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Breaking news: Jury finds Ricky Riffe guilty in Maurin homicides

Monday, November 18th, 2013

Ricky A. Riffe, right, stands before Judge Richard Brosey as he is pronounced guilty in the 1985 deaths of Ed and Minnie Maurin today.

Updated at 6:34 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Ricky A. Riffe has been found guilty in the slayings of Ed and Minnie Maurin, the elderly Ethel couple whose bodies were found off a logging road near Adna on Christmas Eve day in 1985, shotgun wounds through their backs.

The jury took about a day and a half of deliberating to reach its decision.

Denise Snell was among the many family members and friends of the couple who gathered in Lewis County Superior Court in Chehalis this afternoon to hear the verdicts. The trial lasted six weeks, the investigation nearly three decades.


Ed and Minnie Maurin

The Onalaska woman said now that it’s over, her grandparents can be remembered like the wonderful, loving people that they were and not just as homicide victims.

“I want them remembered like that, like it should be,” Snell said.

Two of Minnie’s children, now in their 80s, were in the front bench in the courtroom as they have been throughout the proceedings.

Hazel Oberg said simply, “I’m relieved.”

Denny Hadaller’s emotions kept him from finding exactly the right words, he said.

“I’m elated, and I’m sorry for his family,” Hadaller said. “I knew he was guilty, I knew it in 1992. We just couldn’t prove it.”

Riffe, now 55, was arrested last year in at his home in King Salmon, Alaska and returned to Lewis County. The sheriff’s office has said he and his younger brother were suspects as early as the 1990s, but previous prosecutors wouldn’t file charges.

Hadaller hired private investigators 10 years ago who reviewed the apparent abduction of the couple from their home. New witnesses came forward, according to the sheriff’s office.

On Dec. 19, 1985, Ed Maurin withdrew $8,500 in $100 bills from Sterling Savings Bank in Chehalis and the couple’s blood stained car was found abandoned the following morning at Yard Birds Shopping Center. It wasn’t until five days later they were located.

Investigators found they were shot from behind while sitting in their car on Stearns Hill Road, their bodies dumped.


Ricky A. Riffe

A jury of eight women and four men began their deliberations late on Thursday and at lunchtime today indicated they were nearly finished with their duty, sending a message to the judge that they’d made a mistake on two of the forms and needed new ones.

An hour later, about 60 people crowded into the spectator side of the courtroom. Judge Richard Brosey began reading the verdicts at 2:10 p.m.

Riffe was found guilty on all counts, including first-degree murder, although the jury had the option of second-degree given to them in their instructions.

They found him guilty also of two counts each of first-degree kidnapping, first-degree robbery and one count of first-degree burglary as well.

The jury answered yes on the special verdict forms, that they found the crimes involved particularly vulnerable victims, deliberate cruelty and the defendant showed an egregious lack of remorse.

Ed Maurin was 81, his wife Minnie was 83 years old.

“They answered everything we wanted to be answered,” Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer said.

Meyer gave credit to the hard work of detective Bruce Kimsey and Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead.

“And to the family, for never giving up,” Meyer said.

Riffe’s partner of 24 years, Sherry Tibbetts, and her son and another relation left the courtroom once he was taken away. It didn’t appear he even looked their direction before leaving.

Local attorney Sam Groberg stood in for Riffe’s lawyer, John Crowley, who had to be in another court today.

Riffe was charged as as the principal player or as an accomplice, and only the jury knows exactly what it believed occurred.

One witness testified he saw both brothers inside the Maurin’s vehicle the morning of Dec. 19, heading away from their home. Other witnesses who saw the car that day at key places saw one person in the backseat.

Numerous witnesses picked out both brothers from montages, brothers who some witnesses said did everything together. John Gregory Riffe died last year at age 50 before he could be charged.

Crowley this evening said he’s not a sore loser but it wasn’t a fair prosecution, and the things he saw were appalling.

“I’ve never seen a case where as a rule, witnesses changed from what they told police initially to when they testified,” Crowley said. “And the prosecutors did it with a straight face.”

It’s not over, according to Crowley.

“We’re not giving up, we’re going to investigate and Rick’s gonna get justice,” he said.

Sentencing has not yet been scheduled.


For background, read “Maurin murder trial: What will the jury decide?” from Saturday November 16, 2013, here


Hazel Oberg and Denny Hadaller embrace, surrounded by family after the verdict comes in guilty in the 1985 deaths of their mother and step father.


Ricky A. Riffe’s longtime girlfriend Sherry Tibbetts, center, and family wait for the verdict to be read.


Hazel Oberg talks with a news reporter while her niece Denise Snell looks on.


Denny Hadaller sits with his daughter while Ricky Riffe talks with his stand-in lawyer today in Lewis County Superior Court.

Maurin murder trial: What will the jury decide?

Saturday, November 16th, 2013

Ed and Minnie Maurin

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The 28-year-old double murder case is in the hands of the jury now, who will return to the courthouse on Monday morning to continue deliberations.

While Ed and Minnie Maurin have long rested in the cemetery next to the St. Francis Mission Catholic Church in Toledo, one of the two longtime suspects waits in the Lewis County Jail since his arrest last year.

Ricky A. Riffe, 55, is charged as the principle or an accomplice in the Dec. 19, 1985 shotgun deaths of the elderly Ethel couple. The former Mossyrock man relocated to Alaska in the late 1980s.

His trial in Lewis County Superior Court began in early October and concluded Thursday afternoon. His younger brother John Gregory Riffe died last year before he could be charged.

Defense attorney John Crowley says there’s nothing more than rumors and gossip that connect his client to the case. Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer and his senior deputy Will Halstead have told the panel that circumstantial evidence is just as valuable as direct evidence.

The jury of eight women and four men was sent to begin deliberating shortly before 5 p.m., on Thursday but went home at 5:30 p.m. and reconvened yesterday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Meanwhile, for anyone who wished they’d followed the court proceedings more closely, now is a chance to catch up and perhaps draw some conclusions before the jury finishes its work.

Below, find below the complete coverage of the trial with headlines and links to the stories:

• “Maurin murder trial: Final words to the jury” from Friday November 15, 2013 at 3:28 p.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: Defense points to fear, distorted memories” from Friday November 15, 2013 at 9:18 a.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: Prosecutor points to defendant as accomplice” from Thursday November 14, 2013 at 9:27 a.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: Defense decides to call no witnesses” from Tuesday November 12, 2013 at 1:20 p.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: Reporter’s notebook” from Monday November 11, 2013 at 11:35 a.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: Testimony of Riffe admission to inmate leads to dual complaints” from Saturday November 9, 2013 at 7:59 p.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: Internet chat with the suspect” from Friday November 8, 2013 at 9:28 a.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: Suspect is ‘witty’” from Thursday November 7, 2013 at 9:03 a.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: The arrest” from Wednesday November 6, 2013 at 9:02 a.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: What suspects told detectives, and more” from Saturday November 2, 2013 at 3:59 p.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: Money for drugs” from Friday November 1, 2013 at 8:42 a.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: Former drug dealer claims defendant admitted involvement” from Thursday October 31, 2013 at 8:57 a.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: Lab tests turn up little to nothing” from Wednesday October 30, 2013 at 1:20 p.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: Jason Shriver talks” from Tuesday October 29, 2013 at 8:52 a.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: Riffe’s buddy tells what he knows” from Sunday October 27, 013 at 8:37 a.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: Witnesses pick out Riffe brothers as men they saw at Yard Birds” from Saturday October 26, 2013 at 4:35 p.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: Robin Riffe’s family talks” from Friday October 25, 2013 at 9:17 a.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: Ed and Minnie go to the bank” from Thursday October 24, 2013 at 9:03 a.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: More testimony, and the arrest” from Wednesday October 23, 2013 at 9:12 a.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: New information in old case takes both sides by surprise” from Tuesday October 22, 2013 at 7:31 p.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: What jurors didn’t hear about” from Tuesday October 22, 2013 at 1:21 p.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: Witnesses testify about a green sedan” from Monday October 21, 2013 at 8:55 a.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: Testimony takes day off for death of defendant’s dad” from Friday Oct. 18, 2013 at 9:27 a.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: Surprise witness implicates dead Riffe brother” from Thursday Oct. 17, 2013 at 8:52 a.m., here

• “Defense: Maurin murder trial jeopardized by hearsay evidence” from Wednesday October 16, 2013 at 9:10 a.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: Jurors hear of autopsy and finger prints” from Tuesday October 15, 2013 at 9:38 a.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: What the crime scenes showed” from Saturday October 12, 2013 at 7:06 p.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: Testimony continues about slain Ethel couple” from Thursday October 10, 2013 at 9:13 a.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: Defense attorney tells of two other suspects” from Tuesday October 8, 2013 at 11:51 p.m., here

• “Jury may be picked tomorrow in Maurin murder trial” from Monday October 7, 2013 at 9:15 p.m., here

• “Maurin murder trial: Twenty-seven-year-old case to commence in Chehalis ” from  Friday October 4, 2013 at 9:45 p.m., here


Ricky A. Riffe, 53, of King Salmon, Alaska, makes his first appearance in Lewis County Superior Court in July 2012.


Ricky Riffe, 55, far right, and lawyers during trial in mid-October.


Ricky Riffe talks with a jail guard during a recess in court early this past week.

Maurin murder trial: Final words to the jury

Friday, November 15th, 2013

Rick Riffe, right, and his lawyer listen to prosecutors offer a rebuttal in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The prosecutor summarized his case, the defense offered its closing statements and the state got one last chance to address the jury yesterday before deliberations began on the 1985 slaying of Ed and Minnie Maurin, the Ethel couple who instead of hosting their annual Christmas party that year, were taken out to a logging road and shot in the backs.

Ricky A. Riffe, 55, is represented by a Seattle attorney who says the sheriff’s office got the wrong man. Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer and his senior deputy prosecutor contend the former Mossyrock man at the very least was an accomplice to their other longtime suspect who is dead, the defendant’s younger brother John Gregory Riffe.

Riffe’s attorney had said at the beginning of last month his client would take the stand, but he didn’t.

Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead took and hour and a half at the end of yesterday to rebut Crowley’s closing.

Crowley did what defense attorneys do when they don’t like what’s happened in the courtroom, Halstead said.

“What’s the defense, did you hear one?” Halstead asked. “Did you hear Greg was not involved?”

“No,” he answered himself.

Crowley’s insinuation prosecutors backpedaled from pinning it all of his client in their opening to suggesting two or more people were responsible when they gave closing arguments was an unfair characterization, according to Halstead.

“I thought I made it clear,” Halstead told the jury. “One person involved is dead, one is alive, and, there possibly could be more.”

The fear Crowley kept alluding to is the real fear witnesses felt about testifying, he said.

Nearly 100 individuals took the stand during five weeks of testimony to tell what they noticed at the Maurin’s house from where prosecutors say the couple was abducted, to the bank where prosecutors say they were forced to withdraw $8,500, to Stearns Hill Road where their bodies were found and on roadways in between where prosecutors say the Maurin’s 1969 Chrysler traveled on Dec. 19, 1985.

Item by item, Halstead picked apart Crowley’s contentions.

The event witness Les George described about Riffe tearing the page out of the book after his shotgun purchase at Sunbirds: “It’s not really relevant to this case.”

As far as the money the Riffes seemed to have to spend after the crimes, Halstead said he never claimed Greg Riffe purchased a log truck and detectives didn’t seek out the registration for the boat Rick Riffe bought because he admitted he bought it.

“The Christmas gifts, where’s the money for that?” Halstead asked. “Mr. Crowley glazed over that. He never explained to you where the money came from.”

Crowley said no one saw a sawed-off shotgun, he said, but several people testified they saw a person with a shotgun.

“Mr. Crowley wants you to believe there really were three people in the car,” he said. “Does it really make a difference? No.”

The burglary: “This is where you’re allowed to consider circumstantial evidence,” Halstead said.

The Maurins were in their 80s, all someone needed to do was knock on the door, or enter through an unlocked backdoor, he said.

It’s plausible, in that Minnie Maurin clearly had warning something was wrong, and hid her purse behind the couch beneath a newspaper, according to Halstead.

And the bank documents found on the bathroom floor, he said. Somebody got them and took them into one of the only places in the house where they could not seen from the outside, he said.

“Let’s talk about why Ricky left Washington,” Halstead said. “Oh, the rumors are the reason he left? Who came in here and testified about that? Not one person.”

Halstead told the jurors it was entirely up to them to decide which witnesses they felt were credible and which they did not. The defense attorneys opinion on that doesn’t mean anything, he said.

“Mr. Crowley suggested Deputy Forth didn’t see what he saw,” Halstead said. “It’s ridiculous. He saw the red blanket, he picked the person out the montage.”

Halstead said if jurors wanted to ignore Erwin Bartlett’s testimony, it wouldn’t matter to the case. The former fellow inmate wanted his case dismissed in exchange for telling about what Riffe told him, he said.

Marty Smeltzer. “Again, you can do what you want,” he told the jurors.

The state doesn’t need that testimony, he said.

Halstead said he understood why the defense tried to get jurors to disregard Jason Shriver’s testimony that he saw Ricky and his brother with the Maurins inside their car on the foggy morning of Dec. 19, 1985.

“Because Mr. Shriver is an extremely important witness in this case,” he said. “Is that really what they’re going to hang their hat on? Because Jason said it was clear that day?”

Halstead told the jury if they believed Shriver, the state has proved its case.

“Erwin Bartlett and Gordon Campbell, if you don’t believe them, don’t consider them,” he said.

Halstead’s parting words before the jury was sent to deliberate: “Common sense. Use it. Rely on it.”

The jury of eight women and four men was sent to begin deliberating shortly before 5 p.m. yesterday, but chose to go home at 5:30 p.m. and returned this morning to continue.

Riffe is charged as the principal player or as an accomplice with one count of burglary, two counts of first-degree kidnapping, two counts of first-degree robbery and two counts of first-degree murder, or, in the alternative, two counts of second-degree murder.


Ricky Riffe’s longtime girlfriend Sherry Tibbetts and her son Jeremy Kern watch proceedings from the defense side of the courtroom.

Bucoda man fights armed intruder

Friday, November 15th, 2013

Updated at 12:06 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A Centralia man was arrested after he allegedly broke into a Bucoda home wearing a mask and armed with a handgun last night.

Police were called about 10:35 p.m. to the 100 block of Perkins Street North where a 34-year-old man said he was awakened by the intruder who ordered him to come with him, according to the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office.

The resident put on his shoes as though he was going to comply but then turned on the man and began punching him, according to the sheriff’s office. The two fought, the victim was pistol whipped and the intruder fired a single shot into the floor in between the victim’s feet before grabbing his cell phone and fleeing, according to Sgt. Ken Clark.

Clark says the victim recognized the man as the soon-to-be ex-husband of a female friend, as he had pulled the man’s mask off.

The sergeant called it a scary nightmare kind of scenario which the victim decided not to take meekly.

“The victim decided, you know, it’s not going to happen today,” he said.

Clark said it wasn’t clear where the intruder planned to take the man, he just kept demanding he leave with him.

Thomas Denegar, 26, was arrested a short time later in the Grand Mound area after he called to report he was the victim of an assault, according to Clark.

Denegar was booked into the Thurston County Jail for first-degree burglary, assault and robbery, according to the sheriff’s office.

Maurin murder trial: Defense points to fear, distorted memories

Friday, November 15th, 2013

Defense lawyer John Crowley gives his closing arguments in Ricky Riffe’s murder trial.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Ricky A. Riffe’s lawyer gave his closing arguments yesterday telling the jury hearing the 1985 double-murder case that if they followed the rules given to them, they would see there was no real evidence against his client and they would acquit him.

John Crowley pointed to the fear that gripped the community nearly 30 years ago when the elderly couple vanished from their home in Ethel and turned up shot to death off a logging road outside Adna.

It caused folks to sleep with guns and warn their children, Crowley said. As professional as they were, even the police were affected by it, he said.

“Fear is illogical, it knows nothing about time,” Crowley said.

The key instructions the jury must look at, he said, are the presumption of innocence and reasonable doubt.

Checking the ‘guilty’ box requires that jurors can, with conviction, walk out of the courthouse and say his client did it, he said.

The Seattle-based attorney spoke for about four hours in Lewis County Superior Court after five weeks of testimony and more than 600 items were presented as physical evidence.

He repeatedly offered the phrase, “false evidence appearing real.”

What prosecutors presented did not connect his client to it, Crowley said, although there were many appearances it did.

“Thirty years plus six weeks of trial, it is obvious nobody knows what happened,” he said. “Nobody.”

Riffe, 55, is charged with numerous offenses in connection with December 1985 deaths of Ed and Minnie Maurin. He and his now-deceased younger brother have been the prime suspects since the early 1990s but he was only arrested last year.

Crowley spoke in partial sentences and run-on sentences, from his podium he placed next to his client.

He moved from topic to topic and back again in a courtroom in which eight family and friends sat behind the defense table while about 30 spectators crowded onto the benches behind prosecutors.

Crowley laced his recitation with phrases including the words “friendly”, “hostile”, “scammer” and “invader” in apparent reference to whomever took the Maurins. He spoke of witnesses who have been “cued” for nearly 30 years.

Why do they keep saying sawed off shotgun, he asked. What witness actually saw the sawed off shotgun?

Government is a structure run by people with resources and personalities, he told the jury.

“When it says a sawed off shotgun was used, you believe it, it’s human nature,” Crowley said.

He pointed out witnesses who saw a man around Yard Birds – where the Maurin’s bloody car was found – who spoke of a long gun.

“Make them prove it, make them do something they cannot do, which is prove beyond a reasonable doubt,” he said. “Because at the end, Rick is entitled to an acquittal.”

Prosecutors made it sound as though his client was kind of a freeloader, he said, but he was a logger who was hurt on the job, he told the jury.

“He also consumed some amount of drugs, but we don’t know how much,” he said.

Crowley said his client’s friend Les George seemed like a hardworking guy, and it sounded as though he was a suspect at one point, he noted.

Why would Riffe rip the page out of the registration book at Sunbirds when George bought his gun there, and how much did it even mean if it happened 14 months before the homicides, he asked. If it even happened, he added.

As for the burglary at the Maurin’s home, there’s no evidence how entry was made, he said.

“There was real evidence,” he said. “There was the purse between the couch and that wall, but it doesn’t take you down any path.”

Crowley re-characterized his client’s answers to law enforcement as similar to anyone else who is asked about events from perhaps six years earlier from a day that had no significance.

His client did ask his brother-in-law if shotgun shells could be traced, he said. But they were also talking about goose hunting, and he had a felony conviction which meant he shouldn’t handle firearms, he said.

Crowley showed the jury pictures of his client taken during that summer, and on Christmas Day, claiming his beard couldn’t match up with the few days growth of facial hair described by witnesses.

He listed the various purchases prosecutors implied the Riffe brothers made with the proceeds of the crime, suggesting $8,500 couldn’t be stretched that far.

“They nailed Rick at White Pass on Dec. 19 doing a drug deal,” he said. “But remember, (Jeff) McKenzie had him at the AM/PM that night.”

He pointed out no physical evidence linked Riffe to the crimes. No DNA, no hair, no fiber, no trace evidence, nothing, he said.

And where is the registration or any sales document for a supposed white car Riffe owned, he asked.

Early in the investigation, when photos were shown and nobody was picked, the detectives didn’t record it, he told the jury. So nobody knows how many people looked at his client’s face and didn’t choose it, he said, when their memories were fresher.

Crowley kept speaking of how unreliable people’s memories are, noting that witnesses who picked Riffe from a montage made their choice 9,835 days after the homicide.

“I should say this,” he said. “Those witnesses are not lying, they are gripped with fear.”

Adna resident William Reisinger testified the Maurin’s sedan was speeding down Bunker Creek Road at 11:35 a.m. on Dec. 19, 1985, he said.

And former Lewis County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Billy Forth – who testified he saw the same car and identified both Riffe and his brother as the lone driver – was already back at the courthouse looking at his watch at 11:10 a.m., he said.

“He’s not lying,” Crowley said. “He’s a mistaken witness that blamed himself.”

Crowley reminded the jury of the long list of witnesses at or passing through Ethel that morning who told of how foggy it was and of the ones who saw the Maurins in their green car with another person.

The one person who said they saw a fourth person in the vehicle was adamant that happened on a clear day, he said.

Jason Shriver was 17 years old and on the way with his mother to a dental appointment, and the “split second” look he got at the Riffe brothers in a car probably occurred, Crowley said.

Crowley suggested Shriver’s memories were jumbled by time and emotion, and the narcotics he was given after his oral surgery.

“Whatever day this was, it undoubtedly was not Dec. 19,” he said.

According to the defense attorney, Frank Perkin’s testimony was preposterous. Marty Smeltzer’s was nonsense. Witness Gordon Campbell is like Erwin Bartlett in that he knew he wasn’t telling the truth, he said.

Campbell is the kind of person who thinks if someone is charged they must be guilty, he claimed. Bartlett committed perjury, he said.

Why is the prosecution even offering witnesses like that, Crowley asked the jury.

“Because fear knows no bounds, it has caught them,” he said.

His client had nothing to do with it, he concluded.

“Rick did not do this, there’s no real evidence he did this,” Crowley  said, raising his voice. “He’s entitled to an acquittal based on real evidence, not perjury.”

The jury of eight women and four men was sent to begin deliberating shortly before 5 p.m., but chose to go home at 5:30 p.m. and return this morning to continue.

Maurin murder trial: Prosecutor points to defendant as accomplice

Thursday, November 14th, 2013

Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead gives his closing arguments with an early 1980s mug shot of Ricky Riffe as a back drop.

Updated at 7:27 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Jurors in the Maurin murder trial listened all day yesterday to a prosecutor explain how Ricky A. Riffe is responsible for the December 1985 slaying of the elderly Ethel couple.

Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead asked almost as many questions during his closing as he gave answers to.

“The state’s not going to stand up and tell you we know what happened in this case,” Halstead said. “We do not.”

His hours-long recitation of weeks of testimony left it clear that Ed, 81, and Minnie, 83, Maurin were shot in the backs with double-ought buck inside their car which was then parked and empty at Yard Birds Shopping Center in Chehalis on Dec. 19, 1985.

Ed Maurin had withdrawn $8,500 cash in $100 bills from his bank at about the same hour that day the couple was expecting guests to begin arriving to their home for an annual Christmas party.

Prosecutors believe the couple was forced from their home to drive to the Chehalis bank and had numerous witnesses who believe they saw the 1969 Chrysler Newport at various key places, mostly with the couple in the front seat and a man in the backseat.

But Jason Shriver saw the Maurins as well as Ricky Riffe and his now-deceased brother in the car driving west on U.S. Highway 12, Halstead reminded jurors.

“I want you to ask yourself, what motive does a 17-year-old high school boy have to make up a story?” Halstead asked. “To  make this up?”

Shriver knows the Maurins, he knows the Riffe brothers, he said.

“Jason looks over, he sees Rick in the front passenger street facing straight ahead,” he said. “He sees all of them, recognizes them, IDs them.”

Halstead pondered what the Riffe brothers might have done.

“At this point, there’s no turning back, they are accomplices,” he said. “At this point, a burglary and kidnapping have occurred.”

Halstead reminded jurors of the white car seen leaving the Maurin’s driveway that same morning and to ask themselves who might have been driving it and if it were perhaps waiting on the side of the road.

“The question is, what happened to the other person in the back of the car?” he said.

Numerous witnesses have picked out both Ricky and John Gregory Riffe from photos, seen at various places. They’re brothers, they look alike, he said.

The deputy prosecutor pointed out at the bank, Ed Maurin told Pat Hull something like the kids were going to help them buy a car.

“If this is true, why don’t any of the kids know it?” Halstead asked. “He’s under duress, he’s being told what to do.”

Ed Maurin also said his wife didn’t feel good, he said.

“Why would they go to Seattle or Tacoma to buy a car if Minnie doesn’t feel good?” he said. “These people are 80 years old.”

Halstead recounted to the jury that William Reisinger who saw the green car speeding down Bunker Creek Road – near the logging road where the couple’s bodies were found five days later – remembered seeing the male driver’s two hands on the steering wheel, wearing gloves.

Remember how one witness said he saw the Riffe brothers standing next to the green car in the Yard Birds parking lot and detective Richard Herrington said he thought he’d find more finger prints on the car? he asked.

“But not if you’re wearing gloves. Not if you’ve wiped it down,” he said.

Numerous witnesses described seeing a man carrying a gun who could have been one of the Riffes at multiple places around the shopping center that day.

“My question is, are all these witnesses seeing the same person?” he said. “Or are there possibly two men walking around there with green jackets?”

Halstead spent the next several hours yesterday in Lewis County Superior Court recounting witness testimony that pointed to the Riffe brothers.

Rick and Robin Riffe had little money before the homicides but seemed to have money to spend afterward. His friend, long haul trucker Les George, testified Riffe has possession of his shot gun during that period, as he was cutting it down for him to use as a truck gun.

Halstead offered that the burglary could have been as as simple as someone knocking on the Maurin’s front door that morning, or walking through their back door with a gun. And that prosecutors believe Minnie was shot first while the car was still moving, having partially opened her door leaving a trail of her blood on the logging road.

As he concluded, he told the jury they were allowed to use their common sense to make inferences. In Washington, circumstantial and direct evidence can be weighed equally, he said.

“So, was it Rick or John? Who was the shooter?” Halstead asked.

“It doesn’t matter,” he said.

Both were selected from the montages.

“They’re both accomplices, it does not matter who was the shooter,” he said. “They’re both equally liable for all these crimes.”

“Could there be someone else out there who had a part in it? Absolutely,” he said.

Judge Richard Brosey sent the jury home before 5 p.m. with the same reminders not to read or listen to news about the case, and to return this morning when they would heard the defense closing.

“You’ve only heard half the closing arguments, so don’t jump to any conclusions,” Brosey said. “Remember what I told you, there’s always two sides to every story.”

Maurin murder trial: Defense decides to call no witnesses

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

Sherry Tibbetts, the woman Riffe has been with for 24 years in Alaska, waits to make sure he sees her before leaving the courtroom this afternoon; with her son Jeremy Kern. Tibbetts was kept out of the courtroom until now because she was listed as a witness.

Updated at 8:21 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – After arguments, motions and rulings this morning without the jury, murder defendant Ricky Riffe’s lawyer told the jury his client instructed him not to put on any defense witnesses.

Prosecutors rested their case just before 11 a.m., and Seattle-based attorney John Crowley stood up and announced to the courtroom:

“Mr. Riffe has directed the defense to call no witnesses and rest our case,” Crowley said. “On behalf of Rick Riffe, we rest our case.”

Then Crowley sat down.

The abrupt conclusion of the weeks-long witness testimony portion of the trial set the stage for closing arguments to begin tomorrow morning.


Ricky Allen Riffe

Riffe, 55, is charged in Lewis County Superior Court with numerous offenses in connection with the December 1985 shotgun deaths of Ed and Minnie Maurin, an elderly couple from Ethel. He and his now-deceased younger brother have been the prime suspects since the early 1990s but he was only arrested last year.

Based on conversation by the court about scheduling, Lewis County prosecutors will take several hours tomorrow for closing, summarizing what they think the evidence has shown.

Then the following morning, Crowley will offer his closing arguments. Prosecutors get the last word with counter arguments and then the jury can be sent to begin deliberations.

The jury was given a long break until after lunch.

Outside the presence of the jury this morning, the judge heard arguments on the previously filed defense motion for prosecutorial conduct, regarding the jailhouse snitch who denied on the witness stand he got anything in exchange for his testimony against Riffe.

The judge had harsh words for both Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead and Crowley

Crowley argued it should lead to a mistrial or dismissal and to disqualify Halstead.

He told the judge the incident deprived his client of a fair trial and that also prosecutors had concealed from him there was a plea deal in place with Erwin Bartlett by not sharing the documentation during the discovery process.

“He was perjuring himself and the prosecutor knew he was perjuring himself at that point, and what the prosecutor didn’t know is we knew,” Crowley said.

Judge Richard Brosey said he could only dismiss if there was no other recourse, but that in the case of Bartlett, by the time the jury heard Crowley’s cross examination and Bartlett’s attorney was put on the stand to verify what occurred, it should have been very clear to the jury there was a deal.

The judge suggested the proper channel for the complaint was not through himself, but through the bar association.

On the matter of Crowley emailing prosecutors that he would not file the motion if they would stipulate to certain other matters, Brosey was equally blunt.

“It sure looks to me like that’s extortion Mr. Crowley,” Brosey said. “How do you explain that any other way?”

“All we were trying to do is get them to stipulate to the truth of the matter,” Crowley said.

Before the jury was brought back in, Crowley made a separate oral motion for dismissal of all charges, stating there hadn’t been enough evidence presented.

The judge denied the motion.

Riffe is charged with two counts each of first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping and first-degree robbery, as well as one count of burglary; all either as the principal player or as an accomplice.

Numerous aggravating circumstances are alleged including particularly vulnerable victims and deliberate cruelty.

Prosecutors are leaving room for a variety of possible scenarios.

Halstead told the judge that since there were no eyewitnesses, and nobody knows exactly what occurred, it was possible the jury could conclude whoever drove the Maurins up Stearns Hill Road and shot them, whether it was Greg Riffe or Ricky Riffe, that the killing was not premeditated.

He asked for a jury instruction which would allow jurors to find Riffe guilty of second-degree murder instead of first-degree.

The judge said he would allow the so-called lesser included offense to be contemplated by the jury, noting it was unusual for the state to be proposing it, as such an instruction usually it would be sought by the defense and the state would oppose it.

Judge Brosey read to the jury the lengthy list of jury instructions.

The jury was also read a list of stipulations, facts agreed to by both sides to be placed in the record for jury consideration in lieu of live testimony.

The following are among them:

• Rick Riffe and Robin Giddings married in Reno, Nevada on Jan. 5, 1985

• They two divorced in 1991.

• Robin Riffe died of natural causes in 1994 in Washington state.

• Rick Riffe was convicted of a felony in 1981, and could not legally possess firearms until at least 1986.

Closing statements are expected to begin at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow.

The trial is open to the public. The courtroom is on the fourth floor of the Lewis County Law and Justice Center at Main Street and Chehalis Avenue in Chehalis.


Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer defends his senior deputy prosecutor to the judge in court this morning.

Maurin murder trial: Reporter’s notebook

Monday, November 11th, 2013

Ricky Riffe’s lawyer, far right, and his assistant talk with Riffe’s supporters, the family of his longtime live-in girlfriend Sherry Tibbetts, after court recessed for the three-day weekend.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – When the sixth week of testimony begins tomorrow in the 1985 Maurin murder case, it should finally be witnesses for the defense who take the stand.

Prosecutors seem to have called all the witnesses they are going to, but have not yet rested.

Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer has said he hasn’t revealed to the defense or to he judge throughout the trial who his next witnesses would be.

Defense attorney John Crowley over the past weeks has cross examined state’s witnesses extensively, and only has a handful of his own to call.

His client, former Mossyrock resident Ricky A. Riffe, is charged with murder, kidnapping, robbery and burglary in connection with the December 1985 shotgun deaths of Ed, 81, and Minnie, 83, Maurin of Ethel.

Following are a few pieces of information which have come out during the past weeks in Lewis County Superior Court but not previously included in news stories.

• Of the more than 800 people Lewis County Sheriff’s Office detective Bruce Kimsey has spoken to in the Maurin murder case, no one has ever asked about claiming any of the reward money, including the $10,000 offered in newspaper ads after Denny Hadaller hired private investigators in 2003.

• A Winston cigarette butt that turned up among items in the evidence locker last year, and came from a trash can inside the Maurin’s home, was tested for DNA and came back to a partial profile of an unknown male. The Maurins didn’t smoke.

• Of the 19 cigarette butts recovered from the Maurin’s 1969 Chrysler found abandoned in the parking lot at Yard Birds Shopping Center and tested for DNA, one was found to have come from a daughter-in-law of Minnie Maurin, and another came back to an unknown female.

• Ricky and John Gregory Riffe lived in a small trailer park in Adna for about a year in 1981, according to an early witness. William Reisinger who resides on the 400 block on Bunker Creek Road said they were his neighbors he knew from talking to them to say they could have access to the river and from seeing them out and about. “I just seen ‘em go up and down the road, running around. They were young guys, I seen ‘em alot.” he testified.

• Kimsey calculated the distance between Rick and Robin Riffe’s home in Silver Creek in 1985 to the Maurin’s house in Ethel was 4.7 miles, or a five minute drive along U.S. Highway 12.

Maurin murder trial: Testimony of Riffe admission to inmate leads to dual complaints

Saturday, November 9th, 2013

Jonathan Meyer, Will Halstead and Bruce Kimsey of the prosecution team face the judge’s bench in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Lawyers on both sides in the Ricky Riffe murder trial accused each other of misconduct as the fifth week of proceedings began to wind down.

The conversation in Lewis County Superior Court before the jury was called into the courtroom on the surface was about whether a local attorney should be called to the witness stand but at its root revolved around whether a jailhouse snitch got a deal in exchange for saying Riffe confessed to him.

Defense attorney John Crowley told the judge he would file a motion for prosecutorial misconduct and would be asking  that Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead be disqualified from the case.

Halstead, who is handling the prosecution along with elected Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer, shot back.


Erwin Bartlett

“I hope Mr. Crowley attaches the threatening email he sent that he would not file it if the state would stipulate to certain facts,” Halstead said. “That in itself is misconduct.”

Judge Richard Brosey ruled the informant’s lawyer should be called, saying the jury is entitled to know if the inmate did or did not get “consideration” in exchange for his testimony.

Under questioning by Halstead late last week, Erwin Bartlett denied he was getting anything in return for taking the stand, but when presented with the plea agreement document, said he didn’t remember much about the hearing as his liver ailment was causing him pain.

Brosey indicated he’s listened to many informants over the years and said his impression was Bartlett may have expressed confusion by design and it might be that he’s “smart like a fox”.

Crowley told the judge his client’s case was irreparably damaged by the matter.

Jurors sent home for the weekend were told to return Tuesday morning because Monday is a holiday. However, court is scheduled to begin for the attorneys early that day as they argue the defense motion.

Crowley represents Riffe, the 55-year-old former Mossyrock resident who was arrested last year at his home in Alaska and charged in the December 1985 shotgun deaths of an elderly couple who lived in Ethel.

Prosecutors contend Riffe and his now-deceased younger brother were responsible, that someone forced Ed and Minnie Maurin to drive to their bank to withdraw thousands of dollars and then to the woods near Adna where they were shot in their backs inside their car and dumped along a logging road.

Jurors since early October have heard dozens of state’s witnesses describe the day the couple vanished from their home, seeing them with someone else in their green sedan and observing  an unshaven man in an Army jacket with a gun at or near Yardbirds Shopping Center in Chehalis where the car was abandoned. Both Riffe and his brother John Gregory Riffe have been pegged as the person in a composite drawing and in photo montages.

A former drug dealer has testified Riffe told him he thought they got away with it, a woman who conducted an online relationship with him has said he made references to it and a Mossyrock man said he remembers overhearing the brothers planning it. But prosecutors have no fingerprints or DNA evidence that ties either brother to what has been described as one of the most horrendous murder cases in Lewis County.

When Bartlett took the witness stand on Oct. 31, he was forthright about his own crimes and how he came to be locked up in the Lewis County Jail, in an adjacent cell to Riffe early this year.

The now-50-year-old told of escaping New Mexico State Penitentiary where he was serving time for two counts of attempted first-degree murder – he said he took an axe handle to two men he caught on his living room floor with his wife.

When asked, he said in prison he built couches for a dental office and one day took the guts out of one of them, climbed inside and got loaded onto a flatbed truck. Bartlett said he was free for six months and 11 days before he was apprehended and ended up serving about 13 and half years.

He returned to Washington in 2007 and this past winter was serving six months in the Lewis County Jail for assault, he testified.

Bartlett lives in Hoquiam, but considers Chehalis his hometown. He told of getting to know Riffe earlier this year.

“I met Rick probably several days after I was in the medical unit,” he said. “I told him what I was in for, he told me what he was there for.”

Later, after Bartlett returned from a medical furlough and was caught trying to smuggle a prescription medication back into the jail, he tried to negotiate for leniency in exchange for information on fellow inmates, he testified.

His charge was a felony, possession of a controlled substance by a prisoner.

“What consideration did you receive?” Halstead asked him.

“None, I was told by you I wouldn’t get any,” Bartlett said.

Under questioning by Halstead, he began to describe the conversations he and Riffe had.

“First, I want to say, when you get locked up like we are, you really tend to say things,” Bartlett said. “I laid my heart out.”

He shared what he knew about his fellow inmate, that he said he lived in Alaska, loved the outdoors and fishing and hunting, and did odd jobs.

“I know he had sleep apnea and COPD, a respiratory problem,” he said.

Bartlett said Riffe showed him pictures of his wife and children and that they both liked to read Westerns.

“I believe this conversation happened through the vent,” he said. “We call it the “cell” phone.”

“He told me that he committed a crime, that he had killed two old people and that’s what happened,” Bartlett testified.

The witness went on to say Riffe told him that he had help, he thought an accomplice who was “no longer here.”

He said they took one of the individuals to the bank, and maybe said the cops might have a picture of the ATM driving through, according to Bartlett.

Riffe also complained about his well-paid attorney from Seattle not coming to see him, not talking to witnesses, he said.

“He told me it was a bad, bad mistake,” he said. “I think the first time he told me he did it, the second time he said allegedly.”

Under questioning by Crowley, Bartlett said he has already pleaded guilty to the smuggling charge and wasn’t sure why he hasn’t yet been sentenced.

Asked if he was receiving anything in exchange for his testimony against Riffe, he said it’s never a sure thing, but he sure hopes so.

The defense attorney put a document in front of the witness and asked if prosecutors were going to recommend he get a 30-day sentence.

“As I said, I don’t remember anyone discussing this with me,” Bartlett said.

The witness recalled he was looking at 12 months maximum, given his background.

The document was signed by Halstead, the one who prosecuted his case.

The jury was sent out of the room, when Halstead objected.

Crowley told the judge he’d gone to the clerk’s office the day before and gotten a copy of Bartlett’s case documents.

Halstead told the judge it was Bartlett’s attorney’s bad habit to attach a copy of the plea offer sheet to the filing.

“This document was not in discovery,” Crowley told the judge.  “Obviously there is consideration, it sticks out like a sore thumb.

“I’m not going to let this go.”

Centralia lawyer David Arcuri was called as a witness subsequently and testified he had no idea what his client Bartlett told law enforcement about Riffe.

The plea agreement however, was if Bartlett testified truthfully in the Riffe case, Halstead would tell the judge he should get 30 days for bringing drugs into the jail but if he didn’t, Halstead would seek the maximum sentence, according to Arcuri.

The state said they expect to rest on Tuesday. The defense will then begin to call its witnesses and closing arguments could take place, or at least begin, by the end of the week.


John Crowley looks through case exhibits at the end of the day.

Maurin murder trial: Internet chat with the suspect

Friday, November 8th, 2013

Deb George responds to attorney’s questions about herself and her online relationship with murder suspect Ricky Riffe.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Debra George testified yesterday about online conversations she had with murder defendant Ricky Riffe that over a period of time sometimes included exchanges related to the 1985 Maurin murders.

George, 57, said she had a Facebook account in her and her husband’s name and at some point, Riffe made a friend request meant for his old high school buddy, but he ignored it. A month or so later, she responded and they developed a private long distance email relationship that took place over about a year and a half, according to George.

“What did Rick tell you about sex and dead people? That he used to do that over dead people?” George was asked.

“We talked about different things like that, yeah, but we knew we would never do that,” she replied.

George told the prosecutor Riffe spoke of doing it in graveyards and and such places because nobody could catch him.

Did you tell detective Kimsey that Riffe talked about having sex where the Maurins were killed, she was asked? And what did she say to Kimsey about that?

“I couldn’t tell him much because I didn’t want to be killed,” she said.

George is among the final witnesses for the prosecution in Riffe’s kidnapping, robbery and murder trial that began early last month in Lewis County Superior Court.

Riffe, 55, was arrested and charged last year in the deaths of Ed and Minnie Maurin, the elderly Ethel couple whose bodies were found dumped on a logging road near Adna on Dec. 24, 1985.

The former Mossyrock man who moved to Alaska in the late 1980s chatted with George sometimes daily, according to the woman.

They communicated over Facebook, Gmail and video chat, she said. She testified she deleted all of it.

According to George, she once broached the subject of the homicides with the man she suspected was involved.

“I was telling him a story about some guy talking about a murder back in the 80s,” she said.

Through her testimony and the lawyer’s questions, it appeared she mentioned a name of a local man she’d talked with about it, and Riffe chuckled and said the man was a “snake in the grass.”

She was just very curious, George testified.

“He asked me who they thought did it,” George said.

George spoke of one time simply asking Riffe what happened to the bloody clothes.

He turned off the web cam, but she could still hear him and she thought Riffe was talking to himself, according to George.

Riffe said he said he gave them to someone else to bury by the lake, according to George.

“Do you remember detective Kimsey asking if the clothes were burned?” Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer asked her.

“Yeah, they weren’t. And I was shocked,” George replied.

Do you remember talking to detective Kimsey about Mr. Maurin being struck in the back of the head? she was asked.

“He got hit in the head when he wouldn’t get out of the car,” George said.

George came to the attention of law enforcement because her husband Les George said she’d been communicating with Riffe.

After she attended Riffe’s first court appearance in July of last year, detective Bruce Kimsey asked to interview her.

At times her testimony was confusing, as she repeatedly responded she didn’t recall “at this time.”

She admitted she was afraid of testifying.

Under questioning by defense attorney John Crowley, she acknowledged a head injury that made her forgetful and that she was taking medication for a variety of anxieties.

Crowley queried her about why she only just this week made mention of the injury to Ed Maurin’s head, insinuating it didn’t come from his client.

“Well, how else would I have known that?” George asked.

She denied she followed news of the case or spoke with her sister who had been attending the trial.


Two of Minnie Maurin’s children, Denny Hadaller and his sister Hazel Oberg, observe proceedings during the Riffe murder trial.


Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer, left, and detective Bruce Kimsey confer during a court recess.

Lewis County woman dead after trying to swim away from deputy

Thursday, November 7th, 2013


By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A 30-year-old Packwood area woman is dead after she was pulled from the Black River near Rochester last night, apparently in an attempt to flee the law.

The Thurston County Sheriff’s Office said she and a 34-year-old man were contacted in a vehicle parked with its lights off near the boat launch near School Land Road about 8 p.m.

As the deputy was checking information on her, the driver’s door swung open and she ran toward the river, Sgt. Ray Brady said.

“She jumps into the water and starts swimming away from him,” Brady said.

Firefighters responded about 8:22 p.m. and with the use of thermal imaging equipment spotted the woman floating about a quarter mile downstream, according to West Thurston Regional Fire Authority. It was approximately 9:05 p.m., according to Chief Robert Scott.

Her head was above water, but she was hypothermic and incoherent, Scott said. Responders said she was treated for exposure but then medics had to perform CPR enroute to the hospital.

Brady said she passed away about 2:30 a.m.

The woman had arrest warrants from the state Department of Corrections and related to possession of methamphetamine, according to Brady.

As far as they can tell, that may be the reason she ran, he said.

“It’s really kind of tragic, trying to flee some warrants, and have it end in the death of someone,” Brady said.

The Thurston County Coroner’s Office identifies her as Kristina L. Jorden.

Maurin murder trial: Suspect is ‘witty’

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The wife of Ricky Riffe’s high school friend Les George took the witness stand yesterday where she was asked about a long distance email relationship that took place over about a year and a half between herself and the murder defendant.

Debra George tearfully and seemingly reluctantly spoke of sometimes daily conversations over Facebook, Skype and through Gmail.


Ricky Allen Riffe

“Did Rick ask you if people were talking about the homicides?” Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer asked.

Yes, she said, but they never mentioned the Maurins by name.

Prosecutors have indicated they believe Riffe was keeping tabs on  the Lewis County investigation even as he was thousands of miles away in Alaska.

“Did you save those emails?” she was asked.

“No, he told me not to,” Deb George testified.

She said she thought Riffe didn’t want her husband or anyone else to see them.

Jurors in Lewis County Superior Court yesterday heard that her computer, as well as two computers from the Riffe household in King Salmon were seized and forensically examined a few weeks after a detective last year learned of the exchanges.

As the trial comes to the end of its fifth week, prosecutors continue in their attempts to prove Riffe is responsible for the December 1985 shotgun deaths of Ed and Minnie Maurin, the elderly Ethel couple whose bodies were found dumped off a logging road near Adna.

The now-55-year-old former Mossyrock man was arrested at his home in King Salmon, Alaska last year not long after the other prime suspect – his younger brother – passed away.

Lewis County Sheriff’s Office detective Bruce Kimsey spent his second day on the witness stand yesterday, sharing more of what he learned about the defendant when he flew to Alaska to confront him and subsequently to bring him back to Lewis County.

Riffe told him’d quit drugs cold turkey when he took a job in Alaska and put that part of his life behind him, according to Kimsey.

Kimsey has suggested the suspect’s attitude changed once he knew “the gig was up”, in contrast to the aloof manner he presented during the interrogation.

“It’s totally different,” Kimsey testified. “He’s more open, willing to talk to me. Willing to joke around and show he had a personality.”

After the July 8, 2012 arrest, he found the suspect not only more relaxed but quite witty, he said.

Kimsey spoke of observing Riffe during his court hearing in Anchorage laughing with other inmates, of conversing over lunch at Chili’s and then a fast food stop on their way to the Lewis County Jail.

When they hit Federal Way, they drove through and ordered burgers, according to Kimsey.

Kimsey walked over to a mini mart and brought back Pall Mall filtered cigarettes, apologizing he couldn’t get exactly what Riffe smoked, he said.

“So, he takes the cigarette out, bites off the filter, spits it on the ground and makes a joke to me,” Kimsey said. “Yes, he laughed.”

Kimsey said during the four-plus hour plane ride, he had continued to go through what all the witnesses have said.

“I’m sitting on his left side, detective Riordan on his right,” Kimsey says.

Riffe still had little to say about the case itself.

“He said, I don’t know. I hope justice prevails.”

“I told him, you can save that for your family and friends,” Kimsey recounted.

“He said, ‘well, it doesn’t look good’,” Kimsey said. “I said, ‘it’s bad.’ And he said, ‘yeah, it’s bad’.”

“Did you ask him if he’d worried?” Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead asked.

“I’m talking in his left ear,” Kimsey said. “Did you ever think the day would come when police would come knock on your door and arrest you?”

His answer, “Well yeah.”

Maurin murder trial: The arrest

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013
2013.1105.bruce.kimseyIMG_5754 copy

Lewis County Sheriff’s Office detective Bruce Kimsey speaks to the jury about murder suspect Ricky A. Riffe.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gifford identified himself through the door.

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

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

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

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

“He said, who?” Kimsey testified.

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

“He said, ‘oh, okay’,” Kimsey said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2013.1105.kimseyplusIMG_5752 copy

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

Maurin murder trial: What suspects told detectives, and more

Saturday, November 2nd, 2013

Ricky A. Riffe, right, listens to defense team member Richard Davis during a trial recess.

Updated at 8:05 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh yes,” Bachman said.

The brothers were not arrested.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Rick Riffe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Wednesday Oct. 30, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maurin murder trial: Money for drugs

Friday, November 1st, 2013

Ralph Vickers testifies about getting all $100 bills from Robin Riffe when he sold her two ounces of cocaine in 1985.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

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

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

Vickers said he recalled selling cocaine to Robin Riffe twice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maurin murder trial: Former drug dealer claims defendant admitted involvement

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Donald A. Burgess Sr. talks about December 1985 conversation in Randle.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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