Witness Jason Shriver, left, and defense attorney John Crowley stand and wait as the jury leaves the courtroom.
Updated at 7:10 p.m.
By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
CHEHALIS – Witness Jason Shriver spoke yesterday about passing the Maurin’s car on U.S. Highway 12 back in December 1985, and seeing the elderly couple along with Rick and Greg Riffe inside, a bit west of the Maurin’s Ethel home.
At the time, Shriver was 17 years old.
He testified he didn’t come forward about what he saw until about nine years ago, because Greg Riffe threatened to kill his mother, his brothers, his father and him if he said anything.
So, why did you finally come forward? Shriver was asked.
He indicated he learned of a pair of private investigators were on the case and felt he might be able to talk with them then; plus his mother had died of cancer.
“I didn’t have to worry about her anymore, she’s in heaven, my brothers were grown men,” Shriver said.
The former Mossyrock resident is the first witness in the lengthy murder trial who has testified to seeing the defendant and the victims together on Dec. 19, 1985.
Prosecutors contend Ricky Riffe and his now-deceased brother are responsible for forcing the couple to drive from their home to withdraw thousands of dollars their bank before shooting them in their backs and leaving them dead in the woods outside Adna. Ricky Riffe is charged with burglary, kidnapping, robbery and first-degree murder.
John Gregory Riffe was about to be charged similarly last year, but he died of ill health at age 50.
Shriver, now 45, moved to Mossyrock from southern California at about age four or five and lived there until he left at age 19.
Jurors heard his father was a traveling musician, his mother taught ballet in downtown Mossyrock; his parents had bike shop in Chehalis.
He testified he knew the Riffe brothers because they lived in the same small town. Rick Riffe was quite a bit older and he knew the younger two brothers better, he said.
“Greg, I knew him, he was buying me beer, I didn’t have any problems with him,” Shriver said.
Until after December 1985.
Shriver testified he and his mother were heading to Tacoma so he could get his wisdom teeth pulled when he noticed the Maurin’s car pulled out from their house.
“I said to my mom, ‘hurry, pass ‘em’,” he said.
He and his mom were in a Volkswagen Vanagon and traveling perhaps 50 mph as they went by, he said.
He said he saw four people in the couple’s car; Ed Maurin was driving and his wife was behind him in the backseat; Rick Riffe was in the front passenger side and Greg Riffe seated behind him.
“They all stared our way, the Maurins did,” Shriver said. “I recognized who it was, I looked at Greg and waved at him, he looked down.”
Shriver said he kept looking at Greg Riffe, who finally acknowledged him.
He described both as unshaven and Greg Riffe wearing a dark hat and Rick Riffe wearing a “truckers” hat, a baseball cap, he said.
“How certain are you?,” he was asked.
“One-hundred-ten percent, no doubt in my mind,” he said.
The weather was clear, probably the fog was lifting, according to Shriver.
“It was probably 8 or 9 I would think,” he said of the time of day.
Under questioning, Shriver talked about a day or two later when he had learned the Maurins were missing, and a deputy coming to their home. He was in bed recovering from the oral surgery and didn’t want to talk with law enforcement.
Why not? he was asked.
People handled things their own way out there, he said. He also told his mother not to say anything, he said.
“This is a town if you pissed somebody off, you didn’t go hunting that year,” Shriver said.
He said one his friends once got into it with Tracey Riffe, and “here comes Greg to the house with a shotgun.”
Some time later, maybe a few months, Shriver spotted Greg Riffe in town driving a log truck, he said. Shriver motioned he should blow the horn, he said.
Jurors didn’t get to hear all the details of that encounter.
Shriver testified he asked him, who’s truck? Where’d you get the money for this?
Out of the presence of the jury, Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead told the judge he anticipated his witness would say: “Greg looks me in the eye, glares at me, and says, ‘you know.’ I backed out, he’s says ‘come here’, I said no, I gotta go.”
The lawyers argued about hearsay, the judge made a ruling and when jurors returned, Halstead quickly moved them forward a week or so in time.
Shriver said he next saw Greg Riffe when he was out on State Street in downtown Mossyrock. That’s when he called him over and made the threat.
“He said, did you say anything,” Shriver recounted. “I said I didn’t say anything, I swear to God.”
Shriver told him nobody cares, the Maurins were old and going to die anyway, he testified. He suggested if Greg did it again, he should call and Shriver would even help.
He asked the older man to buy him some beer.
Two of Shriver’s friends also testified yesterday that they were in the area and didn’t hear anything, but could tell something was up.
Jerry Nixon said he saw it out of the corner of his eye.
“I see Greg there, you cut the tension with a knife, I knew it wasn’t good” Nixon said.
The encounter ended when Rick Riffe came out from behind some tall shrubs and told his brother, it was okay, he wasn’t going to say anything.
“I’m thinking, I’m gonna get jumped,” Shriver said. “I’m gonna get my ass kicked. I’m gonna get taken out in the woods and killed.”
The trial in Lewis County Superior Court is expected to go as long as six weeks. Yesterday was just the start of week four.
Halstead and Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer are handling the case. Riffe is represented by Seattle-based defense attorney John Crowley.
Halstead asked the witness if Rick Riffe was in the courtroom, and did he seem to be looking at the witness.
“Well yeah, he’s staring at me, trying to tough me out,” Shriver said. “Bully me. It’s what he’d done all his life.”
Shriver testified about how he learned to shoot and bought a 9 mm handgun, and how the Riffe brothers began regularly driving past his house.
“To the point, when I walked to the barn, I had a shotgun with me,” he said.