recall how long after it turned up he disposed of it, he said. It was a few days, or a week, he said.

“We didn’t want it around,” he said. “It was an illegal gun and I just wasn’t interested in it.”

Richard Zandecki didn’t tell anyone, including his son, what he did with the gun, he testified.

Divers have searched the lake twice, once as recently as September of last year but have not found the gun.

From Wednesday Oct. 30, 2013

Cathy Thola said she never heard about the Maurin homicides until 2004 when an investigator came to her house in Enumclaw and asked her about her relationship with Ricky Riffe.

She said she was raised in Morton, but went to high school in Enumclaw and moved to Mossyrock in 1986 with her two young children to stay with her aunt and uncle. She moved there from Randle, she thought.

Riffe was their friend, he was no longer with his wife and the two began dating, soon moving into a red house on Damron Road, according to Thola.

The only drug she knew her boyfriend to use was pot, she said. He typically dressed in jeans, T-shirts, a heavy Army jacket and a baseball cap, according to Thola.

Riffe and his younger brother were really close, she said.

“They did everything together, they ran around together,” she said. “They were inseparable.”

She and Riffe argued quite a bit, she testified. On the witness stand, she was asked to recount an incident at their house when the two were yelling at each other, she wanted to split up and Greg Riffe got involved.

“He looked at me, he looked at Rick and said, ‘we’ve killed one person, we can do it again’,” Thola testified.

Thola’s then-5-year-old daughter took the witness stand as well and the two described Rick Riffe as responding as though in agreement, with a slight nod and small smile or snicker.

Riffe threw a pot of beans from the stove against the wall as she began to leave, according to Thola.

They didn’t break up, the family moved to Shelton and then in 1987 or 1988 Thola took her children to Ketchikan to live with Riffe, jurors heard.

“To try to get a new life, because we weren’t doing well,” she said. “Because he had an uncle there who offered him a job.”

She collected welfare and worked at a Jimbos cafe; they lived in a small studio behind the restaurant, according to Thola.

Thola said she didn’t see Greg Riffe while she was in Alaska and didn’t think she was there even a year, but couldn’t recall for sure.

Under questioning by defense attorney Crowley, Thola said there was no urgency about the relocation; she also said she didn’t know her boyfriend was from Alaska.

When she and her children got on a ferry boat to come back to Washington, Riffe got on the ferry and followed her, she testified.

Maurin murder trial: Money for drugs

Friday, November 1st, 2013
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Ralph Vickers testifies about getting all $100 bills from Robin Riffe when he sold her two ounces of cocaine in 1985.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Former drug dealers have been called to the witness stand as prosecutors attempt to show the Riffes came in to money in December of 1985, when Ed and Minnie Maurin were found shot to death after withdrawing $8,500 from their Chehalis bank.

Yesterday in Lewis County Superior Court, Ralph Vickers spoke of what he told a detective when he was visited in 1991 in federal prison in Oregon.

Vickers said he recalled selling cocaine to Robin Riffe twice.

Robin Riffe, now deceased, was married to Ricky A. Riffe, who is on trial for the abduction, robbery and murder of the elderly Ethel couple. He and his younger brother John Gregory Riffe became suspects in the early 1990s but he was arrested just last year, shortly after his brother died.

Vickers said he lived in the Yakima area and knew Robin because his brother dated her for a time.

He’s now a car salesman, but ended up serving eight years in prison, he said.

He called himself a wholesaler who had perhaps 10 to 20 people to whom he sold large quantities of cocaine, such as a half kilo or a kilo at a time, he testified.

He recalled meeting his brother and Robin at Longacres racetrack and selling her a half ounce one time. The next time he saw her was at White Pass when he sold her two ounces, he said.

“I think she’d been away from my brother for quite some time,” he said. “I know she’d lost a lot of weight.”

She was with a man he’d never seen before and didn’t think he would recognize if he saw him again, according to Vickers.

Vickers was about 35 at the time, and he recalled being paid with 22 $100 bills, he said. He remembered it crossing his mind that could be something undercover cops might use, he said.

When he met with detectives in prison in 1991, according to his statement, he recalled a white car, but didn’t know what model or make, he said.

Earlier this week, prosecutors questioned another person who admitted to dealing drugs back in the mid-1980s.

Dora Flynn took the witness stand on Monday and told of mainly selling marijuana back then, but also cocaine and meth, which she admitted she also used.

She knew Robin, but knew Ricky Riffe better, according to Flynn.

Flynn recalled a time when she bought a chain necklace from Robin, because, she thought, they needed money for their light bill.

It was early in 1986 when Robin tried to buy a pound of marijuana from her, she said. It would have cost around $2,500, according to Flynn.

“No, I didn’t go through with it, because I didn’t really know Robin that well,” Flynn said.

With prodding from Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer, Flynn indicated she was also reluctant because she also wondered if the money came from the Maurins.

Asked if she ever saw a white car at the Riffe’s house, she said one time, she thought a Chevrolet.

Maurin murder trial: Former drug dealer claims defendant admitted involvement

Thursday, October 31st, 2013
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Donald A. Burgess Sr. talks about December 1985 conversation in Randle.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – It was three or four days after what happened to the Maurins hit the news.

Donald A. Burgess Sr., a drug dealer who’d been injured at his job at a Randle mill that summer was at home with casts on both legs, he testified.

Burgess told of a day a friend came by his place on Savio Road, either to buy or to sell drugs. He wasn’t expecting it, but Scott Gilstrap had brought along Rick Riffe, he said.

And as the conversation turned to the elderly Ethel couple who were killed, Riffe made a comment acknowledging he was involved, according to Burgess.

“I think we’re gonna get away with it,” Burgess recounted. “It’s gonna get bypassed.”

On the witness stand yesterday in Lewis County Superior Court, Burgess described how he immediately kicked the two men out of his home.

“I tell him to get this piece of shit out of my house and never bring him back,” he said.

Burgess’s testimony came at the end of the day, in the trial that began early this month.

Riffe, 55, is charged with burglary, kidnapping, robbery and murder of Ed and Minnie Maurin, the elderly Ethel couple whose bodies were found on Dec. 24, 1985 dumped on a logging road, with shotgun wounds in their backs five days after they went missing. Riffe, who moved to Alaska in the late 1980 with his brother, was arrested last year and brought back to Lewis County. His younger brother, also a suspect, died before he was charged.

“He said ‘we’, that’s his exact words,” Burgess testified.

Jurors have heard from dozens of witnesses in the lengthy trial.

Many have told of seeing the Maurin’s 1969 Chrysler with a man in its backseat in areas between the couple’s home and to the north. They have heard Ed Maurin was at his bank in Chehalis withdrawing $8,500. There were sightings of the car in the Adna area where subsequently the bodies were discovered. And many have told of seeing a man or men in a green Army jacket and a dark cap carrying a shotgun or rifle away from the Yard Birds Shopping Center where the car was abandoned.

Some who knew Rick and John Gregory Riffe from the Mossyrock area have testified when a composite sketch was disseminated back then, they right away thought it looked like the Riffes.

Burgess’s testimony is the first in which a person who knew him testified Rick Riffe indicated he was involved.

Burgess thought Riffe’s comment was meant to “boost” himself up in the eyes of a fellow drug dealer, he said.

Six or seven times over the years, police have asked Burgess if he knew anything, but he didn’t talk, according to Burgess.

He decided after Riffe was locked up, he would, he said. And he finally lost his fear of ratting out someone.

In part, that’s because he’s slowly dying from heart and lung disease so it doesn’t matter anymore, he said. He carried a small bag with oxygen with him to the witness stand.

Early on the case, prosecutors took videotaped testimony from Burgess as a heart attack left them concerned he would not live to see the trial.

Back then, Burgess and others bought and sold cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana, according to Burgess.

He recalled he might  for example, a couple times a month sell Rick Riffe a half ounce of cocaine which ran somewhere between $500 and $700.

With that amount, if broken down and resold, a person could almost triple their profit in one weekend, he testified.

The drug selling relationship was over a couple, three maybe or a four year period, he said.

When Gilstrap and Riffe came to his home that day, he and his circle of friends already knew the Riffes had done it, according to Burgess. It wasn’t clear if the visit occurred after the car was found with a blood-soaked front seat, or days later after the bodies turned up.

Defense attorney John Crowley questioned Burgess about his motivation to tell the story he did. He suggested the witness had a deal which would help out his daughter who was locked up last year after pleading guilty to killing her premature newborn.

Burgess was clearly distressed, breathing through his mouth, and even the judge asking if he could “hold on a little longer.”

The jury was sent out while lawyers argued to the judge about the mention of Laura Hickey, and Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead complaining Crowley was badgering the witness.

Burgess then finished the last 10 of 50 minutes of testimony, and was done.

The trial resumes at 9:30 a.m. today at the Lewis County Law and Justice Center in Chehalis.

Maurin murder trial: Lab tests turn up little to nothing

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Jurors in the courtroom yesterday heard that no fingerprints or DNA from the 1985 homicides of elderly Ethel couple Ed and Minnie Maurin came back to the defendant.

Ricky A. Riffe, 55, is charged in the case; his younger brother who was also a suspect died before he could be charged.

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Ricky Allen Riffe

A forensics expert who took the witness stand said she met with Lewis County Sheriff’s Office detective Bruce Kimsey to review the evidence in the old case and they selected several items that might be good candidates for DNA testing.

Stephenie Winter Seremo said in some instances none was found, in others just not enough to proceed with.

She agreed that such analysis has come a long way since the mid-1980s, primarily in that scientists need much less material to conduct their tests.

The Maurin’s bodies were found Dec. 24, 1985 on a logging road five days after they went missing from their home. Their car was found abandoned in a Chehalis parking lot, with blood on the front seat, the keys in the ignition. Prosecutors believe they were abducted, forced to drive to their bank and withdraw money before being shot in their backs. Riffe was arrested last year.

There was DNA from Minnie Maurin on the woman’s stockings, but they were actually looking for anything left behind by someone who would have handled her legs, Seremo told the court.

The exteriors of the shoes that were tested yielded no results as did a rear view mirror, according to Seremo. No material was found on Ed Maurin’s socks to test, she said.

A piece of upholstery that was checked came back only to Ed Maurin, as did his belt, she testified.

Some of the items that turned up trace DNA but not enough to process, included the handle of a metal hook, the ties on a rain bonnet, a key ring, a passenger side rear ashtray, according to Seremo.

Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer concluded his questioning with something he said in his opening statements three weeks ago: Just because there was no DNA found doesn’t mean there was no crime committed, right?

“Right.”

Defense attorney John Crowley asked: “Of all the testing you did, did you ever find Rick Riffe’s DNA on any of it?”

“No.”

Another forensic expert testified about the various finger prints that were analyzed.

Of the 23 prints lifted from the car, most were of no value because there was not enough detail or clarity, but six came back to Ed Maurin and one useable print came back negative for matches, according to Stacey Redhead.

Redhead testified that when she looked at prints from the house, she found matches on beer cans for family, Delbert Hadaller and Hazel Oberg. Elsewhere she saw another match for Ed Maurin and one from former Lewis County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Glade Austin. A print on a coffee pot came back negative to known comparisons, she said.

None of the prints matched to Riffe or his younger brother John Gregory Riffe.

A different crime lab specialist also testified yesterday. She said she examined fibers from some clothing that was burned, but found no matches from the blanket, a pillow and a hat she had been given.

She did find a red fiber recovered from a furnace room was similar to the fiber from the red blanket from inside the car, she said.

The trial continues 9:30 a.m. until noon and 1:30 p.m. until 5 p.m. each weekday in Lewis County Superior Court in Chehalis.

Maurin murder trial: Jason Shriver talks

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013
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Witness Jason Shriver, left, and defense attorney John Crowley stand and wait as the jury leaves the courtroom.

Updated at 7:10 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS –  Witness Jason Shriver spoke yesterday about passing the Maurin’s car on U.S. Highway 12 back in December 1985, and seeing the elderly couple along with Rick and Greg Riffe inside, a bit west of the Maurin’s Ethel home.

At the time, Shriver was 17 years old.

He testified he didn’t come forward about what he saw until about nine years ago, because Greg Riffe threatened to kill his mother, his brothers, his father and him if he said anything.

So, why did you finally come forward? Shriver was asked.

He indicated he learned of a pair of private investigators were on the case and felt he might be able to talk with them then; plus his mother had died of cancer.

“I didn’t have to worry about her anymore, she’s in heaven, my brothers were grown men,” Shriver said.

The former Mossyrock resident is the first witness in the lengthy murder trial who has testified to seeing the defendant and the victims together on Dec. 19, 1985.

Prosecutors contend Ricky Riffe and his now-deceased brother are responsible for forcing the couple to drive from their home to withdraw thousands of dollars their bank before shooting them in their backs and leaving them dead in the woods outside Adna. Ricky Riffe is charged with burglary, kidnapping, robbery and first-degree murder.

John Gregory Riffe was about to be charged similarly last year, but he died of ill health at age 50.

Shriver, now 45, moved to Mossyrock from southern California at about age four or five and lived there until he left at age 19.

Jurors heard his father was a traveling musician, his mother taught ballet in downtown Mossyrock; his parents had bike shop in Chehalis.

He testified he knew the Riffe brothers because they lived in the same small town. Rick Riffe was quite a bit older and he knew the younger two brothers better, he said.

“Greg, I knew him, he was buying me beer, I didn’t have any problems with him,” Shriver said.

Until after December 1985.

Shriver testified he and his mother were heading to Tacoma so he could get his wisdom teeth pulled when he noticed the Maurin’s car pulled out from their house.

“I said to my mom, ‘hurry, pass ‘em’,” he said.

He and his mom were in a Volkswagen Vanagon and traveling perhaps 50 mph as they went by, he said.

He said he saw four people in the couple’s car; Ed Maurin was driving and his wife was behind him in the backseat; Rick Riffe was in the front passenger side and Greg Riffe seated behind him.

“They all stared our way, the Maurins did,” Shriver said. “I recognized who it was, I looked at Greg and waved at him, he looked down.”

Shriver said he kept looking at Greg Riffe, who finally acknowledged him.

He described both as unshaven and Greg Riffe wearing a dark hat and Rick Riffe wearing a “truckers” hat, a baseball cap, he said.

“How certain are you?,” he was asked.

“One-hundred-ten percent, no doubt in my mind,” he said.

The weather was clear, probably the fog was lifting, according to Shriver.

“It was probably 8 or 9 I would think,” he said of the time of day.

Under questioning, Shriver talked about a day or two later when he had learned the Maurins were missing, and a deputy coming to their home. He was in bed recovering from the oral surgery and didn’t want to talk with law enforcement.

Why not? he was asked.

People handled things their own way out there, he said. He also told his mother not to say anything, he said.

“This is a town if you pissed somebody off, you didn’t go hunting that year,” Shriver said.

He said one his friends once got into it with Tracey Riffe, and “here comes Greg to the house with a shotgun.”

Some time later, maybe a few months, Shriver spotted Greg Riffe in town driving a log truck, he said. Shriver motioned he should blow the horn, he said.

Jurors didn’t get to hear all the details of that encounter.

Shriver testified he asked him, who’s truck? Where’d you get the money for this?

Out of the presence of the jury, Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead told the judge he anticipated his witness would say: “Greg looks me in the eye, glares at me, and says, ‘you know.’ I backed out, he’s says ‘come here’, I said no, I gotta go.”

The lawyers argued about hearsay, the judge made a ruling and when jurors returned, Halstead quickly moved them forward a week or so in time.

Shriver said he next saw Greg Riffe when he was out on State Street in downtown Mossyrock. That’s when he called him over and made the threat.

“He said, did you say anything,” Shriver recounted. “I said I didn’t say anything, I swear to God.”

Shriver told him nobody cares, the Maurins were old and going to die anyway, he testified. He suggested if Greg did it again, he should call and Shriver would even help.

He asked the older man to buy him some beer.

Two of Shriver’s friends also testified yesterday that they were in the area and didn’t hear anything, but could tell something was up.

Jerry Nixon said he saw it out of the corner of his eye.

“I see Greg there, you cut the tension with a knife, I knew it wasn’t good” Nixon said.

The encounter ended when Rick Riffe came out from behind some tall shrubs and told his brother, it was okay, he wasn’t going to say anything.

“I’m thinking, I’m gonna get jumped,” Shriver said. “I’m gonna get my ass kicked. I’m gonna get taken out in the woods and killed.”

The trial in Lewis County Superior Court is expected to go as long as six weeks. Yesterday was just the start of week four.

Halstead and Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer are handling the case. Riffe is represented by Seattle-based defense attorney John Crowley.

Halstead asked the witness if Rick Riffe was in the courtroom, and did he seem to be looking at the witness.

“Well yeah, he’s staring at me, trying to tough me out,” Shriver said. “Bully me. It’s what he’d done all his life.”

Shriver testified about how he learned to shoot and bought a 9 mm handgun, and how the Riffe brothers began regularly driving past his house.

“To the point, when I walked to the barn, I had a shotgun with me,” he said.

Maurin murder trial: Riffe’s buddy tells what he knows

Sunday, October 27th, 2013
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Les George spent hours on the witness stand answering questions about his friend, Rick Riffe, right, who is on trial for kidnapping, robbery and murder.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS –  Leslie George grew up in Mossyrock and graduated from high school in 1975.

That was about the time he came to know the three Riffe brothers, he said.

In the early 1980s, George was divorced and hung out with Rick and Greg Riffe.

The two brothers were very close, they did a lot of things together, he said.

Under questioning, he said Rick was kind of a leader, the younger brother more of a follower. Both had green Army jackets, Greg wore his a lot. Both wore dark stocking caps.

George spent hours on the witness stand on Friday in Lewis County Superior Court, answering questions about the two suspects in the December 1985 kidnapping, robbery and murder of Ethel residents, Ed and Minnie Maurin.

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Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer

Ricky Riffe, 55, is charged in the case. George called him Rick. John Gregory Riffe died last year before prosecutors could charge him. George called him Greg.

George, who went by the name Swabbie, didn’t recall that he attended the wedding of Rick and Robin Riffe, but thought she came into the picture about 1982.

In 1985, Rick lived with his wife and her three children in Silver Creek, he said. George lived in Salkum, but drove a truck, a job that would take him away for a month at a time. During the three or four days between trips when he was home, he stayed with his mother and step-father.

“Were you guys using drugs back then?” he was asked.

Yes, a lot of pot, some meth and Rick’s drug of choice was cocaine, George said.

Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead went through a list of names asking who used and who sold drugs.

He didn’t know anything about Rick and Robin dealing drugs, he testified.

Robin was a waitress and tended bar. Rick had a logging job, but was injured a few months into it and had his back worked on, according to George.

On the witness stand, George recounted a handful of separate events, the first in the autumn of 1984 when he and Ricky Riffe went to Sunbirds to buy a shotgun and the last, when he got a message on his answering machine from Riffe in 1991 telling him to join him in Alaska where he had a job for him.

George testified he wanted a gun to keep in his truck for protection while he was on the road, so on Oct. 4, 1984, he and Riffe picked one out at at Sunbirds Shopping Center in Chehalis.

It was a 12-gauge single shot, single barrel gun, and Riffe offered to shorten it for him, according to George. A day or two later, the pair purchased some ammunition, double-aught buckshot, he testified. That was Riffe’s recommendation, he said.

George said Riffe later told him he tore a page out of the sales book that George has signed, so the firearm wouldn’t be traceable.

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Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead

George testified he fired the gun only a couple of times before giving it his friend soon after.

Another event more than a year later was discussed in court on Friday.

He was asked to talk about a time he was traveling from Salkum westbound on U.S. Highway 12 with Greg and Rick as passengers.

They were in George’s Datsun pickup, heading to Chehalis to get the tires changed, he testified.

And what was the conversation? he was asked.

Greg Riffe was saying how broke they were, George testified.

“Greg said they was broke, they’d do just about anything for money,” he said.

About that time, they were in Ethel and George saw old family friends Ed and Minnie Maurin outside their house, he said.

“I said, you know, they’re probably worth a lot of money, they’re Denny Hadaller’s mom and dad,” George said.

Was there any response? he was asked.

“No.”

The conversation took place maybe two weeks, or a week and a half, before the elderly couple went missing, according to George.

As has occurred several times during the trial, spectators in the courtroom heard more than the jurors did, while the attorneys and the judge argued outside jurors presence statements that may or may not be exempt from hearsay rules.

George spoke about being out of town and on the road on Dec. 19, 1985, when he got a emergency phone message telling him to call Robin Riffe.

When he called her, she said something to the effect, “You’re not going to believe what Rick has done; he’s gone crazy, nuts,” Halstead relayed to the judge.

George told jurors Robin Riffe was “kind of hysterical, I guess” but their conversation ended when Rick Riffe took the phone from her and asked why George was calling.

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Defense attorney John Crowley

“I told him I called for no reason, then he hung up on me,” George said.

He then called his mother and learned the elderly couple was missing, he testified.

George was asked by prosecutors about another day at some point after he returned to town, when he and Greg were leaving in his pickup truck and Rick and Robin brought out a small paper bag from their home.

“He said they were old clothes they wanted to get rid of, they didn’t want ‘em stinking up the house,” George said.

George demonstrated with his hands a bag somewhat smaller than a basketball.

They drove down the old road, down by the bridge on the west end of Lake Mayfield, where Greg got out and tossed it into the woods about 10 feet from them, according to George.

It was early 1986 when George got his gun back from Rick, he testified.

It had been fired but not cleaned and was cut down shorter for him like he’d wanted, except it still need the finish applied, George testified.

“He made me put the Speedy finish on it before I took it home,” George said. “He didn’t want his finger prints on it.”

According to George, he put the shotgun in a closet at his parents house. He testified he realized it was too short to be legal and didn’t think it was worth the risk to carry.

He said he planned to get rid of it, and that he didn’t have it anymore. He said he was afraid.

At some point, law enforcement searched Lake Mayfield for the gun.

“I told them where I thought it might be, in the lake,” George testified. “My step-dad told me not to worry about it, it was gone; he put it there.”

In the late 1980s, the Riffe brothers had moved to White Salmon, Alaska. George said he didn’t keep in touch with either of them. They didn’t have any falling out, according to George.

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Ricky Allen Riffe

It was 1991, when Rick Riffe called him to go up there for a job.

George testified he just left the message on his answering machine and didn’t return the call; that he was scared of what might happen if he moved to Alaska.

Why? he was asked.

“I thought I might be murdered up there,” he answered.

Under questioning from Halstead, George mentioned he was first in contact with police a long time ago, but not right away.

“Why didn’t you?” he was asked.

“I couldn’t believe he would have something to do with it, be involved in this,” George said. “I didn’t want to believe he would be involved in this.”

Halstead pressed the witness about his fears, his suspicions.

“Did you believe your shotgun had been involved in a crime?”

“Yes.”

“What?”

“Ed and Minnie Maurin. It was just a feeling I had.”

George appeared anguished at times on the witness stand, in particular when defense attorney John Crowley grilled him about why he would have commented when passing the Maurin’s house the elderly couple had plenty of money.

“It was you that said that about the Maurins,” Crowley said. “Why would you say such a terrible thing?”

“I didn’t mean anything by it,” George said.

Post script: George also testified he wasn’t aware Greg Riffe owned any guns, and that he drove a white El Camino.

He also said he’d never heard the last name Muzzleman, or heard the brothers referred to by that name.

Maurin murder trial: Witnesses pick out Riffe brothers as men they saw at Yard Birds

Saturday, October 26th, 2013
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Sheri Amell Potter answers questions from the witness stand; defendant Ricky Riffe, far right, listens to her testimony.

Updated

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS –  So far, no one who knew defendant Ricky Riffe has offered testimony placing him at the Maurin’s house, at the bank, at the Yard Birds or the logging road where the elderly couple’s bodies were found on Dec. 24, 1985.

Riffe, 55, is on trial in Lewis County Superior Court for the kidnapping, robbery and murder of Ed and Minnie Maurin. His younger brother John Gregory Riffe was about to be charged similarly last year, but he died of ill health at age 50.

Prosecutors contend the former Mossyrock area brothers are responsible for forcing the couple to drive from their Ethel home to withdraw thousands of dollars from Sterling Savings in Chehalis before cutting them down with a shotgun and leaving them dead in the woods outside Adna. The Maurin’s green sedan was found abandoned the next morning in a far corner of the parking lot at a Chehalis shopping center.

Numerous witnesses have told the jury of seeing a man in a green jacket and dark cap walking away from Yard Birds in Chehalis carrying a a rifle or shotgun.

As the trial ended its third week, three more individuals took the stand to discuss who they noticed when they drove through the shopping center almost 28 years ago.

One woman seemed very certain she saw Ricky Riffe there on Dec. 19, 1985. Another was positive she saw John Gregory Riffe there. Each said the man they observed was alone.

A third witness however, came forward last September to tell of seeing two men he identified as the brothers at the eastern edge of the parking lot, wiping down the Maurins’ 1969 Chrysler.

Sheri Amell Potter lives in Olympia but in December 1985 was a passenger in a vehicle heading toward the northeast exit from Yard Birds. Amell Potter told of a man stepping out of the fog and crossing behind them, and into the marshy area north of the property.

“As he passed, I said, ‘Oh my God Mary, that guy had a gun’,” she testified.

It was in his left hand, something white was wrapped around where the trigger would be, she said.

He was white with really dark hair, very dark eyes, a mustache and like two to three days worth of whiskers, dressed in something like an Army jacket, she described.

Amell Potter said she thought he was in his late 20s, as she was in her early 20s and she knew he was older than her.

She estimated the man was about six feet away from her. She swiveled in her seat to watch him walk up a berm-path toward the Lewis County Mall.

Amell Potter said she was employed at a bank at the time and was told at work some old people had gone into a bank and were missing. It was two days later when she thought again about the man with the gun and called her friend Mary to ask which day the couple disappeared, she testified.

She called the police.

Amell Potter and her friend were taken to a forensic artist in Portland where their descriptions helped create a drawing of the person. Later they went to Seattle where her friend assisted with a second composite.

In the courtroom, she was shown a number of images on the big screen. She felt like the face of the man in the first drawing was a bit too wide, she said. The second drawing was better, but she didn’t get the correct sense of the chin, she said.

“He had a really distinctive chin,” he said. “He didn’t have much of a chin.”

In February 2012, she met with Lewis County Sheriff’s Office detective Bruce Kimsey, who showed her actual photos of people. She chose one which showed both a full face and a side profile. It was Ricky Riffe.

“I felt very confident that was the person,” Amell Potter said of her selection.

Under questioning by Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead, she was asked if she’d had an opportunity to look at the defendant in the courtroom.

“Yes, his side profile is very familiar to the picture I picked then,” Amell Potter said.

Brenda King has lived in Lewis County since 1969.

Back in 1985, she was a single mother with three children who worked two jobs, one of them as a bartender at the Wilson Tavern in Centralia.

On Dec. 19, 1985, she and the man who later became her husband were driving past the north end of the Yard Birds Shopping Center building, she testified.

“I noticed a 1969 Chrysler Newport, it was green,” King told the jury.

“I see John Gregory Riffe getting out of the car with a shotgun,” she said.

It startled her.

“I’m the driver of a 1972 Montego, my husband is a passenger,” she said. “To the best of my recollection, the person I seen was going by a different name.”

He used an alias, she said.

“At the time, I recognized him as John G. Muzzleman.”

He looked at her, she looked at him, and then he looked down, according to King. He was squeezing his way out of the vehicle, she testified.

“He had the door so close to his body, he obviously didn’t want us to see what was inside,” she said.

King said she was the one wearing a watch, so she knew it was between 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. She said she was 100 percent positive the shotgun was sawed off and it had a brown butt.

It was a few days after the arrest hit the news in July of 2012 that King first contacted police. She saw photos of Ricky Riffe and his brother in the newspaper story, she said.

King said she knew both the brothers, who used the last name Muzzleman, as she’d served them at the bar.

“They’d come in periodically, to the point where I got to know them quite good,” she said. “They were usually together.”

Her husband Steven King testified as well yesterday, that he recalled the day. He saw the man getting out the car, with dark hair and a stocking cap, but didn’t see a gun, he said.

“The reason I looked at him is cause Brenda told me she knew the guy,” he said.

The couple both testified they saw him again later, walking up Kresky Avenue, on the east side of the road.

They’d been out to shop for materials for a remodeling project, and stopped to get coffee while they waited for Yard Birds to open, they said.

Steven King, under questioning by defense attorney John Crowley, said he’d heard of the Maurins murders, but he was busy and didn’t get involved.

After his wife told him last year about the newspaper article, they figured they should speak up, he testified.

Witness Gordon Campbell lived in Chehalis between 1970 and 1999; he worked at the Centralia Steam Plant, he testified.

Campbell first spoke to the sheriff’s office in 1988, to tell them that about two years earlier, he had seen a man walking north of Kresky Avenue with either a long rifle of a shotgun, covered up with something, he testified.

Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer asked him what prompted him to talk with police.

“Well, the case had been going on a long time, I thought I could help a little bit, so I thought I’d come in and tell ‘em what I seen,” Campbell said.

The cap was dark blue, the finger-tip length jacket was olive drab and he was walking toward Lewis County Mall with it in his right hand, he testified.

“I could see just the shape of a gun,” Campbell said.

Campbell said at the time, he was working the graveyard shift, so he was out driving around that morning, killing time to get his sleep patterns back on track.

He testified he spoke next with the sheriff’s office in June 2012, and then he contacted them once again that September, after word of Riffe’s arrest had been in the news.

He saw photos of the Riffe brothers on television, he said, and it reminded him of something else he remembered.

Campbell testified about driving through the Yard Birds parking lot and to the northeast corner where he spotted two men wiping down a car. It was the same vehicle Meyer showed on the overhead screen in the courtroom, the Maurin’s 1969 Chrysler, according to Campbell.

He suggested they take it through a carwash, he said.

Meyer showed Campbell pictures of the Riffe brothers.

John Gregory Riffe was on one side and Ricky Riffe, on the driver’s side closest to Campbell, doing the same thing, wiping the open car door, according to Campbell.

“Did you get a good look at both of them?” Meyer asked.

“Yes,” Campbell said.

Campbell testified he didn’t remember what their response to him was, but John Gregory Riffe told his brother to close the door. And he did, he said.

Meyer asked the witness about why the detectives didn’t hear about the car wiping when Campbell first was interviewed.

“Well to begin with, I thought I was talking about one person,” he said. “Then I find we’re talking about two.”

The first the lawyers on both sides learned from Campbell he had the brief conversation with the men was this past Tuesday.

The one he saw carrying what looked to be a covered up gun was Ricky Riffe, according to Campbell.

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Witness Brenda King uses a laser pointer on a big screen in Lewis County Superior Court.

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Denny Hadaller, center, talks with prosecutors as the court sessions ends.

Maurin murder trial: Robin Riffe’s family talks

Friday, October 25th, 2013
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Larry Vessey, brother-in-law to defendant Ricky Riffe, tells of gift of cocaine for Christmas.

Updated at 6:51 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS –  While defendant Ricky Riffe’s wife has died and won’t be able to be questioned in his murder trial, her family and others who knew him in the mid-1980s gave testimony yesterday for the prosecution.

Riffe, 55, is on trial for the December 1985 abduction and shooting deaths of Ed and Minnie Maurin, an elderly couple who lived on U.S. Highway 12 in Ethel. Prosecutors contend Riffe and his now-deceased younger brother from the Mossyrock area are responsible for getting the Maurins to withdraw $8,500 from their bank, killing them with a sawed-off shotgun and then dumping their bodies near Adna. The brothers later moved out of state to Alaska.

Robin Riffe allegedly gave some information to Lewis County detectives in 1991, but by November 1994 when they attempted to contact her again, she had died.

Two of Robin Riffe’s siblings took the witness stand yesterday to talk about Christmas Day in 1985, during a family gathering in Grays Harbor County.

Larry Vessey said he, his brother and Riffe went duck hunting before dinner, and Riffe wore an olive green Army coat.

Under questioning from Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer, Vessey said Riffe asked him an unusual question.

“Is there a way you can trace shotgun pellets?” Vessey said his brother-in-law asked him.

It also struck him as out of the ordinary that Riffe, his sister and her three children all wore brand new clothes that day, he testified.

“They were really poor, they never really had a lot of nothing,” he said. “The kids wore hand-me-down clothes. They just had nothing.”

The couple bought presents for everyone that year, he said. Riffe scooped a gift of cocaine from a bag that contained more than his brother-in-law had ever purchased himself, and he had a job, Riffe didn’t, he said.

“He gave me $300 worth of cocaine and said, ‘Merry Christmas’,” Vessey testified.

Tammi Graham thought her sister worked as a waitress, but not steady, she said. She indicated on the witness stand she suspected they may have sold drugs.

On Christmas day, her  sister wore makeup, something she ordinarily didn’t do.

“There was almost a puffiness to her face, like she’d been crying,” Graham said.

Two of Robin Riffe’s now-grown children were asked to offer facts and recollections from the three to four years the couple was together.

M. Shelly Lev, now 37, pointed out on a map where they lived in a three bedroom single wide trailer off U.S. Highway 12 in Silver Creek.

She said the family had three vehicles: a blue Blazer, a “mail Jeep” and creamy gray colored car.

Lev recalled a road trip trip to Disneyland that spring break, in which they had picnics during their travels and slept in their car but stayed in a hotel while there. Her mother and Riffe were still together, but he didn’t go along, she said.

David Giddings, who said he thought he was about 13 years old at the time, remembered Riffe showing him a “sawed off” shotgun in their living room, he said he was making for a truck driver friend

“I almost want to say he was filing on the barrel,” Giddings said. “That’s why he said he was making it.”

In the courtroom, from the witness stand, looking in Riffe’s direction, Giddings said he didn’t see Riffe anywhere. But then he did.

“Oh, now I recognize his crooked nose,” he said.

Vessey had already testified watching Riffe use a hacksaw to cut the barrel off a 12-gauge single shot shotgun at his dad’s place in Forks in September or October.

Graham was asked when she came to learn about the Maurin’s deaths.

It was mid-January when she and her family stopped at Spiffy’s restaurant on the way home from White Pass, she testified.

Two sketches at the cash register stopped her in her tracks, and she exclaimed to her husband, she said, ‘Oh my God Arvid, that looks like Ricky Riffe’.”

Under questioning, Graham said she  believed they were drawings of Ricky Riffe and his brother John Gregory Riffe.

Jurors learned that by the following June, Ricky Riffe and his wife separated; she’d gone to Arizona.

Derrick McMillion of Cinebar is the person whose testimony prosecutors hope will help them show the jury that after the Maurin’s murders, the Riffe brothers moved away to a remote fishing village in Alaska never to return to the area, except for the rare important occasion.

When the sheriff’s office made their arrest last year, they said the Riffe brothers moved to Alaska in 1987, however, jurors have been told John Gregory Riffe began living there in May of 1988 and Ricky Riffe’s residency commenced in July of the following year.

McMillion was asked in court yesterday to point out his cousins in some photos.

One was taken at an anniversary party for Riffe’s parents held in downtown Centralia, around 2006 or 2007, he said.

Under questioning by Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead, McMillion spoke about what happened when they heard police activity and sirens outside.

One of the Riffe brothers walked over to the window to take a look and then other, three or four times, he testified.

“It was kind of strange,” he said. “They seemed kind of concerned with what was going on out there.”

McMillion recalled another time at a relative’s funeral in Olympia when one of them showed up, sat in the front and then left.

“I couldn’t tell which one of the boys it was,” he said.

John Gregory Riffe passed away on June 12 of last year, after charging documents had already been drawn up for him, with the identical allegations as his brother.

The trial in Lewis County Superior Court is in its third week.

More and more time has been spent with the jury sent out of the courtroom while the lawyers and Judge Richard Brosey argue rules of evidence.

Seattle-based defense attorney John Crowley has increasingly complained the prosecution is “dancing down thin-iced roads” by getting witnesses to make comments that ultimately aren’t allowed, but the jury still hears them. He calls it the trickle effect, contending the state’s strategy is to drop enough extra hints the jury will be swayed his client is guilty

One such debate was conducted over the death in Alaska in 1992 of John Gregory Riffe’s wife. While prosecutors wanted a witness to mention it, Judge Brosey barred the comment they sought.

Crowley said it was an accidental death or suicide, although the gossip was she was murdered.

Maurin murder trial: Ed and Minnie go to the bank

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

Updated at 7:49 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS –  Patricia Hull handled some banking matters for the Maurins the same day the elderly couple went missing nearly 28 years ago.

At his request, she gave Ed Maurin an envelope of $100 bills.

The following morning, after hearing the Maurins were missing, her manager at Sterling Savings and Loan in Chehalis called the sheriff’s office to report what they knew.

Hull was among many individuals who took the witness stand this week in Lewis County Superior Court and talked about the Ethel residents whose bodies were subsequently located off a logging road near Adna.

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Ed and Minnie Maurin

Hull was the savings supervisor at the bank at the intersection of Market and Park streets. She retired in 1991 after 24 years with the institution.

She recalled the Maurins as congenial customers who came in every month or two.

Eighty-one-year-old Ed Maurin phoned her the morning of Dec. 19, 1985 and asked if they had any money, Hull testified.

She recognized his voice.

“I, joking with him said we had a nickel or two,” she said. “He said he needed a little more than that, he wanted $8,500.”

He wanted it in cash, and she suggested she get him a check instead, according to Hull.

“No, no, he wanted currency,” she said. “They were going to buy a car, and that’s the conversation we had.”

Under questioning by attorneys, Hull explained the bank didn’t have that much cash available, and had to get it from a commercial bank.

When Ed Maurin showed up about 10:30 a.m., the money wasn’t yet there, so she asked him to take a seat to wait, she said.

She suggested he ask his wife Minnie Maurin to come in from the car to have coffee or cookies, Hull said.

“He said no, she wasn’t feeling well,” she said.

Hull said she got the impression he was saying he wanted cash because he was dealing with someone up north who didn’t know him.

“He seemed calm, we joked with him and told him he’d have to come through the drive through to show us the car, and he said he would,” she said.

He said, “You betcha,” she testified.

Ed Maurin said he’d go out and ask his wife to come in while they waited. Subsequently when Hull was ready for him, she stepped out the door to motion he should come in, she said.

She saw their car parked, the door opening, he waved back and then he came inside, she said. The windows were fogged up, she recalled.

After signing the documents, he left.

The trial is in its third week. Former Lewis County resident Ricky A. Riffe, 55, is charged with burglary, kidnapping, robbery and murder in the case. His younger brother John Gregory Riffe was about to be charged as well when he died last year.

Hull was questioned by Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead and defense attorney John Crowley. She, and the jury, were shown documents on the overhead screen in the courtroom.

The bloody bank receipt found in the pocket of Ed Maurin’s trousers showed a balance of $36,035.12.

The bank’s copy of the withdrawal ticket she was given to look at showed a balance of zero.

The zero balance made her think he’d closed out the account, she said. But the paper showing the large balance suggested to her Ed Maurin has asked about a balance on another account, she testified.

Hull told of getting a phone call around 4 p.m. the day before Ed Maurin came in, from a customer asking about making a large withdrawal. The bank was closing, and she wasn’t sure who it was, she testified.

Jurors have already heard how the Maurin’s green 1969 Chrysler was found abandoned the following morning in the parking lot of the Yard Birds shopping center, the keys in the ignition, the front seat covered in blood and how law enforcement searched for the couple for days.

Yesterday, Mike Haunreiter took the stand to describe what he stumbled upon days later on Stearns Hill road outside Adna.

Haunreiter said he worked at the coal mine, they’d gotten off early, had a parking lot party and then he went for a drive on logging roads, to look for deer. It was the morning of Christmas Eve.

Something by the roadside caught his eye, but it wasn’t until his way back down he looked closer, Haunreiter said.

At first he thought it looked like a “Susie doll”, like they’d practiced CPR with in a recent session, he said.

“But a Susie doll doesn’t have a housecoat on,” Haunreiter said.

When he realized he was looking at a dead body he got back in his truck, speeding away in fear, according to Haunreiter. But then he stopped at a house to say he needed to call 911.

Dr. William J. Brady was the pathologist who conducted autopsies late that afternoon and evening at a mortuary in Centralia.

On Ed Maurin he found wounds on the top of his head, like two blows from a heavy object. One shotgun blast in the middle of his upper back below his neck killed him immediately, he described.

His stomach was empty, but Minnie Maurin had eaten fairly recently, he said. The doctor recalled removing three rings from her fingers.

Brady indicated Ed Maurin had a pacemaker, a bit of hypertension and a somewhat enlarged heart, but otherwise was in good health. The same could be said for 83-year-old Minnie Maurin, who suffered from arthritis, but had an excellent heart, according to the doctor.

The blast that killed her entered through her left shoulder and toward her cheek and neck, he said. She too would have died instantly, he said.

Testimony resumes this morning.

Maurin murder trial: More testimony, and the arrest

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS –  Jurors in Lewis County Superior Court have been moved through time as they hear from witnesses testifying in the Maurin murder trial, from December nearly 28 years ago to last year’s arrest of a suspect.

The trial of 55-year-old Ricky A. Riffe began its third week with yet another local person who recalled passing by Ed and Minnie Maurin’s home on U.S. Highway 12 in Ethel the morning they went missing on Dec. 19, 1985.

Marjorie Hadaller, now 75, who also lives in Ethel, said she drove by around 7:30 or 8 a.m. with her sister and remembered seeing all the lights on in their house.

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Ed and Minnie Maurin

She told jurors she noticed a white van parked with someone standing next to it and made a comment to her sister about it.

Ed, 81, and Minnie, 83, weren’t at home for a Christmas party they were hosting at noon that day. Their car was discovered abandoned the following morning in the parking lot at Yard Birds in Chehalis, with blood soaked onto its front seat. Their bodies were located days later on a logging road near Adna.

Beverly Jestrine took the witness stand yesterday telling how she contacted law enforcement after an appeal was made for information.

Jestrine was out Christmas shopping that same day and remembered pulling into the entrance on the west side of the Yard Birds parking lot in Chehalis when a car to her right made the same left turn, cutting her off.

“If I hadn’t been going slow and saw him, I’d have T-boned him,” she said.

Jestrine said she noticed the driver was sitting very close to the driver’s side door – almost against the window – and wearing a knit cap and coat of navy or dark green.

When she left the shopping center, 20 or 30 minutes later, she saw a man walking briskly up Kresky Avenue holding a gun, with a towel and when he reached in his pocket, he dropped something that looked like three small cylinders and a piece of paper, she said.

“He had like a 5 o’clock shadow,” she said. “Other than the back and the side, I did not get a good look at his face.”

Ruth Lascurain lived in Cinebar and also took a trip to Yard Birds that day.

She parked on east side of building, and testified she noticed a green car parked with its lights on. Lascurain said she saw a guy she thought was with another person, and saw him walk towards the car.

“I saw him walk to the back of the car, maybe he bent down, I thought he was going to turn the lights off,” she said.

She didn’t see his face, but recalled baggy-ish clothing, that seemed like big Army coat, she said.

Another witness said he contacted police after hearing the news.

James Heminger saw a person walking north away from Yard Birds on Kresky, carrying a shotgun in his right hand,

“Not really skinny, not really heavy, nothing remarkable,” Heminger said of the man.

Leslie Mauel, was a 911 dispatcher then and today is the supervisor at the Lewis County 911 Communications Center.

Mauel testified it was about 2 o’clock that afternoon when he saw a car parked at saw at Yard Birds – which he described as a black vinyl and pea green car – with its lights on, and they were dim.

Jurors were brought forward in time yesterday to the latter part of 2003, when then-Lewis County Sheriff John McCroskey had a detective go through and review all the evidence, to find what he could send off to be tested for DNA. That was not long after Minnie Maurins’ son Denny Hadaller hired a pair of private detectives to look into the case.

Jurors were brought forward in time again to when the current Lewis County Sheriff Steve Mansfield decided to put a new detective on the old case.

Mansfield said he assigned detective Bruce Kimsey to the case, since both he and Kenepah were older and he wanted to make sure a younger person who would be around longer was familiar with the case.

William Gifford was an Alaska state trooper who was asked in March of last year to assist Kimsey, who had asked him to locate the Riffe brothers. He took the witness stand yesterday as well.

Giifford said he arrived in the small village of White Salmon as a recreational fisherman, checked out the Riffe’s house a couple of times and had a trooper to fly over to get a look as well.

Subsequently that summer, he, Kimsey, two other investigators and Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead went to make the arrest, he said. John Gregory Riffe had died.

After knocking and getting no answer, Gifford said he heard the sound of an oxygen machine, and having a concern of a medical issue involving Ricky Riffe, he opened the door and shouted out, Gifford testified.

The response from upstairs was, “Who the f*** is it,” he said. He said he was Bill Gifford, Alaska state trooper.

The response was, “What the f*** do you want,” Gifford said.

Riffe came downstairs and was arrested.

Ricky A. Riffe, 55, is charged with burglary, robbery and murder in the case.

Elected Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer and Senior Deputy Prosecutor Halstead are prosecuting the case. Riffe is represented by Seattle-based attorney John Crowley, assisted by paralegal Richard Davis.

The trial resumes this morning.

Examination of 2010 Morton plane crash yields some answers

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – As the third anniversary approaches of the crash that killed three aboard the plane belonging to a Chehalis-based eye clinic, the entryway to the local airport has been named in honor of the pilot, but authorities still aren’t exactly sure what happened.

The Cessna 340A wrecked about 10 minutes into its flight, in the mountains northeast of Morton on Oct. 25, 2010. No one survived.

Perishing were two employees of Pacific Cataract and Laser Institute and their pilot Ken Sabin. He and technician Rod Rinta, 43, both resided in Chehalis. Ophthalmologist Dr. Paul Shenk, 69, was from Woodland.

A probable cause report issued by the National Transportation Safety Board in August indicates it’s most likely the pilot experienced a partial loss of power of the right engine and after incorrectly turning into the failed engine, the plane became uncontrollable. The airplane continued a clockwise descending turn as it dropped off the radar at more than 10,000 feet, according to the report.

The issue with the engine was not determined because examination of the Cessna did not reveal any mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation, according to the NTSB.

The flight began at the Chehalis-Centralia Airport and was enroute to  Lewiston, Idaho.

Airport Manager Allyn Roe said the question still isn’t answered as to what made Sabin turn into the engine.

“Those reports aren’t ever nice to read,” Roe said. “They will cite pilot error nine out of 10 times.”

Sabin, a member of the Centralia-Chehalis Airport Governing Board, was an experienced pilot with thousands of flight hours who clearly knew not to do that, he said.

“It’s the circumstances you’re given; you may or may not have a chance of getting out of it,” Roe said.

This summer, the entry drive at the south end of the airport was named Ken Sabin Way in his memory. Sabin was retired from Security State Bank and had more than 40 years experience as a pilot.
•••

For background, read:

• The NTSB report, here

• “Bad weather prevents recovery of plane crash victims” from Wednesday Oct. 27, 2010, here

• “Chehalis Cessna’s last transmission: ” ‘We’re losing it’ from Saturday Nov 20 2010, here

Maurin murder trial: New information in old case takes both sides by surprise

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013
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A small number of spectators observe proceedings in Lewis County Superior Court, where former Lewis County resident Ricky Riffe is on trial for kidnapping and murder.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The judge in the Maurin murder trial was informed this afternoon that both prosecutor and defense attorney learned for the first time today, a witness allegedly spoke to Ricky Riffe while he and his now-dead brother were wiping finger prints from the car nearly 28 years ago.

“It’s an obvious surprise,” Riffe’s Seattle-based attorney told the judge.

Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer said it was new information from a man already on their witness list.

“Yes, that’s correct, the first time we heard of the conversation was today,” Meyer said.

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Ricky Allen Riffe

The trial for Ricky Riffe, 55, is in its third week in Lewis County Superior Court. He is charged with burglary, kidnapping, robbery and  murder in the December 1985 deaths of an elderly Ethel couple, Minnie and Ed Maurin.

Very little, if any, testimony has been about anyone conversing with the suspect.

Jurors have heard numerous witnesses speak of seeing a man at various key places that day, often noting him wearing a dark stocking cap, wearing an Army jacket or carrying a gun. They have heard about heard several sightings of the Maurin’s 1969 Chrysler on Dec. 19, 1985, carrying the couple with a person in the backseat.

Meyer told the jury when the trial began all the blood and DNA evidence came back to match the Maurins and their family. Today, jurors heard from former detective Ross Kenepah that none of the approximately 65 finger prints collected in the case match Riffe.

Meyer said the coming witness said he made small talk with Riffe and his since-deceased younger brother John Gregory Riffe. The brother was about to be charged in the case last year along with the defendant when he died.

“The individual said he was watching the news which had a story and two pictures side by side,” Meyer told the judge.

The witness indicated the person on the left was Rick Riffe who was on the right side of the car, and Greg Riffe said maybe you should close the door, Meyer said.

Crowley told the judge his problem was that based on the early information he was given that the witness would testify to, his team chose not to conduct their own interview with him.

Crowley said he previously understood the witness would talk about seeing a man with a gun when he was first interviewed by police in 1988, and did not identify anyone from any photo montages.

Lewis County Superior Court Judge Brosey indicated the witness couldn’t take the stand until after Riffe’s attorney’s private investigator has had a chance to interview him. Before today ended, the meeting was scheduled for 8 a.m. tomorrow morning.

Prosecutors have said they have as many as 180 witnesses, although exactly how many of them will be called to testify is not clear. So far, about three dozen have taken the witness stand.

It was just last week when another person seeing photos of the Riffes on television after the trial began contacted the prosecutor to say he recognized a picture of John Gregory Riffe.

Maurin murder trial: What jurors didn’t hear about

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

Ricky Riffe, right, consults with defense team member Richard Davis as the issue of his ex-wife Robin Riffe is discussed in court much of yesterday afternoon

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Jurors in the 1985 Maurin homicide case heard yesterday that in 1991, a task force was formed regarding the deaths from several years earlier and a deputy suggested they should try to talk with Robin Riffe. If they could contact her away from her ex-husband Ricky Riffe, they might get some information, jurors were told.

Former Lewis County Sheriff’s Office detective David Neiser testified he phoned to where she was in prison in Arizona, introduced himself and he said needed to talk with her about an old homicide in Lewis County.

“She said, ‘you mean the one where two old people were killed?’ ” Neiser testified.

Did you have other contacts with Robin Riffe? Neiser was asked, to which he replied yes. And the jury was sent out of the room.

Neiser, who worked for the sheriff’s office from 1972 to 2009, had already spoken about his role in the investigation. He interviewed the two victims’ families, but only went to some of the scenes, noting he recalled vividly Minnie Maurin’s body lying on the side of the road.

Much of the information heard in Lewis County Superior Court yesterday regarding the investigation came while the jury was out of the room.

Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead had given a heads up to the court he was going to elicit from the former detective a statement made to him by the now-deceased woman about the case and the detective would testify about taking her for a drive around the county, but wouldn’t be talking about what she did or anything she pointed out.

Defense attorney John Crowley said he wanted to be able to confront the Robin Riffe, but she’s dead so he can’t.

Crowley asserted the actual reason prosecutors wanted the information put before the jury was to make an inference that Ricky Riffe’s ex-wife Robin Riffe must have known something from his client.

Ricky A. Riffe, 55, is charged with burglary, robbery and murder in the case. His younger brother was about to be charged as well when he died last year.

Prosecutors have contended the Riffe brothers are responsible for abducting Ed and Minnie Maurin from their home, forcing them to drive their bank get money and then shooting the elderly couple in their backs, leaving their bodies along a logging road near Adna.

While jurors were out, Judge Richard Brosey asked questions of the attorneys to learn if certain details were relevant, considering anything else Robin Riffe may have told police would not be allowed to come in to trial.

Halstead said it would explain what detectives did next, which jurors would hear about subsequently during the trial.

“It’s how they came onto further information,” Halstead said. “Without that, all these people who pop up in 1991 pop up for no reason at all.”

Brosey wanted to hear for himself first what the detective would say on the stand so potential issues of confrontation or hearsay could be sorted out, Neiser took the witness stand while jurors were still out of the courtroom.

“I want it clearly understood by detective Neiser I don’t want him blurting out anything Robin Riffe said,” Brosey told prosecutors.

Neiser explained how they got Robin Riffe transferred from prison in Arizona to the closer Washington prison for women in Purdy to finish her term.

She was brought to Lewis County, where she went for a ride with detectives he said.

Neiser said he told her they would pretend she was driving and would not stop or turn unless directed by her.

Neiser noted the various points of interest they encountered, such as an area near west end of Lake Mayfield, Perry’s store where there was a telephone booth, a dump site outside of Ethel, Marys Corner where there was a telephone booth, over the freeway at Avery Road and up Highway 603 to Stearns Hill Road in Adna.

Under questioning by Crowley, Neiser told the court:

“She pointed out Perry’s shop and said, that’s where I dropped ‘em off,” Neiser said.

Crowley: “Did anyone else in the investigation have knowledge of some fact regarding Perrys Market?”

Neiser: “Other than your client, you mean?”

Crowley: “Yes.”

Neiser: “No.”

The session continued with the lawyers and the judge sorting out what testimony jurors would not be allowed to hear.

Neiser said detectives attempted to contact Robin Riffe again in November 1994 and learned she had died the day before.

The judge ruled that Robin Riffe directing detectives to various locations during the drive was nonverbal communications which would be inadmissible because the defense would not be able to confront her.

The jury of 12 plus their five alternate jurors were brought back into the courtroom.

It was only about 10 minutes later when  Crowley asked for a mistrial. He noted Neiser’s statement about a deputy telling them they should try to talk with Robin Riffe, while away from his client.

Brosey said he was a bit surprised Crowley hadn’t brought it up while he had the opportunity with the jury out of the room. He denied the motion.

As in the case of nearly all court proceedings, the courtroom is open to the public. Proceedings are scheduled from 9:30 a.m. until noon and 1:30 p.m. until 5 p.m. The courtroom is on the fourth floor of the Lewis County Law and Justice Center at Main Street and Chehalis Avenue in Chehalis.

Maurin murder trial: Witnesses testify about a green sedan

Monday, October 21st, 2013
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Defendant Ricky Riffe, far right, and his legal team listen to testimony in his murder trial in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Jurors for the Maurin murder trial heard witnesses over the final two days of testimony last week who passed by the elderly couple’s Ethel home, who saw what may have been the Maurin’s 1969 Chrysler traveling in several places such as Jackson Highway, Avery Road at North Military Road, and Bunker Creek Road as well a woman who gave a description of a man heading away from the Yard Birds Shopping Center where the abandoned vehicle with a blood-stained front seat was discovered on Dec. 20, 1985.

Ed Maurin, 81, and Minnie, 83, Maurin were reported missing the day before; their bodies were located the following Dec. 24.

Lindsay Senter, of Mossyrock, was one of three truck drivers who drove U.S. Highway 12 regularly nearly 28 years ago that testified. Senter was delivering a load of logs to from East Lewis County to Longview and recalled seeing two males walking west on the highway around 8 o’clock that morning.

After hearing the news of the slayings, he contacted the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office to share what he observed.

It was past Harms Road and before the house where the Maurin’s lived, according to Senter. One of them was carrying something that could have been a gun, covered by a cloth, according to Senter. He didn’t actually see a weapon, he said.

“It just seemed like it was, it looked like that,” he told Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead.

Robert Lyons passed the house three times each day in his log truck, and knew the couple most of his life, as he’d gone to school with Minnie’s children, Dale, Delbert, Denny and Hazel, he said.

“I seen they had company that morning,” Lyons said when he took the witness stand in Lewis County Superior Court. “I thought, that’s awfully early to have company.”

Lyons said he saw the Maurin’s car parked at the house, as well as a white car which could have been a 1970s model.

It had to have been shortly after 8 a.m. to 8:15 a.m., he said.

Morton resident Norman Layman told the court the Maurin’s two-toned green car passed him on Ethel Hill, west of their house during his second trip of the day.

He knew of the couple because he knew Minnie’s son Denny Hadaller, he testified.

It was foggy, he was westbound moving probably less than 20 mph, he said, and it would have been between 10:30 and 11 a.m.

“As I looked down, I thought it was Marion, the lady, in the front seat, I thought,” Layman said. “I couldn’t tell what was in the backseat.”

He could see the driver’s legs, he said.

Under questioning from Halstead about what he told police decades ago, Layman agreed he’d said he thought there were two people in the front and maybe one person in the back.

Kathryn Gunderson was then in her early 30s and living just south of Chehalis. Gunderson testified that a day or two after reading about the homicides in the news, she called law enforcement to tell them what happened that day as she headed into town up Jackson Highway.

Gunderson testified she got behind a dark green, good-sized car somewhere south of Ribelin Road. She couldn’t see inside it, she said, but it may have turned off at Main Street.

Under questioning, she said she previously told police there were three people in the car, but said she had been making a guess.

Steve Amoroso lived in Winlock and worked a swing shift at Green Hill School in Chehalis, arriving at 2:15 p.m. that day, jurors heard.

He came across the car at a four-way stop, he said.

What caught his attention, he testified, was the young male sitting directly behind the driver, with his arm on back of the front seat. Amoroso noted being in law enforcement he noticed the passenger obviously wasn’t wearing his seatbelt, and was “actively” looking the other direction.

Amoroso was northbound on North Military Road, just west of Interstate 5, and preparing to make a right turn onto Avery Road, he said. The car was pointed west on Avery and it moved into the intersection very slow, he said.

The two elderly people in the front seat were staring straight ahead, and the car’s brake lights came on twice as it moved through the intersection, he said. He described the third occupant as probably 18 to 20 years old, with a partial beard and wearing a dark blue watchman’s hat.

The witness with the most detailed description of a car and its occupants was a retired truck stop manager who contacted the prosecutor after seeing television coverage when trial began to say he recognized a photo shown of the now-deceased John Gregory Riffe.

Frank Perkins told jurors of the Chrysler pulling up to a gas pump off Interstate 5 exit 72, next to the Rib Eye restaurant around 8:30 a.m. that day, stopping briefly and then driving away.

Ricky A. Riffe, 55, is charged with burglary, robbery and murder in the case. His younger brother was about to be charged as well when he died last year.

Prosecutors have contended the Riffe brothers are responsible for abducting the Maurins from their home, forcing them to drive to Sterling Savings Bank in downtown Chehalis to withdraw money and then shooting them in their backs with a sawed off shotgun, leaving their bodies along Stearns Hill Road outside Adna.

Another witness before last week ended took jurors out to Adna in his recollections of Dec. 19, 1985.

Ken Paul, from Woodland, sells real estate today but back then he worked in the timber industry, he said.

Paul said he was driving a large piece of logging equipment from state Route 6 where it had been worked on, up Bunker Creek Road to a job site. It was an an International skidder and he was moving at only about 10 mph, he testified.

All the vehicles passed him, but a full-sized older car followed him for quite awhile and then passed him quite slow as he headed up, and he could see in its rear window, he said.

“What I noticed was an individual in the back seat, a silhouette,” he said.

He assumed it was a man, he said, he thought it was in the center of the seat.

Five to ten minutes later, the same car was coming back towards him, and he saw an elderly couple in the front seat. The driver appeared in a trance, distraught, according to Paul.

“He was looking straight ahead,” he said. “He never looked at me, he had a faraway look in his face.”

Two more witnesses testified a car they saw on Bunker Creek Road looked like the 1969 Chrysler belonging to the Maurins they were shown on the overhead screen in the courtroom.

Janice Duncan lived about two miles up from state Route 6 and after getting her children off the school, walked up the road to see how a neighbor was doing, she said.

“It was a green car, very similar to one that goes by a lot,” Duncan said.

She estimated it could have been 10 to 10:30 a.m., but she didn’t see who was inside it, she said.

Dennis Dahlstrom of Chehalis has lived in Lewis County all his life.

He was working in the area, and it was either late morning or early afternoon when he observed the car, he testified.

“Cars (there) usually are going 60 mph,” Dahlstrom said. “This one was traveling fairly slow.”

William Reisinger testified he was on Bunker Creek Road when he saw a 1969 Chrysler headed up it with three occupants and then racing back down it in the 11 o’clock hour that day.

Reisinger who said he was born and raised on a farm on the 400 block was expecting his mother and her boyfriend who drove a green car just like the one on the big screen, he said.

He was in his truck heading into Chehalis to pick up some bolts for a trailer when he saw the car approaching, he said. He slowed to almost a stop, rolled down his window and put his hand out. But it wasn’t who he thought, he said.

Reisinger said instead, there was a woman with a man driving and a person with dark hair leaning up on the seat. The driver was solemn-faced, but didn’t appear distressed, he testified.

“I’d say in his 70s, he just kinda looked at me,” he said.

On his return trip, as he got close to the farm, Reisinger saw what he thought was the same car coming around the corner, somewhat over the center line, causing him to move toward the edge of the road, he said.

“He was probably going 70, it was a pretty good clip,” he said.

Reisinger said it was his impression it was the grandson taking grandparents car for a joyride. He didn’t see the gender of the driver, he said, but thought the green of the jacket or the dark hair made him think it was the person previously in the backseat.

In hindsight, it was like a getaway, he said.

Former Lewis County Deputy William Forth was on routine patrol that morning; the elderly couple wouldn’t be reported missing for several hours.

Forth recounted how he was leaving the Adna store at the intersection of Bunker Creek road near state Route 6, when a green full-sized car coming inbound, 20 to 30 feet away caught his attention.

Its driver looked at him so directly, in a way that made him think he ought to pull him over and at least learn his name, because he looked like he may have just committed a crime, Forth testified.

Forth described the driver as a caucasian he estimated in his mid to late 20s, wearing a stocking cap with dark hair showing from under it, and a beard that was heavy but not full grown. He told the court he was wearing a winter coat that was dark, he believed was multi-colored and it seemed like had some green in it.

Forth pulled his patrol car behind the sedan and both sat at the stop sign to the highway for 30 to 40 seconds, although it seemed like forever, he said. There was no oncoming traffic, and the driver continued looking at him through the rear view mirror, he said.

Then the car pulled out and headed east, he said.

Forth was due at an office Christmas party and said he had his finger on the switch to flip on his lights, but for reasons he still wonders about to this day, he didn’t do it, he said.

As he passed the car at the freeway, and it got onto the turn lane to head north on Interstate 5, he looked at the driver again, and said he recalls seeing a red blanket over the seat. Forth estimated it all occurred between 10:40 a.m. and 11 a.m.

Forth continued to talk about the days that followed and what began to go through his mind.

He heard of the Maurin’s disappearance the next morning, he said, and left for vacation that afternoon.

Over the weekend, he stopped into the garage where detectives were processing the elderly couple’s found car. Forth said he was focused on his conversation with detective Herrington, but something began turning in his head about the vehicle, like a name on the tip of your tongue, he said.

During his week-long vacation, Forth testified, he awoke at 3 o’clock one morning and it hit him where he’d seen the same car. Forth testified he has never had a doubt in his mind it was the same one.

In 1991, after he’d left the sheriff’s office and worked as roads superintendent for the county, detectives showed up at his office one day, he said, and showed him some photos. He picked one out who was the individual he believed he saw near the Adna store.

Under questioning in court, Forth told of working with now-detective Bruce Kimsey last year and selecting a person from a group of photos as the driver. He said he was positive of who it was because he recognized the eyes.

Forth said he had only learned the day before he testified that he’d selected two different individuals.

Jurors also heard from a woman who gave a description of a man walking  away from the Yard Birds Shopping Center where the abandoned vehicle with a blood-stained front seat was subsequently discovered.

Virginia Cummings said she had returned something she’d bought and was heading home to Salzer Valley in Centralia.

Cummings testified she exited the east side of the store’s lot to head north on Kresky and ahead of her walking the same direction on the left shoulder was a young man she was so certain was her neighbor, so she was going to give him him a lift.

“I don’t recall if I stopped or I just slowed,” she said.

The young man was dressed and built just like her neighbor, she recalled but as she was right beside him, she saw his face wasn’t the neighbors, she said.

He would not look at her, she said.

Cummings testified she didn’t recall that he was carrying anything or had a beard, but described him as wearing a navy blue skull cap, with dark hair that curled up around it, and his attire was an Army fatigue jacket, levi blue jeans and a black style boot, she said.

The trial began with opening statements on Oct. 8. It’s third week begins today. Jurors have been told they could be in court as long as six weeks.

As in the case of nearly all court proceedings, the courtroom is open to the public. Proceedings are scheduled from 9:30 a.m. until noon and 1:30 p.m. until 5 p.m. The courtroom is on the fourth floor of the Lewis County Law and Justice Center at Main Street and Chehalis Avenue in Chehalis.

http://www.lewiscountysirens.com/?p=21748

Former Deputy William Forth testifies about his encounter with the green sedan and the photos he identified as its driver.

Deceased transient was musician, who will be reunited with his family

Friday, October 18th, 2013

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – When Alicia Wolfe read in the news last Saturday Manabu Ishikawa was going to be buried with two strangers, as one of three unclaimed individuals from the county coroner’s office, she felt compelled to visit his grave in Chehalis.

The Winlock woman didn’t know him, but had met him briefly before he died this summer.

When she checked Ishikawa in at a Centralia motel in June, she thought his name sounded Japanese and asked about it, she said.

“He said he was first generation American,” Wolfe said. “I said oh, my husband’s mother is also.”

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Manabu Ishikawa 1964 – 2013

He smiled at her comment, went to his room and she never talked to him again, she said.

The ceremony on Saturday morning at Pioneer Cemetery along Jackson Highway in Chehalis was organized by the Lewis County Coroner’s Office. The final resting place for three sets of unclaimed cremated remains was gifted by cemetery owners John and Marie Panesko.

Wolfe was really disappointed she didn’t learn about it sooner, so she could attend, she said.

“I’m not sure why a stranger passing away has hit me so hard,” she said.

The 28-year-old woman said she’s worked in the industry most of her adult life and it’s not the first time she’s experienced the death at work of a guest; she’s accepted it as part of her job, she said.

But Ishikawa is someone she’s thought about more than usual. She couldn’t get it out of her mind over the weekend that his family obviously didn’t know where he was, where he was laid to rest.

Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod said all he knew was Ishikawa was 49 years old and a transient person from Grass Valley, California. He said he tried and simply could not locate any relatives.

The remembrance with a chaplain offering prayers on Saturday took place alongside the lawned property inhabited with the remains of more than 300 individuals. It’s historically been a place for those no one else wanted, such as some in unmarked graves who died at the local tuberculosis sanatorium and even a local criminal who met his end through vigilante justice, the nine attendees were told, according to McLeod.

Meanwhile, Wolfe began searching and found a Facebook page for the stranger. One of his friends had posted last month they knew he died, but were trying to account for his whereabouts, she said.

“From what I could gather, they searched social security death records, and learned he had died June 5, but didn’t have any more details,” she said.

Wolfe messaged one of his friends, offering her condolences and explaining Ishikawa’s remains were in Lewis County and he’d been buried, but she would bring him flowers And she didn’t hear back.

Early this week, Wolfe took a bouquet to the hillside graveyard.

So when she ran into John Panesko to ask him to show her the plot, she was somewhat happy to learn the actual burial was rescheduled for yesterday. It was her day off work, so she could be there, she thought.

She messaged Ishikawa’s friend again, to share the news he hadn’t been buried yet, she said.

Finally, on Wednesday, she heard back.

“She said, you’re kidding me, his family loves him very much,” Wolfe said. “They thought he was in Portland or California. You have to go there and tell them not to bury him.”

She did.

Panesko has gotten a phone call from Ishikawa’s sister and an email from his mother in Japan. Ishikawa’s urn has been returned to coroner’s office where it waits to be reunited with his family.

Wolfe spoke to his mother yesterday.

“She called me and told me a little bit about Manabu,” she said.

Wolfe learned he went to music school in California in the 1980s.

“I guess he was like a free spirit, he did what he wanted,” she said. “He traveled around, did as he pleased. He played the clarinet.”

Even though she didn’t actually know, his mother felt he had died, Wolfe said.

His mother told Wolfe her son had a heart condition and chose against medical advice about four years ago not to seek medical intervention.

“She said he believed in God, she said, Manabu’s God is powerful,” Wolfe said.

Wolfe still doesn’t know what he was doing in Centralia.

His mother had a final request.

“She said, I have one more question for you: ‘Manibu had a dog, Swale, and she was special to Manibu and very special to me, and I would like you to find her.”

Wolfe said she knew Centralia police took custody of Ishikawa’s dog upon his death. She made phone calls and learned Swale was taken to the Lewis County Animal Shelter and probably adopted out, she said.

Earlier today, she was waiting and hoping once the new owners were given her phone number from the shelter and information about the situation, she might be able to fulfill the mother’s request.

Tonight, she learned Swale died a few months ago.

Ishikawa’s Facebook page lists his occupation as janitor at nearest pond; he has 493 Facebook friends.

Maurin murder trial: Testimony takes day off for death of defendant’s dad

Friday, October 18th, 2013
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Defense attorney John Crowley offers comfort to his client as proceedings adjourn for the day.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Ricky Riffe’s murder trial is expected to resume this morning after taking a one-day recess because his father passed away.

Riffe, 55, is charged in the 1985 abduction, robbery and deaths of Ed and Minnie Maurin from Ethel. The trial in Lewis County Superior Court is in its second week.

“I understand his mind might be elsewhere,” Judge Richard Brosey said yesterday morning when the parties convened.

Defense attorney John Crowley told the judge he learned his father died the evening before and his client was emotionally unable to assist counsel.

Brosey said he understood Crowley’s ability to represent Riffe was curtailed by the news.

Riffe’s parents live in Arizona, where his mother has been taking care of his dying father. They have not attended any part of the trial, but did travel to Chehalis during early hearings.

His step-son and step-son’s mother have been at the courthouse since proceedings began. They traveled from Alaska, where Riffe has lived since 1987.

Brosey told jurors the unexpected day off was not related to anything they needed to concern themselves with, and apologized. Riffe thanked the judge before leaving the courtroom.

The former Lewis County resident has been held in the Lewis County Jail since July of last year, when he was arrested at his home in King Salmon and returned here for the trial.

The judge made it clear one day was the maximum amount of time for bereavement.

Maurin murder trial: Surprise witness implicates dead Riffe brother

Thursday, October 17th, 2013
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Witness Frank Perkins describes who he saw with the elderly couple after seeing a picture of John Gregory Riffe in the news.

Updated at 7:23 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – An individual who told police in 1985 he saw a man with the Maurins inside their car but wouldn’t be able to identify him contacted the prosecutor this week to say he recognized a photo of the now-deceased John Gregory Riffe shown on television news last week.

Frank Perkins, a retired truck stop manager, was one of 10 people who took the witness stand yesterday in the murder trial of Riffe’s brother, Ricky A. Riffe.

Prosecutors contend the Riffe brothers abducted Ed and Minnie Maurin from their Ethel home, and forced them to drive to their bank to withdraw cash before shooting them in the backs with a shotgun. The bodies of Ed, 81, and Minnie, 83, were discovered dumped on a logging road five days later, on Dec. 24, 1985.

Perkins spoke to an investigator that same week, and told him he couldn’t put the people to faces and wasn’t shown any montages of suspects, he testified yesterday. He said he was about 60 feet away from the car.

Back then, he got his news of the case from the radio, he said, but was surprised when he watched a KOMO TV story last week.

“It shocked me because it was like going back 30 years ago,” Perkins said. “I recognized the person I saw in the car on the TV.”

Perkins told the court that the morning of Dec. 19, 1985, the couple pulled up to a gas pump, sat there for a couple of minutes and then drove away.

It was at the truck stop off Interstate 5 exit 72, next to the Rib Eye restaurant, he said. In the back seat of the Chrysler was a light-bearded man in his 20s, wearing an Army jacket, according to Perkins.

“To be honest, I don’t remember, but it must have been around 8:30,” he told  Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead.

It caught his attention, because the automobile went to the pumps farthest from the building, and he always was watching for someone who might leave without paying, he said.

“I saw an older lady and a gentleman driver, and a younger fellow sitting between them in the backseat,” he said.

Perkins testified he normally ran to the bank in Centralia around 10:30 a.m. and he thought it was the usual time that day when he did so, and spotted what he thought was the same bearded man standing off National Avenue by Yard Birds holding a rifle or a shotgun. That person was wearing a dark knit cap, he said.

He knew there were ducks in the nearby swamp, but thought it somewhat brazen to hunt in town, he said. Perkins told defense attorney John Crowley there was no question he saw one person in the backseat of the Maurin’s car.

The Seattle-based attorney told jurors in opening statements last week that out of numerous witnesses, only one claims to have seen his client in the Maurin’s car, someone who was a teenager at the time and didn’t come forward for years.

Riffe, 55, is charged with murder, kidnapping, robbery and burglary. He is charged as a principal and / or as an accomplice to another person.

Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer told the jury last week in his opening, he would be calling a witness who heard the Riffes planning the crime.

Marty Smeltzer took the witness stand, since after the Maurin’s deaths he told police he overheard the brothers speak of it before it occurred.

Smeltzer testified he and his cousin were at a party on a logging road near Winston Creek back in 1985 and the Riffe brothers were about as far away as the width of the courtroom.

He was questioned by Prosecutor Meyer.

“We were all drinking,” he said. “Me and Matt, we overheard a conversation, gonna kill somebody. And take ‘em to the bank, and they was leaving.”

“We didn’t know if it was kill or what,” he said. “But it was kinda obvious, because a week or two …” Smeltzer said, but was cut off by an objection which was sustained.

The lawyers and the judge conversed, in an attempt to phrase questions and get answers specific as to what Ricky Riffe said and what John Gregory Riffe said.

“Was there any conversation from Rick about a bank?” he was asked.

“No,” Smeltzer said.

“What did you hear Rick say about getting money?”

“They was going somewhere. I don’t know. I heard him say, going somewhere to get money,” Smeltzer said.

Under questioning from Crowley, Smeltzer said he told his story to a police officer in Mossyrock, he told it again when an officer visited him at the jail, he told it again to a detective in about 1992 and then last year to sheriff’s detective Bruce Kimsey.

“Are you sure that even happened?” Crowley asked.

“Yes,” came the reply.

Smeltzer told the court he’s slow on remembering, it takes him time, because of a head injury in 1980 when he fell off the roof of a barn.

Under further questioning from Meyer, he didn’t recall where the Riffes said they were going afterward, or what weapon they planned to use.

After borrowing Meyer’s reading glasses, and reviewing a transcript of his statement to Kimsey, his memory was much clearer.

“Alaska,” he said. “They was going to take two elderly people to the bank and get money.

“Yes, they wanted to kill ‘em, dispose of the bodies

“It was a shotgun. Sawed off.”

Crowley had him read a passage, his response after Kimsey asked if he swore everything he said was true.

“I’m pretty sure it’s the truth,” Smeltzer read.
•••

Meanwhile, for previous coverage of the trial, if you are on the home page, scroll down

Defense: Maurin murder trial jeopardized by hearsay evidence

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013
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Retired Lewis County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Glade Austin answers question from Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead in court.

Updated

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The case of the kidnapping and murder of an elderly Ethel couple almost 28 years ago nearly ended in a mistrial yesterday as a witness blurted out information the judge had said needed to be avoided.

“Clearly that was not the answer I was expecting,” Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead told the judge after the jury was sent out of the courtroom.

Retired Lewis County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Glade Austin spent much of yesterday on the witness stand speaking about his role after the December 1985 slaying of Ed and Minnie Maurin, for the trial of longtime suspect Ricky A. Riffe who was arrested last year.

Austin, who retired in early 2002, was present during the debate by lawyers about what he could or could not say on the stand in Lewis County Superior Court.

“It should have been patently obvious to the witness we were not going anywhere near that,” Judge Brosey said. “What do you suggest I do, short of granting a mistrial?”

The issue those in the courtroom heard revolved around a tip that came in early 1991 from now-deceased Robin Riffe, that led investigators to the edge of Lake Mayfield where they dug up pieces of cloth or clothing from an old fire pit.

Austin told the jury he learned Riffe may have buried the items.

“She’s dead, I can’t cross examine her,” Defense attorney John Crowley told the judge.

Crowley called it a testimonial mistake that called for a mistrial, an issue he had already submitted a 20-page pre-trial brief on.

“Now there’s clear hearsay that’s been testified in front of the jury,” Crowley said.

After continued discussion, Judge Brosey denied the motion and prohibited prosecutors when they continued from eliciting any information the source of the information was Robin Riffe.

A jury of 12 plus five alternates are in their second week of a trial that is expected to last through the month. Several portions of yesterday included conversations out of earshot of jurors in which lawyers parsed out how to avoid hearsay evidence in the case of former witnesses who have since died.

Prosecutors have contended Riffe and his now-deceased brother John Gregory Riffe got into the couple’s home, uncovered bank records and forced the couple to go with them to the bank and withdraw money before shooting them in the backs with a shotgun inside their car and dumping their bodies on a logging road. Ed Maurin was 81, his wife was 83.

Austin was a sergeant when the deaths occurred.

Earlier yesterday, Austin spoke of a pair of women, one named Mary Jones who is now dead, working with a sketch artist to create a composite in connection with a man seen walking in the area of the Maurin’s car at which was discovered at Yard Birds. Information on the subject came both in front of the jury and also while the jury was sent out of the room as lawyers and the judge discussed which witness could properly testify to which details.

The sketch itself was held back so it could be introduced when a witness with first-hand information on its creation takes the stand.

Austin said the drawing would have been distributed widely on Dec. 24, 1985, when they still had no suspects.

The sheriff’s office began creating various montages, as the public called in to implicate various people and law enforcement officers offered names of people in the area they had in mind, Austin testified.

“I can’t say for sure exactly what the montages were based on,” he said.

Those in the courtroom heard of at least 14 sets of six photos each which were developed, none of which contained images of either Riffe brother, and that the two women did not select anyone from the montages.

Crowley objected to Austin telling the jury the dead woman didn’t choose anyone, since Crowley wouldn’t be able to cross examine her. He argued her non identification of the first 106 mug shots was non-verbal conduct.

“It’s a back door way of trying to sneak in hearsay,” Crowley said.

Judge Richard Brosey overruled that objection.

During Austin’s day on the stand, he spoke of the various tasks he engaged in during the investigation. He assisted detective Richard Herrington in lifting prints from around the couple’s house on U.S. Highway 12, he testified.

Yes, they found three place settings of tableware in the Maurin’s dishwasher, he said.

“You would naturally want to know who used those dishes,” Crowley suggested.

“It was a question in our minds, yes,” Austin replied.

Austin described taking photos of the Maurin’s abandoned Chrysler in the parking lot of Yard Birds in Chehalis on Dec. 20, 1985 and taking more pictures when their bodies were found off Stearns Hill Road on Dec. 24, 1985.

Three deputies conducted surveillance at the couple’s funeral on Dec. 28, 1985 at St. Francis Mission Catholic Church in Toledo, with one writing down license plates and another video taping in the parking lot and Austin attending the service itself.

On the one-year anniversary of the deaths, someone staked out the logging road on Stearns Hill Road, just in case the perpetrator returned, according to Austin.

Rodney Hadaller was questioned, Russ Hadaller’s name was included on a list as well, according to the former sergeant.

“My recollection is there were three or four people that got our attention, they were all eliminated,” Austin said.

A reward of $10,000 offered in early 1986 brought in even more tips from the public, he testified.

Austin estimated as many as 1,000 tips came in during the first two years, but then the case went cold until 1991, jurors heard.

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Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer, left, and Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead during a break without the jury.

•••

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Two of Minnie Maurin’s grown children – standing, center Denny Hadaller and Hazel Oberg – visit during a recess in Lewis County Superior Court.

•••

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Ricky A. Riffe’s step-son, Jeremy Kern, sits in the audience behind the defense team in Lewis County Superior Court.

Maurin murder trial: Jurors hear of autopsy and finger prints

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013
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Richard Herrington, with assistance from Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead, displays Minnie Maurin’s house coat.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Testimony continued yesterday in the Ricky A. Riffe double murder trial, with the former Lewis County Sheriff’s Office deputy displaying and describing pieces of evidence long-stored in anticipation of an arrest in the 1985 case.

A dozen jurors along with five alternates entered their second week in Lewis County Superior Court, of hearing witnesses discuss the apparent abduction and shotgun deaths of elderly Ethel couple, Ed and Wilhelmina “Minnie” Maurin.

Riffe, 55, is charged with kidnapping, robbery, murder and burglary. He was arrested and charged last year.

Richard Herrington took the witness stand again and told of the items he collected during the autopsy conducted on the couple the same day their bodies were found on a logging road, Dec. 24, 1985.

From 83-year-old Minnie Maurin, Herrington – with assistance from Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead – showed the jury her house coat, dress, white sweater, under garments and one shoe which matched a shoe found on the floor board of the couple’s 1969 Chrysler Newport sedan.

The darkened blood stains were obscured by the clear plastic evidence bags they were contained in.

Herrington displayed 81-year-old Ed Maurin’s clothing and a wallet from his pants containing $39 in bills.

Also collected at the funeral home from Ed Maurin was a Sterling Savings withdrawal slip showing the removal of $8,500 and a remaining balance of a little over $36,000, Herrington testified.

Prosecutors believe Riffe and his now-deceased brother John Gregory Riffe got into the couple’s home, uncovered bank records and forced the couple to go with them to the bank and withdraw money before shooting them in the backs with a shotgun inside their car.

Herrington held up a plastic bag he said contained some double-aught buckshot retrieved by the doctor.

Numerous autopsy photographs were passed to the jurors to see.

Under questioning by Halstead, Herrington said no shotgun shells or casings were found at the Maurin property, at the scene on the logging road or even inside the car.

He spoke of returning to the Maurin’s home on Dec. 21, 1985, the day after the couple’s car was found abandoned in the parking lot of Yard Birds, to “process” the scene again.

He primarily spoke of lifting finger prints, from several Rainier beer cans, pieces of glass from the furnace room floor near a broken window and also from their car.

He was not asked who the prints belonged to.

Relatively few prints were found on and in the Chrysler, according to Herrington.

“Usually I would find a lot more prints than this,” Herrington said.

Testimony is expected to continue this morning.

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Ricky A. Riffe, right, listens as his lawyer John Crowley, addresses Lewis County Superior Court Judge Richard Brosey.

Maurin murder trial: What the crime scenes showed

Saturday, October 12th, 2013
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Former deputy Richard Herrington describes the logging road outside Adna where the Maurin’s bodies were discovered on Dec. 24, 1985.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A broken window at the back of the Maurin’s farm house, an impression of a shoe print on the nearby furnace, a game of Rummy-O and a folded newspaper sitting atop the lace table cloth of their dining room table.

And an unmade bed.

Richard Herrington, a former detective with the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office, pointed out the conditions he observed, preserved in photographs displayed on a large courtroom screen.

It was the evening of Dec. 19, 1985. Family members had begun gathering at the Ethel home at 2040 U.S. Highway 12, after guests arriving for a noontime Christmas party found their elderly hosts weren’t there. Ed and Wilhelmina “Minnie” Maurin were missing.

Former Deputy Michael Pea had already described responding about 6:10 p.m. with Deputy Joe Doench, and finding no evidence of a struggle, but seeing a shoe box with bank statements strewn alongside the bathtub and Minnie Maurin’s purse hidden beneath a newspaper and tucked partially behind a couch.

Eighty-one-year-old Ed Maurin’s pickup truck was parked in back, but the couple’s car was not there.

Herrington testified they collected prints and investigated until 1 a.m.

It was about 9:25 a.m. when Herrington got the call the Maurin’s automobile was located in the Yard Birds parking lot in Chehalis.

Most of the hours that followed in Lewis County Superior Court this week focused on the blood found in the front seat of the vehicle and the subsequent Christmas Eve Day discovery of the couple’s bodies laying off a logging road near Adna.

Two of Minnie Maurin’s grown children have been at the courthouse since the jury was convened early last week. On Thursday they spoke on the phone with each other and their remaining living sibling, but stayed home. The prosecutor had given them notice of the graphic evidence that would be shown.

The trial in the county seat of Chehalis is expected to last through the month.

Fifty-five-year-old Ricky A. Riffe is charged in the abduction, robbery and shotgun deaths of the Maurins.

Herrington, who nearly 28 years later is the special agent in charge of the criminal unit for the Washington State Gambling Commission, answered questions from lawyers off and on for two days.

The morning was foggy and cold and the windows were frosted up on the 1969 Chrysler Newport, Herrington testified. Photographs and a videotape taken on Dec. 20, 1985 show the car parked at the far northeastern edge of the lot, behind a row of big trucks.

The keys were in the ignition, a red blanket was draped over much of the driver’s side obscuring mostly from view large blood stains.

“We definitely had a crime scene,” Herrington testified.

By the time they finished examining the car, they had numerous items to be placed into evidence; buckshot from the floorboard on the driver’s side, a man’s hat, a white shoe and a small pillow from the passenger side.

The ashtray was full, Herrington said.

Back then, Roger Ely worked as a scene investigator for the Washington State Patrol in Kelso.

His analysis suggested the Maurins were each struck with a blast from a shotgun with a shortened barrel in their upper back as they sat in the front seat. He couldn’t say which was shot first.

“I believe the shooter was in the backseat, approximately behind her husband,” Ely said.

The blood stain patterns indicated to him the couple were dragged out from opposite sides of the car.

Ely resumed his testimony on Friday morning. And Herrington was recalled to the stand.

Denny Hadaller returned to the courthouse, prepared to leave the room at any time during the discussion of his mother and step-father’s demise, but he stayed.

More photos and a videotape taken on Dec. 24, 1985, took those in the courtroom to the scene up Stearns Hill Road. It was morning, it was cold. A passerby had found the Maurin’s bodies.

On the the tree-lined gravel logging road they found tire marks, Herrington testified. They saw blood trails leading short distances to what they looked for, he said.

Off the outside edge of the right fork in the road in the salal was Ed Maurin; he was clothed in trousers, a shirt and a jacket.

Just off the inside edge of the left fork, lay Minnie Maurin in her housecoat.

Their garments were pushed up as though they’d been dragged there by their feet.

Judge Richard Brosey dismissed the jury early yesterday, at noontime so court personnel could attend the funeral of a longtime bailiff who passed away last week.

The trial is expected to resume on Monday morning.

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Defendant Ricky A. Riffe, 55, far right, observes as lawyers work during a break in the Chehalis courtroom.

Centralia woman’s July death on river blamed on hypothermia

Friday, October 11th, 2013

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The autopsy results show 40-year-old Tina Thode died from exposure, even though it was a warm summer night when she called for help getting off the banks of the Skookumchuck River in late July.

The body of the Chehalis native who lived nearby in Centralia at the time was discovered partially in the water two days later by kids floating down the river.

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Tina A. Thode

“The findings don’t really surprise me, it was dark, she was in the water and she was comfortable in the water,” her father Roger Thode said.

Tina Thode had phoned 911 about 10:30 p.m. on July 27 saying she was lost near the river and couldn’t get out because it was dark. At one point as she talked on her cell phone to the 911 operator, she said she was sitting with her legs in the water.

An intense but unsuccessful search was abandoned after more than three hours, with responders figuring once it got light she could see her way out.

Roger Thode said he got the word from the coroner yesterday or the day before who explained she may have fallen asleep as her body temperature dropped, and that having methamphetamine in her system would have compounded the lowering of her body temperature.

He said he suspects it happened that night, even though the coroner can’t tell him the hour or even the day his daughter passed away.

“We don’t know, I’ve been asked that and I always give the same answer,” Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod said this afternoon. “People need to stop watching CSI, there’s no way to pinpoint the time of death.”

There are just too many variables, according to McLeod. The death certificate will reflect the time and day her body was discovered, he said.

McLeod said the forensic pathologist noted that being under the influence of methamphetamine was a contributing factor as Tina Thode became unable to – in the words of the pathologist – find shelter from a cold, watery environment.

Tina Thode lived alone about a quarter mile from the tree-lined river and was active in a court-related drug and alcohol treatment program, but had recently relapsed.

Her father said he knows that in hindsight, police and fire personnel wish they’d have looked for his daughter longer that night or returned the next day to resume their search.

“It’s such a waste, it is what it is,” Roger Thode said. “You can’t go back and change it.”

“She made a lot of bone-headed decisions, and this one bit her,” he said.

•••

For background, read “What happened to Tina Thode?” from Tuesday September 3, 2013, here

Maurin murder trial: Testimony continues about slain Ethel couple

Thursday, October 10th, 2013
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John Dennis Hadaller, who goes by Dennis or Denny, answers questions from Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead.

Updated at 9:31 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Retired Lewis County logging business owner Denny Hadaller spoke yesterday of the promise he made himself before leaving his slain parents funeral at the St. Francis Catholic Church in Toledo more than a quarter of a century ago.

“I layed my hand on my mother’s casket and I said, ‘Mom, I’ll find out who done this, and I will till the day I die,” he said.

Hadaller was testifying in the murder trial of Ricky A. Riffe, the longtime suspect in the December 1985 abduction and shooting deaths of Ethel residents, Ed and Wilhelmina Maurin. They were in their early 80s when their bodies were found dumped off a logging road.

Hadaller, now 85 years old, took the witness stand yesterday in Lewis County Superior Court. He spoke before a jury which is now four men and eight women, as one took ill.

Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead took Hadaller back in time through questioning, asking about the day his mother and step-father disappeared, and the years which followed in which the businessman hired a pair of private investigators to solve the case.

Hadaller said he was involved with the sheriff’s office investigation into the late 1980s and then somewhere around 2001 sought outside help.

“I did get very frustrated, because we weren’t getting anywhere with this” Hadaller testified.

Under questioning, he spoke of seeking out photographs of suspects Ricky and John Gregory Riffe from a cousin of theirs, wanting to know what they looked like out of fear for his own and his family’s safety.

“I slept with a gun under my pillow every night, I had one at my easy chair, because I didn’t know …” Hadaller said.

Yesterday was the second day of testimony for a trial that is expected to last at least through the month. Judge Richard Brosey is presiding over the case in Lewis County Superior Court.

A witness who took up the remainder of the day, told of seeing a pair of headlights in the fog across the street from her home at the Maurin’s driveway on Dec. 19, 1985, a few hours before the couple were discovered missing.

It was somewhere around 9 a.m. and the headlights were pointing kind of west, Nona Pierce said.

Pierce said she was standing at the end of her driveway and heard both a woman and a man’s voice, but couldn’t make out what they were saying. When the vehicle moved down the Maurin’s driveway, she thought she saw the outline of a second car before she went back into her house, she said.

Most of Pierce’s time on the witness stand was spent with lawyers wrangling over her picking out a photo of Ricky Riffe last year that she believes to be the same man who she saw acting strangely in the neighborhood.

Pierce described a pickup truck which stopped along U.S. Highway 12 and a man who got out and looked at three surrounding houses, including the Maurins and hers, before walking to her doorstep and saying he needed gasoline.

But when she told him no, he got back in his truck and drove away, she testified.

Under questioning from Deputy Prosecutor Halstead, Pierce said it occurred the day before and she was absolutely certain  that the photo she selected from a montage when she met with detective Bruce Kimsey in June 2012 was the man on her porch 27 years ago. The one she picked was Ricky Riffe.

However, under questioning by defense attorney Crowley it became apparent the event may have taken place as much as two weeks prior and that during the identification process at the sheriff’s office, Pierce was far less certain when she chose Riffe’s picture.

Three times out of the presence of the jury, the lawyers and judge discussed certain prohibited and allowed practices relating to the way the defense lawyer could cross examine Pierce.

Judge Brosey noted the witness seemed evasive and hostile and directed prosecutors to make sure she knew she was was not excused from possibly having to return to the stand.