Archive for the ‘Top story of the day’ Category

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.

Body found in Packwood mushroom picking area

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

Updated

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A body was found today near Packwood in the area where the 68-year-old Auburn man went missing a week and a half ago.

Saykham Tiansevilay was reported missing Sept. 29, when he didn’t return home from hunting mushrooms the day before.

Search and rescue teams gave up their search last Friday.

A spokesperson for the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office said he didn’t know yet if the body is confirmed to be Tiansevilay.

The sheriff’s office got the call around 3 p.m., a deputy was responding  and the coroner’s office was on its way up there, Sgt. Rob Snaza said. Snaza didn’t yet have any other details.

More than 25 search and rescue personnel began combing the densely forested area around Forest Service Road 47 approximately five miles northwest of Packwood last Wednesday and found the man’s truck, with a dead battery. The area was covered multiple times by multiple teams.

Last Friday, the sheriff’s office put out a call to the public for information, in case Tiansevilay had attempted to walk out or perhaps even gotten a lift from someone.

Lewis County Chief Criminal Deputy Gene Seiber said yesterday the man’s cell phone was located in his truck and it showed he attempted to call family and friends that Saturday evening until 2 o’clock the following morning and then began calling again from 5 a.m. until 8:30 a.m.

Seiber was puzzled about what could have happened, saying it was the only the third time in his 23 years as search and rescue coordinator that someone was not found.

The family has stayed up in the area continuing to look for him, he said.

The search area was at an elevation of about 2,500 feet, with no snow on the ground, although filled with many deep and narrow canyons, according to Seiber. It is also an area well-traveled with mushroom hunters this time of year, he said.

Snaza said he expected further information would be available in the morning.

UPDATE: The family of the missing mushroom hunter found his body near the top of a ridge above Williame Creek – well within the search area. It appeared Tiansevilay slid approximately 40 feet down a steep embankment and may have suffered from hypothermia, according to the sheriff’s office.

Maurin murder trial: Defense attorney tells of two other suspects

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013
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Ricky A. Riffe listens to Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer give his opening statements in the double murder trial in Lewis County Superior Court.

Updated

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Finally today, folks heard a different version of the events from December 1985, that led up to the deaths of Ed and Wilhelmina Maurin, the elderly couple who vanished from their house in Ethel and whose bodies were found days later dumped off a logging road near Adna.

It wasn’t Ricky A. Riffe, his lawyer explained, as he told jurors they would hear from a witness who saw the Maurin’s car kind of fishtailing, along with something like a blue LeMans that seemed to be with it.

In the couple’s green car were the Maurins along with two others, defense attorney John Crowley said.

“One guy was a big fella, probably 240 pounds,” Crowley said.

His client weighed about 130 pounds at that time, he said.

“Another person in the car was smaller, but still larger than Rick,” he said.

Riffe, 55, is on trial in Lewis County Superior Court, charged with murder, kidnapping, robbery and burglary.

Since his arrest last year, prosecutors have contended longtime suspects Riffe and his now-deceased brother John Gregory Riffe somehow got into the couple’s home on U.S. Highway 12, uncovered bank records and forced the couple to go with them to their bank in Chehalis  to withdraw $8,500 before shooting them in the backs.

The former Lewis County resident was brought from his home in King Salmon, Alaska, to the jail where he’s been held on $5 million bail. Numerous pretrial hearings later, lawyers finally made their opening statements this afternoon in the Chehalis courtroom.

“This fella is innocent,” Crowley told the jury. “They have charged the wrong person.”

A jury of five men and seven women have been told they could be serving for up to six weeks. Prosecutors plan for some 200 individuals to give testimony and more than 400 items to be presented as evidence during the trial.

Crowley began by saying his client was just a regular guy, who was born in Ketchikan and lived in logging camps until age 14. His family came to Lewis County but later, when he was having trouble finding work, decided to go back to Alaska where he still had family.

He admitted Riffe had gotten into what many refer to as a poor man’s cocaine – methamphetamine. Nothing about his activities were unusual compared to others in his age group, Crowley said.

His client, who is expected to take the witness stand at some point, won’t even be able say when he first heard about the Maurin’s deaths, he said.

Crowley spent much of 30 minutes discussing various witnesses and evidence the jury would hear.

The autopsies showed the Maurins ate breakfast that morning, the dished were done, their house was clean, he said.

“The thing about the Maurin’s, it was probably known they had money,” he said. “They were well known in the community.”

Someone from Sterling Savings Bank was going to explain how Ed Maurin phoned, wanting to withdraw money, because his children wanted him to get a new car, he said, and when he arrived, he was his usual “good natured” self.

“These people were horribly murdered, without a doubt,” Crowley said.

But there’s only one person who claims to have seen Riffe in the car with the Maurins, and he was only 14 years at the time, he said. And it was years later when police finally hear from him, he said.

Jurors can also expect to hear from an inmate who claims Riffe has confessed since he’s been in the Lewis County Jail, but that person has given information on three cases in his desire to get out, according to Crowley.

“He’s innocent. Innocent,” he said. “I’ll ask you to find him not guilty of each of these charges.”

In contrast today, elected Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer spoke for only 13 minutes, giving the jurors a run down of what was to come.

It wasn’t normal for Ed Maurin to do the banking, Meyer said. Yet he called the bank and went into the bank, insisting he wanted his money in $100 bills.

The day after the Maurins disappeared, and their blood-stained car was found parked in the lot at Yard Birds in Chehalis, leads started pouring in, according to Meyer.

“Green Army coat, blue jeans, carrying a gun, stocking cap,” Meyer said. “That’s the description police got of someone walking away from Yard Birds.”

And in the early 1990s, Rick and his brother John Gregory Riffe became suspects, he said.

Jurors will hear how both men are picked out on photo montage’s, he said.

Rick Riffe and his wife begin acting strange around Christmastime, witnesses tell of being threatened and the Riffes flee to Alaska, according to Meyer.

“Rick starts an online relationship with a wife of a witness,” he said. “Rick even goes so far as to trying to get one witness to move to Alaska.”

Meyer notes all the blood and DNA evidence came back to match the Maurins and their family.

“Lack of fingerprints, hair, DNA, does not mean a crime did not happen,” he said.

Jurors will hear of a witness who heard the Riffes planning the crime, and Rick Riffe admitting to the crimes, he said.

Three family members of the Maurins testified this afternoon, the first two telling about the day the couple went missing, Dec. 19, 1985.

The Maurin’s then-daughter-in-law Shirley Hadaller said Wilhelmina “Minnie” Maurin was holding the monthly luncheon for an older ladies church group. It was extra special because of the holidays and the husbands were invited, jurors would soon hear. She and Dennis Hadaller lived about a mile away, she said.

The guests arrived, and the Maurins weren’t home.

“One of the ladies called me, there was no one there,” Shirley Hadaller testified.

She told of finding the house locked, the car gone and one of Minnie’s sons crawling through a window, so they could get inside. She called Minnie’s daughter who drove up from Toledo with her husband, she said.

Hazel Oberg then told the jury of arriving in the evening, and searching the house with other family members.

They found bank statements near the telephone, a box with bank statements on the floor of the bathroom and her mother’s purse beneath a newspaper beside the chair she always sat in, she said.

“I said, oh, this isn’t right,” Oberg said, having noted the couple who raised beef and leased their land for Christmas tree growing kept their financial matters very private and wouldn’t leave records laying around.

She made many phone calls that night, she said.

“I just kept calling,” Oberg said. ” I called the hospitals, I called their friends, I called my aunt and uncle.”

The Maurin’s grandson who was about 20 years old at the time was the final witness of the day.

Michael Hadaller said he lived about a mile down U.S. Highway 12 and worked with his father at his namesake business, Dennis Hadaller Logging. He described the two of them driving by his grandparent’s place about 5:30 a.m. that day and seeing a light on in the bedroom window.

“(My father) made the comment, it’s awfully early for the lights to be on,” Michael Hadaller said. “I said, grandpa’s probably up going to the bathroom.”

Michael Hadaller testified he later went to work in Alaska for about eight years and went there to look for the Riffe brothers but never caught up with them.

“So you believed they took out your grandparents, and you were going to take them out?” Crowley asked.

“Yes,” he said.

“Kill them?”

“Yes.”

Testimony is expected to resume in the morning.

Jury may be picked tomorrow in Maurin murder trial

Monday, October 7th, 2013
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Ricky Allen Riffe, far right, talks with his lawyer John Crowley as the defense team sorts through questionnaires filled out by scores of prospective jurors during a recess in Riffe’s murder trial.

by Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Judge Richard Brosey is hoping a jury can be selected by noon tomorrow, so opening statements can be made in a Lewis County double murder trial some have waited almost 28 years to begin.

Ricky Allen Riffe, 54, was wearing street clothes in court today, instead of the jail garb and shackles he’s worn in each court appearance since his arrest in July of last year.

The 54-year-old former Lewis County resident who relocated to Alaska in 1987 is charged in the abduction and shotgun deaths in December 1985 of an elderly Ethel couple, Ed and Wilhelmina Maurin.

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Ed and Minnie Maurin

At the Lewis County courthouse in Chehalis, scores of potential jurors spent the day undergoing questioning so lawyers can pare down the large group to a panel of 12.

Presiding in the large courtroom on the fourth floor, Brosey asked for a show of hands of any who know or are acquainted with the attorneys, the defendant, and the individuals on the lengthy list of witnesses expected to testify.

When he asked who among the 131 citizens couldn’t possibly serve for the entire time in a trial that could go as long as six weeks, most in the room raised their hands. Nearly half the room was excused after individual questioning about the hardship it would cause.

Riffe is charged with two counts each of first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping and first-degree robbery, as well as one count of burglary.

Numerous aggravating circumstances are alleged including particularly vulnerable victims and deliberate cruelty. Ed Maurin was 81 years old, his wife 83.

Prosecutors believe Riffe and his now-deceased brother John Gregory Riffe got into the couple’s home on U.S. Highway 12, uncovered bank records and forced the couple to go with them to their bank in Chehalis  to withdraw $8,500 before shooting them in the backs inside their car, according to charging documents. Their bodies were found off a logging road near Adna on Christmas Eve days later.

Most of the rest of today was spent with Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead and defense attorney John Crowley probing the remaining 70 prospective jurors in open court about their ability to be impartial.

Many were excused, mostly as they insisted they’d already made up their minds and could not be fair. Like Sandy Bowen of Onalaska who was in her early 20s when the Maurins were slain.

“I understand you think Ricky Riffe is guilty and should get the death penalty,” Crowley said as he addressed Bowen.

She agreed.

“It changed our town, it’s all we heard for the next 25 years,” Bowen said.

Outside the courtroom, Bowen recalled how many in the small community no longer felt safe, how many learned to shoot guns and became licensed to carry them concealed on their person because there was a killer at large.

“We didn’t know where they were,” she said.

Brosey reminded the potential jurors Riffe has pleaded not guilty and the state has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt the elements of the crimes, and that the jury will have the duty to determine the facts which they will then apply to the law.

Riffe, through his attorney, says he did not do it.

The trial will run 9:30 a.m. until noon and then 1:30 p.m. until 5 p.m. each week day, although the judge has said it’s possible there will be a day or portion of a day it goes into recess.

Who do you want deciding money matters at your fire department?

Monday, October 7th, 2013

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The general election is less than a month away, and along with various ballot measures and other choices for the voting public to make, there are nine fire districts around Lewis County which will see contested races for the position of fire commissioner.

Lewis County has 18 fire districts, the majority of which are run by a three-member board of commissioners. They are the mostly unpaid volunteers who are in charge of the finances and budgets to operate fire protection and emergency medical services in each community.

Today is the deadline for voter registration, address changes and other updates citizens might need to make with the elections division at the Lewis County Auditor’s Office. New Washington state residents get until Oct. 28.

Ballots for the all-vote-by-mail election will be sent out on Oct. 18. They must be returned with a postmark either before, or on, election day Nov. 5.

Two organizations will have levies on the ballot: Lewis County Fire District 17 in Mineral and Lewis County Fire District 14 in Randle.

See the online voter’s guide with information about candidates and measures. Following are the races to check out, according to the sample ballot from the auditor’s office:

Lewis County Fire District 2 in Toledo
• Curtis M. Feigenbaum
• Jacqui Spahr

Lewis County Fire District 4 in Morton
• Gerald Klepach
• Douglas L. Osterdahl

Lewis County Fire District 5 in Napavine
• Lyle Hojem
• Donald Ragan
• Kevin VanEgdom

Lewis County Fire District 8 in Salkum
• George Kaech
• Don Taylor

Lewis County Fire District 11 in Pe Ell
• Randy Coady
• John Woods

Lewis County Fire District 14 in Randle
• Frank Kittock
• Kenneth Lindh

Lewis County Fire District 18 in Glenoma
• Richard Kain
• Fred Jurey

Cowlitz-Lewis Fire District 20 in Vader
• Terry Williams
• Scott D. Horton

Riverside Fire Authority in Centralia
• Harlan E. Thompson
• Rick Conklin