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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.


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

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.


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

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.

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.”


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

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

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

Retired Lewis County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Glade Austin answers question from Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead in court.


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.


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



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



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

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.


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

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.


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.


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

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


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

Ricky A. Riffe listens to Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer give his opening statements in the double murder trial in Lewis County Superior Court.


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?”


Testimony is expected to resume in the morning.

Jury may be picked tomorrow in Maurin murder trial

Monday, October 7th, 2013

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.


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

Maurin murder trial: Twenty-seven-year-old case to commence in Chehalis

Friday, October 4th, 2013

Ricky Riffe consults with defense team member Richard Davis in Lewis County Superior Court today during preparations for his murder trial.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – As many as 180 potential jurors will be questioned when the trial for the 1985 kidnapping and murder of an elderly Ethel couple opens next week.

Described as one of the most horrific homicides in Lewis County, prosecutors have said the targets were selected more or less at random, taken from their home prior to a Christmas party and forced to  drive to their bank to withdraw money before getting shot in their backs and dumped on a logging road.

One of the two long-suspected brothers – then in their 20s – who was arrested last year plans to take the witness stand in the weeks-long trial, according to his lawyer.

“He’s absolutely going to testify,” Seattle-based attorney John Crowley said today.


Rick Riffe

Ricky Riffe, now 54, remains in the Lewis County Jail, held on $5 million bail since he was brought back to town from his home in Alaska a year ago in July. He is charged with murder, kidnapping, robbery and burglary, with numerous aggravating factors such as the vulnerability of the victims. His younger brother John Gregory Riffe died last summer.

The bodies of Ed Maurin, 81 and Wilhelmina “Minnie” Maurin, 83, were finally found on Christmas Eve days after they vanished from their home.

“This is a case where Mr. Riffe is going to tell the jury he did not do this, it’s going to be very simple,” Crowley told the judge today.

Lawyers on both sides met with Lewis County Superior Court Judge Richard Brosey this morning to go over details for the trial that begins on Monday morning.

For the state, elected Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer and Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead are assisted by sheriff’s detective Bruce Kimsey.

On the other side, Crowley and his paralegal Richard Davis will be sharing the defense table with Riffe.

Likely, the judge will weed out those who cannot serve for the lengthy case before a questionnaire is filled out by those remaining.


John Gregory Riffe

Crowley and prosecutors today discussed such issues as whether the  written inquiry should be so specific as to share that Riffe is charged as either the principal player or an accomplice in the crimes. It won’t.

Meyer requested a potential juror be excused now, since he works for the county and was needed to continue to help with the technical systems which will be used in the courtroom. He was.

Halstead said they’d like to take photos of the more than 200 witnesses they will call to the stand, which may be used  in a visual presentation during closing arguments. They can.

Judge Brosey said he wants six alternate jurors, in case any of the 12 chosen for any reason can’t continue.

Crowley was adamant they shouldn’t today address setting a trial date for an unrelated charge of child rape which prosecutors filed earlier this year.

He suggested that prosecutors were attempting to influence pre-trial publicity against his client and said it should not take place until after this jury is selected. Brosey postponed it.

They spoke of whether the Maurin’s car should have a place in the proceedings, and Crowley took the opportunity to note none of the 40 pieces of evidence collected from the car is connected to Riffe. The vehicle wasn’t preserved, Halstead said.

“Both sides have to deal with the fact this is a 27-year-old case,” Brosey said.

Both sides finally agreed they had all of the so-called discovery from the other – copies of all the statements, all the evidence, anything that either party plans to use in the case.

Prosecutors have more 400 items which will be presented as evidence during the trial.

Among the witnesses expected are a friend of the Riffes who said he used drugs with the brothers and recalled mentioning the couple must have a lot of money as the three drove past the Maurin’s house not long before their death; an individual who revealed in 2004 that John Riffe threatened to kill both him and his mother if he spoke about seeing the brothers with the Maurins in the Maurin’s car; another man interviewed in prison who said John Riffe paid him more than $2,000 in $100 bills for cocaine after the deaths; and numerous other people who have reportedly told detectives of seeing a man or men who matched the brothers’ descriptions at various key places that day, often noting one wearing a dark stocking cap, wearing an Army jacket or carrying a gun.

The trial will take place in the largest courtroom on the fourth floor of the Lewis County Law and Justice Center. It can hold 150 individuals.

The judge said no person will be kept out from any part of the proceedings. It will take at least all day Monday to pick the jury, according to Halstead.

The attorneys have previously said the trial could last three to four weeks. The judge will be telling prospective jurors it could last as long as six weeks.


Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead, right, Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer, center, and sheriff’s detective Bruce Kimsey share the table on the left side of the courtroom.

Onalaska man loses bid for further look at manslaughter conviction in shooting case

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The conviction will stand for the Onalaska man who fatally shot a suspected burglar outside his house three years ago.

Ronald A. Brady was sentenced to just over five years in prison for the death of 56-year-old Thomas McKenzie of Morton.


Ronald A. Brady, convicted

The Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office got word yesterday the Washington Supreme Court denied Brady’s petition for review.

Brady argued self defense in his June 2011 trial. He avoided a first-degree murder conviction, but a jury found him guilty of second-degree manslaughter.

He told sheriff’s detectives he was staying overnight at the uninhabited house he owns on the 2100 block of state Route 508 in case burglars from earlier in the day returned. The then-59-year-old described opening the garage door and finding flashlights shined in his face and then firing several times with a .22 caliber rifle.

The rejection by the court means he will stay behind bars.

“It means the defendant petitioned the Supreme Court to review the Court of Appeals affirmation of his conviction,” Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Sara Beigh said. “And the Supreme Court said no, we’re not going to look at it.”

Through his attorney, Brady had appealed on several grounds, including contending the court erred when it refused to give his proposed jury instruction on the right to resist the commission of a felony. The appeals court said in its April decision the facts of the case did not support such an instruction, as any felony that may have been committed did not pose an immediate threat of death or great bodily harm to Brady.

Longview lawyer John A. Hays said that actually wasn’t his strongest argument.

Hays said his main concern was jurors were not allowed to hear information that showed McKenzie and his wife were there to steal. Lewis County Superior Court Judge Nelson Hunt kept that out saying the defendant didn’t know it at the time, he said.

“I don’t think the evidence was presented fairly at all,” Hays said. “Of course the trial court didn’t see it that way, neither did the appeals court or the Supreme Court.”

The shooting occurred on April, 19, 2010. Lewis County Sheriff Steve Mansfield believed Brady’s use of force was justifiable, and declined to arrest him. The prosecutor’s office reviewed the case and filed charges the following September.

Brady is housed at Cedar Creek Corrections Center, a minimum security facility near Littlerock, according to the state Department of Corrections. The earliest he could be released, with so-called good time, is January 2016.

Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer said he didn’t think yesterday’s rejection by the Supreme Court necessarily clarified questions such as can a person use deadly force to protect property or how much does it matter if the person shot is inside or outside a house.

“I don’t think so, because this wasn’t self defense,” Meyer said. “It may make it more clear what self defense isn’t.”

There are so many variables, he said, he can’t give an easy answer or a checklist for what’s okay.

“Any action you take against another is going to be reviewed at multiple levels,” he said. “There’s no clear cut answer.”

Meyer did offer this however: “If someone acts in self defense, they are protected by the law.”


For background, read “Breaking news: Onalaska murder trial: Guilty of second-degree manslaughter” from Friday June 24, 2011, here

Read the decision

Remorseful boyfriend who strangled Chehalis woman sent to prison

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

Corey R. Morgan avoids the gaze of his dead girlfriend’s family members in court.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The 33-year-old man who admitted he beat his 48-year-old girlfriend to death was sentenced to nearly 24 years behind bars today, after listening in a Chehalis courtroom to others describe the lives he’s ruined.

Chehalis resident Brenda Bail left behind two teenage daughters when Corey R. Morgan strangled her in July.

His initial story was they’d traveled up a logging road near Morton when three guys appeared and assaulted her, and then he wrecked his truck trying to get away. He had been sentenced just two days earlier for an incident from last fall when he punched her in the face.

His lawyer says both were bi-polar, both taking medication and both decided to go out drinking together.

“And as the prosecutor indicated, we don’t know exactly what happened, other than the fact Brenda is now deceased,” defense attorney Don Blair said.

Morgan was arrested after the July 19 death and in late August pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and second-degree assault.

Today, in Lewis County Superior Court, clad in red jail garb, handcuffs and shackles, Morgan turned partially away when Bail’s daughters and other family addressed the judge.

Barely intelligible, the youngest pleaded for him to go to AA classes and become the person she knew before the alcohol Older family members spoke instead of their view that he exploited Bail for money.

Her uncle, Mike Madden echoed her father’s sentiments Morgan used Bails, and expressed how troubled he was about a turbulent relationship.

“I suggested as strongly as I could not letting him back into her life again, but she did,” Madden said. “And when there was nothing left to get, nothing left to take, he took her life. He viciously and brutally murdered her.”

Blair told Judge James Lawler his client decided to plead guilty right away to spare the family further suffering. He said Morgan would not be making a statement to the court on his own behalf.

“He has expressed remorse, he’s told me several times he’s sorry,” Blair said. “He does not believe he can, without completely breaking down, make a statement.”

Judge Lawler called the quick plea insignificant, compared with the facts described as evidence that showed what he did and the losses he caused.

“In consideration of that, I cannot in good conscience do anything but impose the top of the range,” Lawler said.

Morgan was given just short of 23 years, which the judge ordered to be served consecutively with the one year sentence from the previous assault.

For background, read “Man suspected of killing fiancee had assaulted her before, lawyer says” from Tuesday July 23, 2013, here

Lost and Found: Authorities seeking family of child whose gravestone was found along highway

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

The large stone is engraved with the name of Martin Edwin Brooks.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Who’s heard the name Martin Edwin Brooks, a baby who was born in 1942 and died the same year?

His headstone appears to have gotten separated from his grave.

The Lewis County Coroner’s Office is requesting the public’s assistance to return the memorial marker to its rightful place.

The granite-like stone sits in the sheriff’s office evidence building in Chehalis, where it has been since it was discovered in February 2012 alongside the 400 block of Jackson Highway South near Toledo.

Coroner Warren McLeod wants to help get it back to where ever it belongs.

It could have at one time sat atop a private burial on family land, or possibly in a cemetery or maybe it has never even been in the ground. McLeod doesn’t know for sure.

How it ended up in the tall grass on an easement next to the highway, he doesn’t know. A county employee who was mowing had spotted it, and another individual picked it up and turned it in, he said.

The stone appears to be granite and is large. It’s two feet across by one foot, with a thickness of about five inches.

It currently appears very off-white or light brown and seems to have been professionally engraved, according to McLeod.

McLeod is hoping someone has a clue, perhaps someone knows the Brooks family who may have lived in the area in the past, he said. Or maybe some of them still do, he said.

The coroner’s office is working in conjunction with the sheriff’s office, who have already been checking various possibilities such as death registrations, genealogical web sites and local cemeteries. They’ve had no luck, he said.

His plea to the public: “Please help us find the rightful owners so the headstone of an infant can be returned to its rightful place.”

McLeod asks anyone who has any information about the headstone or the Brooks family to please call his office at 360-740-1376, the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office at 360-748-9286 or the sheriff’s office evidence department at 360-740-1470 or 360-740-1331.