By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
CHEHALIS - Ricky Allen Riffe’s mother and father came to court this afternoon, but their son who is accused in the 1985 kidnap and slaying of an elderly couple won’t been seen by a judge until next week.
Riffe, 53, was brought back yesterday to Lewis County from his home in Alaska where he has lived since 1987.
Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer this morning said Riffe would go before a judge today, but Riffe’s attorney requested a postponement until Tuesday, because he is out of town.
The former Lewis County resident was arrested earlier this month at his home for the deaths of Edward and Wilhelmina Maurin of Ethel more than a quarter of a century ago.
Riffe is just a hard working family man who was shocked by his arrest, his attorney John Crowley said.
“He knew the people had been murdered and the police investigation followed a number of leads,” Crowley said. “And on many occasions they had talked to Rick and his brother John.”
Riffe lives in King Salmon, Alaska, a small fishing community where he helped raise his two step-children, and worked as a heavy equipment operator, according to the attorney. One of the grown sons is in his third-year of law school, he said.
“From everyone that we’ve talked to, his character was that of a gentle nature, he has no criminal history,” Crowley said of his client.
The Seattle-based attorney said he’s concerned about some of the reports he’s read in the news, especially a commentator who wrote the only way Riffe wouldn’t be found guilty would be by a confused jury.
“Mr. Riffe is concerned the people might think the same thing,” he said. “All he wants is a fair trial, with evidence, he knows he will be found not guilty.”
The Lewis County sheriff and prosecutor held a well-attended press conference the day after local detectives made the arrest, saying Riffe and his younger brother John Gregory Riffe had long been primary suspects in the old case.
Sheriff Steve Mansfield described how the sheriff’s office felt it had a strong case back in the early 1990s, but for whatever reason wasn’t able to persuade a prosecutor to file charges.
Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer – new to the office 18 months ago – likened it to a puzzle in which he realized they had all the pieces they needed.
The case has been the sole assignment of one of the sheriff’s detectives for the past four months, according to Meyer.
Sixteen pages of charging documents describe numerous people who were interviewed, after the bodies were found and then witnesses who turned up in the early 1990s.
One of “Minnie” Hadaller’s sons, Dennis Hadaller, hired two private investigators who spoke with new sources in 2004. Many of the witnesses listed were reinterviewed by sheriff’s detective Bruce Kimsey in recent years.
John Riffe died of ill health a week before detectives purchased tickets to travel to Alaska to arrest the brothers. He was 50.
Ricky and John Riffe formerly lived in the Salkum area toward Mayfield Lake and Adna, according to the sheriff’s office.
Ed and Minnie Maurin
The charging documents allege some of the following details for the charges of kidnap, robbery and murder:
Ed Maurin, 81, and his wife, 83, were reported missing Dec. 19, 1985 after guests arrived for a Christmas party at their house along U.S. Highway 12 in Ethel and found nobody home.
“(I)t appears that the defendants gained entry into the Maurin residence, closed the curtains, searched the home, uncovered bank records and forced the victims to call the bank,” Prosecutor Meyer writes.
An employee at Sterling Savings Bank in Chehalis said Ed Maurin phoned about 9:35 a.m. that day and advised he needed $8,500 cash, that “the kids” were going to help them buy a car.
Family members told investigators there was no such plan.
A truck driver who was contacted in 1991 pointed to Ricky Riffe and offered several pieces of information, including a possible reason the Maurins was targeted.
The unnamed witness recalled seeing the couple outside their Ethel home when he and the brothers drove past it about two weeks before the deaths.
He recalled mentioning they must have money, because they owned all the Christmas trees surrounding their property and their son had a successful logging business.
Another man came forward in 2004, who said he withheld information for fear the Riffe brothers would kill him or his family.
That man told of driving with his mother from his home in Mossyrock “into town” that December, when he saw the Riffe brothers in a car with the Maurin couple.
“He remembered waving and getting a good look at Greg, who was in the backseat.”
The brothers confronted him and threatened him shortly after if he spoke about what he saw.
Numerous other people are cited as having 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.
Ed Maurin withdrew cash from the bank, even though the bank suggested a cashier’s check.
A witness re-interviewed in June, claims to have seen the couple in their car with an unshaven “scuzzy” male passenger in the backseat on state Route 6, and then again about a mile from where the two bodies were subsequently found.
The witness had a machine shop and had been working on a “skidder” and then was going to meet it and the operator at a logging site on Bunker Creek Road.
He indicated he was following behind a westbound green Chrysler or Dodge that was traveling only about 35 mph and backing up traffic. He passed the car.
“He said an elderly man was driving and looked up at him with a scared / frantic look in his eyes.”
The younger male was sitting in the backseat, resting his upper body and arms on the back portion of the front seat.
When the witness me up with the skidder operator on Bunker Creek Road, just past Ceres Hill Road, he saw the same vehicle creeping toward him about 25 mph. He said he remarked he was amazed the old man was still driving, and the car continued up Bunker Creek Road.
The witness said afterward he went to pick up a generator at Kresky Auto around the lunch hour and saw the same man from the backseat of the vehicle walking on a berm between Yard Birds and the Lewis County Mall.
Early on the morning of Dec. 20, the couple’s car was found abandoned in the parking lot at Yard Birds. Inside were the keys, a large amount of blood stains and a man’s hat like Ed Maurin wore.
On Christmas Eve, the Maurin’s bodies were found off a logging road off the end of Stearns Hill Road, seven miles west of Chehalis.
They had been shot in the backs with a shotgun while in their car.
Crowley said as far as he can tell, it’s an old case, with no new evidence and no new witnesses. When Riffe was arrested, he thought at least there might be some DNA evidence, but he hasn’t heard of any, he said.
“For whatever reason, they decided to arrest him,” Crowley said. “Other than, they think he did it.”
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.
He is being held on the $5 million arrest warrant.
The attorneys and Riffe will go before Judge Richard Brosey in Lewis County Superior Court at 4 p.m. on Tuesday and likely talk about the bail amount.
For back ground, read:
• “Breaking news: Sheriff: Cold case solved in 1985 shooting death of elderly Ethel couple” from Monday July 9, 2012 at 9:13 a.m., here
• “Sheriff: It’s safe for further witnesses to come forward following arrest in deaths of Ethel couple” from Monday July 9, 2012 at 5:14 p.m., here