Archive for October, 2013

News brief: Nurse connected to Centralia drug team’s investigations finds practice suspended

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The state has suspended a registered nurse whose clinics were raided as a Centralia police drug investigation led them to a former Napavine man allegedly running a drug ring from prison this summer and into at least three other counties.

In mid-June, search warrants were served in Tumwater and Aberdeen focusing on medical records and other documents. New Beginnings Wellness Centers was operated by a nurse practitioner named Sharol Chavez.

The state Department of Health yesterday announced charges against Chavez alleging sub-standard care in medical marijuana authorizations and prescriptions for narcotics without proper patient examinations. The state charges in some cases she was aware some of her prescriptions were supplying Oxycodone pills to the illegal marketplace.

The Centralia Police Department’s Anti-Crime Team efforts to quash illegal pain pill sales in Centralia took them to Forrest E. Amos who they believed was began heading up a drug trafficking organization from prison after his local conviction in January for  possessing prescription drugs without authorization. Searches of Chavez’s medical clinics were conducted on June 17, involving law enforcement from Centralia and numerous other agencies.

Chavez has 20 days to request a hearing to contest the licensing charges. After the raids, Centralia Police Department St. Jim Shannon said federal authorities would be reviewing the documents seized to examine them for possible criminal charges.
•••

For background, read “Centralia police track illegal Oxycodone trade to prison inmate” from Tuesday June 18, 2013, here

Maurin murder trial: Former drug dealer claims defendant admitted involvement

Thursday, October 31st, 2013
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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.

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

ASSAULT

• Chehalis police were called to Green Hill School yesterday after a 19-year-old student-inmate allegedly punched a staff member in the head. The case will be referred to prosecutors to review for a charge of custodial assault, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

PARKING LOT PURSE SNATCHING

• Chehalis police were called about 9:30 p.m. yesterday by a woman who said she was unloading her shopping cart at Grocery Outlet in the Twin City Town Center and when she turned around to get her day planner, it was gone.

BREAK-IN CENTRALIA

• Centralia police responded about 6:50 p.m. yesterday to the 1300 block of South Gold Street in Centralia regarding a burglary to a storage container. Among the items taken were a bicycle and an item related to industrial cappuccino, according to the Centralia Police Department.

BREAK-IN MORTON

• Several pairs of ladies shoes, a make-up bag and other items were reported stolen in a burglary last week at the 600 block of Adams Avenue in Morton, according to to police.

DRUGS

• A 39-year-old Centralia man was arrested late last night for possession of methamphetamine and a warrant after contact with police at the 600 block of South Pearl Street in Centralia. Jason A. Dix was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Centralia Police Department.

CAR PROWL

• Police took a report about 9:45 a.m. yesterday of a vehicle prowl at the 1000 block of Eckerson Road in Centralia in which food and a park pass were taken.

THEFT OF MEDS

• Centralia police took a report of stolen prescription medications on Monday from the 500 block of Harrison Avenue.

TRACTOR ACCIDENT

• Firefighters were called about 3:45 p.m. yesterday to the 1500 block of South Schueber Road in Centralia where an 80-year-old man was trapped under his tractor. It was a smaller backhoe and his ankle was trapped under the roll bar, but he was able to get his cell phone out and call for help, according to Riverside Fire Authority. Responders lifted the machine off him and he declined to be transported to the hospital, according to Capt. Terry Ternan.

AND MORE

• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, protection order violations; responses for alarms, break-in to vacant house, hit and run, misdemeanor assault, dispute, misdemeanor theft, found keys at the post office; complaint about stumbling male urinating in a front yard … and more.

Guest column: Suspension for arrested deputy explained

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

By Steve Mansfield
Lewis County sheriff

Recently, one of my employees, while off duty, was arrested for driving under the influence. The occurrence has received significant media and public attention.

The circumstances in this event fortunately involved neither property damage nor injury to others.

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Lewis County Sheriff Steve Mansfield

Had it involved a common citizen, it likely would have received only minimal media attention if any at all. However, since it involved an off-duty officer who is sworn and empowered to enforce and uphold the laws of this state, including DUI’s, it was considered news-worthy, and a topic of discussion in our community.

This is a legitimate interest which I do not dispute. I even had some inmates I was supervising on a work crew over the weekend inquire about the situation. One even claimed to have been arrested by this employee for DUI.

Many of the comments and inquiries center on whether the employee will face the same penalties and accountability an ordinary citizen arrested for DUI would, or will he be treated differently because of his law enforcement status.

Just to be perfectly clear, the employee will receive no preferential treatment under the law nor any leniency in meeting legal requirements than what would be afforded to any other citizen arrested for DUI.

What may likely be very different from what most citizens would experience in their employment are the administrative sanctions imposed by my office.

Years ago when I first became a deputy, an incident like this would end a career with few questions asked. Today’s labor laws and union contracts afford greater protection to employees by ensuring due process is followed and discipline is only imposed in accordance with the principles of  just cause.

Labor contracts also have grievance provisions that can ultimately take final disciplinary decisions out of the hands of management and put them into the hands of the Civil Service Commission, arbitrators, or superior court judges.

I typically refrain from voluntarily disclosing details of disciplinary action taken within my office, but I feel the circumstances of this case warrant such disclosure.

In looking at the totality of this situation and the employee’s exemplary performance over the past 12 years, the administrative sanctions imposed  included a two week unpaid suspension from duty, removal from his current position as detective and a last chance agreement that ties his continued employment directly to the conditions imposed by the court.

I believe many of the problems we deal with today exist in part, because we have lost so much of the social accountability that we once had in the past. This is not just accountability that emerges from media attention, but more importantly accountability that originates in and is enforced by our families, friends, schools, churches and organizations to which we belong.

Regardless of one’s profession, religion, sex or race, we are all human, and we are all susceptible to making mistakes and bad choices. When alcohol is involved, it seems mistakes and bad choices are all too often the end result.

Despite our intense focus on education and enforcement, DUI still continues to destroy families, careers and compromises safety and security within our communities.

As a society, we hold those who break the law accountable for their actions.

You as citizens naturally and rightly expect and demand those of us who are sworn to protect and enforce the law, to obey those laws and be held just as accountable for our actions.

That social expectation is extremely influential in motivating us to achieve our mission, uphold our oath of office and code of ethics, and to protect and serve you in a manner that fosters trust, is responsible, respectful, fair and caring.

My employee made an extremely poor, unacceptable decision when he chose to drink, get behind the wheel of his vehicle, and drive down the roadway. It is a decision over which he is extremely embarrassed and sincerely regrets.

He is now being held accountable for that mistake.

It is my hope this employee turns the negative of this experience into something positive and constructive that ultimately leads to him being a better employee, a better citizen, and a father his family can look up to.

He has recommitted himself to me that he will fulfill our mission and uphold his oath of office and code of ethics as he carries out his duties and responsibilities in serving you, the citizens of this county.

Not everyone earns, deserves, or is afforded a second chance. It is my expectation, not only as your sheriff, but also as a citizen, that he earns and proves himself worthy of this opportunity.
•••

For background, read “Lewis County sheriff’s deputy pleads not guilty to DUI” from Friday September 13, 2013, here

News brief: Trick-or-treaters invited to fire station

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Firefighters are calling upon ghosts, goblins and their families to come by the station for treats late tomorrow afternoon at 2123 Jackson Highway in Chehalis.

Lewis County Fire District 6 is hosting a Halloween drop in with games, movies, refreshments and more from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m.

The annual Safe Candy Stop is sponsored by the Lewis County Fire Dogs Association.

Fire personnel will be on hand to answer questions about Halloween safety and fire prevention as well as share information about some programs, such as reflective address signs, file if life, smoke detectors and blood pressure checks, according to Chief Tim Kinder.

Read about angry dad accused of going after rape suspect …

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The (Aberdeen) Daily World reports a 61-year-old Oakville father is charged with allegedly threatening a rape suspect with a gun and a baseball bat.

News reporter Brionna Friedrich writes William F. Henry was charged with second-degree assault after the 43-year-old man accused of raping his daughter talked to deputies about two encounters on Harris Avenue in Oakville in early September, one of which prompted him to hide in a shed.

Henry told deputies when he was interviewed if they would have just stayed in Montesano eating doughnuts, he would have taken care of the matter, according to Friedrich.

Read about it here

Maurin murder trial: Lab tests turn up little to nothing

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Jurors in the courtroom yesterday heard that no fingerprints or DNA from the 1985 homicides of elderly Ethel couple Ed and Minnie Maurin came back to the defendant.

Ricky A. Riffe, 55, is charged in the case; his younger brother who was also a suspect died before he could be charged.

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Ricky Allen Riffe

A forensics expert who took the witness stand said she met with Lewis County Sheriff’s Office detective Bruce Kimsey to review the evidence in the old case and they selected several items that might be good candidates for DNA testing.

Stephenie Winter Seremo said in some instances none was found, in others just not enough to proceed with.

She agreed that such analysis has come a long way since the mid-1980s, primarily in that scientists need much less material to conduct their tests.

The Maurin’s bodies were found Dec. 24, 1985 on a logging road five days after they went missing from their home. Their car was found abandoned in a Chehalis parking lot, with blood on the front seat, the keys in the ignition. Prosecutors believe they were abducted, forced to drive to their bank and withdraw money before being shot in their backs. Riffe was arrested last year.

There was DNA from Minnie Maurin on the woman’s stockings, but they were actually looking for anything left behind by someone who would have handled her legs, Seremo told the court.

The exteriors of the shoes that were tested yielded no results as did a rear view mirror, according to Seremo. No material was found on Ed Maurin’s socks to test, she said.

A piece of upholstery that was checked came back only to Ed Maurin, as did his belt, she testified.

Some of the items that turned up trace DNA but not enough to process, included the handle of a metal hook, the ties on a rain bonnet, a key ring, a passenger side rear ashtray, according to Seremo.

Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer concluded his questioning with something he said in his opening statements three weeks ago: Just because there was no DNA found doesn’t mean there was no crime committed, right?

“Right.”

Defense attorney John Crowley asked: “Of all the testing you did, did you ever find Rick Riffe’s DNA on any of it?”

“No.”

Another forensic expert testified about the various finger prints that were analyzed.

Of the 23 prints lifted from the car, most were of no value because there was not enough detail or clarity, but six came back to Ed Maurin and one useable print came back negative for matches, according to Stacey Redhead.

Redhead testified that when she looked at prints from the house, she found matches on beer cans for family, Delbert Hadaller and Hazel Oberg. Elsewhere she saw another match for Ed Maurin and one from former Lewis County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Glade Austin. A print on a coffee pot came back negative to known comparisons, she said.

None of the prints matched to Riffe or his younger brother John Gregory Riffe.

A different crime lab specialist also testified yesterday. She said she examined fibers from some clothing that was burned, but found no matches from the blanket, a pillow and a hat she had been given.

She did find a red fiber recovered from a furnace room was similar to the fiber from the red blanket from inside the car, she said.

The trial continues 9:30 a.m. until noon and 1:30 p.m. until 5 p.m. each weekday in Lewis County Superior Court in Chehalis.

News brief: Two seriously hurt in four-vehicle pileup near Rochester

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013
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The driver of this 2003 Jeep Cherokee is expected to survive. / Courtesy photo by Washington State Patrol.

Updated at 8:26 a.m.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A 16-year-old boy was airlifted to a Seattle hospital yesterday after his Jeep Cherokee was rear ended by a semi truck, pushed into oncoming traffic and caught fire at U.S. Highway 12 just east of Rochester yesterday afternoon.

Troopers called about 4 p.m. to the scene found four vehicles involved in the collision at Pecan Street, according to the Washington State Patrol.

The Jeep Cherokee was eastbound and in the left turn lane when an eastbound Kenworth hauling 100,000 pounds of scrap metal hit it and shoved it into an oncoming pickup truck, according to the state patrol. A car then rear-ended the pickup, the state patrol reported. The teen was helped out his driver’s side window by others, according to Trooper Guy Gill.

The two people transported with serious injuries are both expected to survive, Gill indicated last night.

According to the state patrol: Robert A. Johnson, 51, of Rochester, the driver of the Ford Ranger, was taken to Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia.

The 16-year-old from Rochester, whose name was not released, was flown to Harborview Medical Center.

Jonathon W. Kalin, 47, Rochester, the driver of the Saturn Ion, was reportedly uninjured as was the driver of the big rig, Steven C. Johnson, 62, of Vancouver.

The collision is under investigation.

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A 2006 Kenworth hauling scrap metal at Pecan Street on U.S. Highway 12. / Courtesy photo by Washington State Patrol.

Maurin murder trial: Jason Shriver talks

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013
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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.

News brief: Two struck by rounds from own guns in separate incidents in Morton, Mossyrock

Monday, October 28th, 2013

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The sheriff’s office is offering reminders about gun safety after two men suffered separate accidental self inflicted gunshot wounds yesterday morning in East Lewis County within about an hour of each other.

One was shot in the foot with his rifle near Morton and the other in his leg when he dropped his handgun near Lake Mayfield.

“These are two very fortunate men,” Lewis County Sheriff Steve Mansfield said in a news release. “The outcome of both of these situations could have resulted in even more serious injuries or possibly death.”

It was around 10 o’clock when a 27-year-old Mossyrock man hiking with friends near the 5500 block of U.S. Highway 12 got his coat hung up on a limb somehow causing his .357 caliber rifle to go off, according to the sheriff’s office. His friends helped him get back to their car and drove him to the hospital, according to Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown. Brown said the man’s companions thought his gun was unloaded, Brown stated.

At about 11 a.m., a 53-year-old Gig Harbor resident was preparing to test fire his .22 caliber pistol at his hunting camp along the 500 block of Winston Creek Road when he heard something, turned, slipped on a rock and dropped his gun, according to Brown.

He was able to call 911 and was transported to by aid to Morton General Hospital, Brown stated. A deputy met up with both victims at the same hospital yesterday.

The men’s names and conditions were not released or readily available.

Mansfield lists these basic gun handling reminders:

• Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.
• Firearms should be unloaded when not in use.
• Don’t rely on your guns “safety”.
• Learn the mechanical and handling characteristics of the firearm you are using.

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Monday, October 28th, 2013

Updated at 8:51 p.m.

ACCIDENTAL THEFT

• A Chehalis resident in his mid-20s is in trouble after leaving a party, wandering through a strange neighborhood and somehow driving himself home in someone else’s truck. Centralia police were called just before 10 a.m. on Saturday about a missing 1998 Ford Ranger from the area of the 1700 block of Shamrock Drive. Several other vehicles in the area were found to have been rummaged through and a cell phone discovered left in one of them, according to police. Police traced its owner to a Chehalis residence and found the Ford Ranger parked outside, according to Sgt. Kurt Reichert. When an officer contacted the phone’s owner and asked if he knew why she was there, he said said it must be about the truck, Reichert said. He advised he’d been very drunk and recalled walking through a neighborhood he did not recognize, then being inside a running truck on Interstate 5, but didn’t know how he got home, Reichert said. He was not arrested or booked, but police are referring the case to prosecutors for evaluation of possible charges, such as taking a motor vehicle without permission, Reichert said. Police don’t know how he got the truck to start as its owner said there was no key in it. The supposition is the man tried his keys in various vehicles and it happened to work in the Ford Ranger, Reichert said.

MORTON MAN INJURED AT CHEHALIS BAR

• Chehalis police are investigating a possible assault that left a 27-year-old Morton man laying on a sidewalk outside Garbe’s bar with a head injury early yesterday morning. Officers called about 1:40 a.m. to the 300 block of Northwest Chehalis Avenue reported the victim was taken to Providence Centralia Hospital and then transferred to Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia with brain swelling. A spokesperson for the Chehalis Police Department today said no arrest had been made and the case is ongoing.

ATTEMPTED THEFT OF LENSES FROM MAN’S EYES

• A 20-year-old Centralia man is in the Lewis County Jail facing a possible charge of second-degree robbery after he allegedly attempted to steal a pair of contact lenses right out of the victim’s eyes. It happened outside the train station in Centralia. Police called about 2:30 p.m. on Friday to the 200 block of Railroad Avenue were told the suspect used threats, intimidation and bullying to try to steal  a watch and the colored lenses belonging to a man in his 20s, according to the Centralia Police Department. Sgt. Kurt Reichert said at one point he reportedly grabbed the guy and told him to take out the lenses and hand them over.  Arriving officers located their suspect in the area short time later, Reichert said. He didn’t actually get the contacts, Reichert said. Richard A. James was arrested and booked into jail, according to police.

DOMESTIC ASSAULT

• A 47-year-old Centralia area man was arrested for second-degree assault after a deputy responded late Saturday afternoon to the 600 block of Centralia-Alpha Road where the man’s live-in girlfriend was found with injuries to her face. Gerald R. Ebner allegedly struck her with his hands and elbows, according to the lewis County Sheriff’s Office. He was was arrested and booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to Sgt. Rob Snaza.

STUPID KID STUFF

• Centralia police were called yesterday to the 1000 block of F Street when two subjects dressed in banana costumes were caught spray painting graffiti on a building. A witness pointed out the house where the youngsters had gone to and an arriving officer spotted through a window the peeled banana costumes on the floor of the residence, according to the Centralia Police Department. The 13-year-old girls were contacted, Sgt. Kurt Reichert said. Neither the gold-colored spray painted symbol left on the building, nor the suspects, struck him as gang related, Reichert said. The case will be referred to prosecutors for possible charges of malicious mischief, he said.

• An 18-year-old Rochester man was arrested last night at Wal-Mart for possession of a concealed weapon without a permit when he was spotted by an off-duty police officer with a handgun in his front pants pocket. It was noticed because he kept pushing it back in, according to the Chehalis Police Department. An officer called about 11:15 p.m. to the retailer at the 1600 block of Northwest Louisiana Avenue cited Nathanial D. Klamn also for unlawful use of a firearm by a minor, a department spokesperson said. He was then released, according to police. The young man was not waving it around or anything, Officer Linda Bailey said, but she wasn’t sure of the details that led to the second offense.

GUNS STOLEN

• A deputy was called on Saturday regarding the theft of several firearms missing from a storage shed at the 900 block of Byham Road in Winlock,  according to a report made to the the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. The victim, a 47-year-old Castle Rock man, said he’d left them at the residence and they went missing sometime since Oct. 12, according to the sheriff’s office. Taken were four double-barreled shotguns and three 22 rifles, Sgt. Rob Snaza said. The loss is more than $1,400, Snaza said.

CAR PROWLS

• Centralia police were called about 2:30 p.m. yesterday to the 1000 block of West Walnut Street regarding two vehicles that were prowled. Not known if anything was stolen, according Centralia Police Department.

• Police were called about 1:20 a.m. yesterday to the 100 block of Ash Street in Centralia where an individual said they confronted a stranger inside their vehicle. The subject, described as wearing a black hoodie and camo pants fled, according Centralia Police Department.

• Centralia police took a report of vehicle prowl yesterday from the 600 block of G Street that occurred the night before.

• Police took a report about 4 a.m. on Saturday of items stolen from a vehicle at the 2300 block of Schueber Ridge Court in Centralia.

• Someone stole a firearm valued at more than $2,000 from a vehicle when it was parked at the 100 block of U.S. Highway 12 outside Napavine between 2:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Friday, according to a report made to the the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office on Saturday. It was a Weatherby, according to the sheriff’s office.

WRECK

• A 49-year-old woman was injured when she wrecked her vehicle on state Route 7 near milepost 14 near Mineral, according to the Washington State Patrol. Troopers called about 4 p.m. on Saturday determined Susan Pfutxenreuter, of Mineral, was southbound when her 1998 Dodge Caravan left the roadway to the right and into a ditch, according to the state patrol. The vehicle was described as totaled. She was transported to Morton General Hospital, according to the investigating trooper. She faces a possible charge of driving under the influence, according to the state patrol.

• A 37-year-old Chehalis woman got a broken foot and night in jail for allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol when she rolled through a stop sign and into a fence at Avery Road East and Jackson Highway about 2 a.m. on Saturday. Kari A. Niles was subsequently booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

• A 54-year-old Salkum woman was reportedly uninjured but her 2005 Volvo station wagon was totaled when she struck a deer about 7:30 a.m. on Friday at the 5500 block of Jackson Highway near Toledo, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

AND MORE

• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, misdemeanor assault, driving under the influence; responses for alarms, disputes, bike theft, minor collisions, stolen license plate, shoplifting of beer, possible runaway, suspicious circumstances, a drunk juvenile walking in the street, cell phone and wallet missing from jacket at bar at closing time; complaint about someone gathering signatures on a petition who wasn’t explaining it right … and more.

Maurin murder trial: Riffe’s buddy tells what he knows

Sunday, October 27th, 2013
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Les George spent hours on the witness stand answering questions about his friend, Rick Riffe, right, who is on trial for kidnapping, robbery and murder.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS –  Leslie George grew up in Mossyrock and graduated from high school in 1975.

That was about the time he came to know the three Riffe brothers, he said.

In the early 1980s, George was divorced and hung out with Rick and Greg Riffe.

The two brothers were very close, they did a lot of things together, he said.

Under questioning, he said Rick was kind of a leader, the younger brother more of a follower. Both had green Army jackets, Greg wore his a lot. Both wore dark stocking caps.

George spent hours on the witness stand on Friday in Lewis County Superior Court, answering questions about the two suspects in the December 1985 kidnapping, robbery and murder of Ethel residents, Ed and Minnie Maurin.

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Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer

Ricky Riffe, 55, is charged in the case. George called him Rick. John Gregory Riffe died last year before prosecutors could charge him. George called him Greg.

George, who went by the name Swabbie, didn’t recall that he attended the wedding of Rick and Robin Riffe, but thought she came into the picture about 1982.

In 1985, Rick lived with his wife and her three children in Silver Creek, he said. George lived in Salkum, but drove a truck, a job that would take him away for a month at a time. During the three or four days between trips when he was home, he stayed with his mother and step-father.

“Were you guys using drugs back then?” he was asked.

Yes, a lot of pot, some meth and Rick’s drug of choice was cocaine, George said.

Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead went through a list of names asking who used and who sold drugs.

He didn’t know anything about Rick and Robin dealing drugs, he testified.

Robin was a waitress and tended bar. Rick had a logging job, but was injured a few months into it and had his back worked on, according to George.

On the witness stand, George recounted a handful of separate events, the first in the autumn of 1984 when he and Ricky Riffe went to Sunbirds to buy a shotgun and the last, when he got a message on his answering machine from Riffe in 1991 telling him to join him in Alaska where he had a job for him.

George testified he wanted a gun to keep in his truck for protection while he was on the road, so on Oct. 4, 1984, he and Riffe picked one out at at Sunbirds Shopping Center in Chehalis.

It was a 12-gauge single shot, single barrel gun, and Riffe offered to shorten it for him, according to George. A day or two later, the pair purchased some ammunition, double-aught buckshot, he testified. That was Riffe’s recommendation, he said.

George said Riffe later told him he tore a page out of the sales book that George has signed, so the firearm wouldn’t be traceable.

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Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead

George testified he fired the gun only a couple of times before giving it his friend soon after.

Another event more than a year later was discussed in court on Friday.

He was asked to talk about a time he was traveling from Salkum westbound on U.S. Highway 12 with Greg and Rick as passengers.

They were in George’s Datsun pickup, heading to Chehalis to get the tires changed, he testified.

And what was the conversation? he was asked.

Greg Riffe was saying how broke they were, George testified.

“Greg said they was broke, they’d do just about anything for money,” he said.

About that time, they were in Ethel and George saw old family friends Ed and Minnie Maurin outside their house, he said.

“I said, you know, they’re probably worth a lot of money, they’re Denny Hadaller’s mom and dad,” George said.

Was there any response? he was asked.

“No.”

The conversation took place maybe two weeks, or a week and a half, before the elderly couple went missing, according to George.

As has occurred several times during the trial, spectators in the courtroom heard more than the jurors did, while the attorneys and the judge argued outside jurors presence statements that may or may not be exempt from hearsay rules.

George spoke about being out of town and on the road on Dec. 19, 1985, when he got a emergency phone message telling him to call Robin Riffe.

When he called her, she said something to the effect, “You’re not going to believe what Rick has done; he’s gone crazy, nuts,” Halstead relayed to the judge.

George told jurors Robin Riffe was “kind of hysterical, I guess” but their conversation ended when Rick Riffe took the phone from her and asked why George was calling.

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Defense attorney John Crowley

“I told him I called for no reason, then he hung up on me,” George said.

He then called his mother and learned the elderly couple was missing, he testified.

George was asked by prosecutors about another day at some point after he returned to town, when he and Greg were leaving in his pickup truck and Rick and Robin brought out a small paper bag from their home.

“He said they were old clothes they wanted to get rid of, they didn’t want ‘em stinking up the house,” George said.

George demonstrated with his hands a bag somewhat smaller than a basketball.

They drove down the old road, down by the bridge on the west end of Lake Mayfield, where Greg got out and tossed it into the woods about 10 feet from them, according to George.

It was early 1986 when George got his gun back from Rick, he testified.

It had been fired but not cleaned and was cut down shorter for him like he’d wanted, except it still need the finish applied, George testified.

“He made me put the Speedy finish on it before I took it home,” George said. “He didn’t want his finger prints on it.”

According to George, he put the shotgun in a closet at his parents house. He testified he realized it was too short to be legal and didn’t think it was worth the risk to carry.

He said he planned to get rid of it, and that he didn’t have it anymore. He said he was afraid.

At some point, law enforcement searched Lake Mayfield for the gun.

“I told them where I thought it might be, in the lake,” George testified. “My step-dad told me not to worry about it, it was gone; he put it there.”

In the late 1980s, the Riffe brothers had moved to White Salmon, Alaska. George said he didn’t keep in touch with either of them. They didn’t have any falling out, according to George.

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Ricky Allen Riffe

It was 1991, when Rick Riffe called him to go up there for a job.

George testified he just left the message on his answering machine and didn’t return the call; that he was scared of what might happen if he moved to Alaska.

Why? he was asked.

“I thought I might be murdered up there,” he answered.

Under questioning from Halstead, George mentioned he was first in contact with police a long time ago, but not right away.

“Why didn’t you?” he was asked.

“I couldn’t believe he would have something to do with it, be involved in this,” George said. “I didn’t want to believe he would be involved in this.”

Halstead pressed the witness about his fears, his suspicions.

“Did you believe your shotgun had been involved in a crime?”

“Yes.”

“What?”

“Ed and Minnie Maurin. It was just a feeling I had.”

George appeared anguished at times on the witness stand, in particular when defense attorney John Crowley grilled him about why he would have commented when passing the Maurin’s house the elderly couple had plenty of money.

“It was you that said that about the Maurins,” Crowley said. “Why would you say such a terrible thing?”

“I didn’t mean anything by it,” George said.

Post script: George also testified he wasn’t aware Greg Riffe owned any guns, and that he drove a white El Camino.

He also said he’d never heard the last name Muzzleman, or heard the brothers referred to by that name.