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It’s election day; have you voted?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013 at 6:29 pm

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Who will be in charge of the fire department where you live?

Half of the fire districts in Lewis County have contested races on the ballot for the position of fire commissioner.

Lewis County has 18 fire districts, the majority of which are run by a three-member board of commissioners.

Ballots for the general election must be postmarked by today or returned to the Lewis County Auditor’s Office before 8 p.m.

See election results here beginning shortly after 8 o’clock tonight.

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Tuesday, November 5, 2013 at 9:59 am

Updated at 6:55 p.m.

BURGLARY CHEHALIS

• Someone broke into a home on the 500 block of Coal Creek Road and left with more than $4,000 worth of valuables including a men’s Bolivia gold and diamond watch, a black Washburn acoustic guitar with pearl inlay, a gold melting torch and a MacBook Pro laptop computer, according to a report made yesterday to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. It happened sometime between Friday and Sunday, Sgt. Rob Snaza said.

BREAK-IN CENTRALIA

• A 39-year-old Centralia woman called police last night to report someone broke into her home and stole her mason jar full of marijuana. Officers responding about 6 p.m. to the 1400 block of Windsor Avenue learned that three containers of prescription medications were also missing. The woman said when she left, her door was locked and when she returned home it was also locked, according to the Centralia Police Department. Under the new law, if a person is 21 or older, they may possess marijuana in their home and may report it stolen if that happens, Officer John Panco said. The case is under investigation, according to police. There was no dollar amount listed in the report for her loss, according to Panco.

DRUGS

• A 26-year-old Chehalis woman was arrested in connection with an ongoing drug investigation yesterday afternoon when deputies made a traffic stop on the 200 block of Maurin Road in Chehalis. It happened just before 4 p.m. and Kari N. Driver was booked into the Lewis County Jail in connection with alleged delivery of methamphetamine, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. Three others were arrested as well, Sgt. Rob Snaza said. “Basically we had been looking for her and she was in the vehicle with all the others,” Snaza said. Snaza said Calvin C. Buhl, 24, of Centralia, was arrested for driving with a suspended license; Hailey E. Athay, 22, Chehalis, was arrested for a warrant and Joshua S. Jacobs, 34, Oakville, was also arrested for a warrant.

HIT AND RUN

• Three males were seen running from a mini van after it crashed into a parked car about 11 p.m. last night at the 200 block of West Cherry Street in Centralia, but court papers left behind are believed to belong to one of them, according to the Centralia Police Department. The incident is under investigation, according to police.

WRECK

• A 46-year-old Kelso man was cited for negligent driving when he reportedly drove into a lane closed for construction on Interstate 5 in Centralia last night and then merged back in striking a Chevrolet Trailblazer. The Washington State Patrol reports both vehicles were damaged, nobody was injured but the 24-year-old driver of the SUV was taken to Providence Centralia Hospital for an unspecified reason. She was treated and has been released, according to the hospital. It happened northbound near the Mellen Street interchange, according to the state patrol. The Hyundai Accent driven by Paul P. Ticknor was able to be driven away from the scene, according to the investigating trooper.

AND MORE

• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, misdemeanor assaults; responses for alarms, graffiti, shoplifting, collisions, disputes; concerns about intoxicated man stumbling into traffic, camo-wearing man with a long gun standing on a sidewalk which turned out to be a local guy who may have been carrying a walking stick; complaints about barking dog … and more.

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News brief: Name released of elk hunter killed by falling tree top

Tuesday, November 5, 2013 at 8:54 am

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The hunter who was killed over the weekend when part of a tree fell onto his tent outside Packwood is identified as Joseph R. Gardner, 69, of Kirkland.

An autopsy found Gardner died from multiple internal injuries, stemming from blunt force trauma to his chest and head, according to Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod.

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office responded about 3 p.m. on Saturday to the hunting camp at the Cortright Creek Trailhead where a 20-foot length of tree had dropped approximately 100 feet onto the man.

KING5.com talked to Gardner’s brother who said the two went hunting in that same spot nearly every year since they were boys growing up in Randle but he’d never seen the wind like it was that day.

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Monday, November 4, 2013 at 12:55 pm

Updated at 6:36 p.m.

MISSING HUNTER LOCATED

• A 38-year-old Morton man who was hunting and hadn’t been seen since early Saturday morning was found yesterday with mild hypothermia and an injured hip, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said local search and rescue personnel learned shortly after 8:15 a.m. yesterday that searchers from the Yakima County Sheriff’s Office were looking for the missing man south of Walupt Lake off the 405 Road in Yakima County. He had last been seen about 6 a.m. on Saturday, according to Brown. He eventually made it to a road where he was found by two individuals; the sheriff’s office was notified about 5 p.m., according to Brown. The hunter apparently was following an elk near a place called the Weed Patch and ended up on the Yakama Reservation in the Two Lakes area, Brown said.

VIOLENCE  IN CENTRALIA

• Deputies called about 5:20 p.m. yesterday to a report of a man pointing a 12-inch chef’s knife into his step-father’s back ended up arresting 26-year-old Christopher J. Draskovich of Centralia.  The unprovoked assault occurred in the kitchen of a home on the 600 block of State Street in Centralia, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. The suspect’s family told the sheriff’s office Draskovich had been making threats to kill them over the previous two days, according to Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown. When deputies arrived, Draskovich was standing in the street saying his family was trying to kill him, Brown said. He was booked into the Lewis County Jail for first-degree assault, according to the sheriff’s office.

VIOLENCE IN PACKWOOD

• A 24-year-old Packwood man was arrested for assault in connection with an incident a week ago in which he allegedly left a 42-year-old Packwood man limping and sporting two black eyes, the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office reported this morning. A deputy called to the 100 block of Alta Lane on Oct. 27 noted the incident at the victim’s residence was related to jealousy issues regarding the suspect’s wife, Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said. The victim had a red marks on his back and his forehead, according to Brown. Zakary T. Porter was found at his home and arrested on Friday for third-degree assault and booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to the sheriff’s office.

VEHICLE THEFT

• Chehalis police took a report yesterday of a red Suzuki Sidekick stolen from in front of its owner’s residence at the 100 block of  Southwest Fourth Street in Chehalis. The Jeepish-type vehicle was there at about 10 p.m. the night before, but by 11 a.m. it had vanished, according to the Chehalis Police Department. The owner said it had been locked and the owner had the keys, according to police. It has a license plate reading ANS 2904, according to police.

BREAK-IN

• Centralia police were called about 8:20 p.m. on Saturday regarding a residential burglary at the 900 block of South Tower Avenue. Missing is costume jewelry, according to the Centralia Police Department.

STOLEN SPRAY PAINT

• Two teenagers were arrested yesterday after allegedly stealing spray paint from a backyard on the 1400 block of Oxford Avenue in Centralia and using it on a vehicle. Brandon L. Jones, 18, of Centralia, and a 16-year-old boy were arrested for second-degree burglary following the approximately 3 p.m. incident, according to the Centralia Police Department.

CAR PROWL

• A 44-year-old Centralia man who was allegedly caught going through a vehicle by its owner was arrested on Friday evening  according to police. An officer called just before 7 p.m. to the 1300 block of Logan Street cited Richard B. Paddock for vehicle prowl and then released him, according to the Centralia Police Department.

DRUGS

• A 21-year-old Centralia resident was arrested for possession of a controlled substance, giving false information to an officer and warrants on Friday night. Devon E. Hall was booked into the Lewis County Jail after contact about 8:20 p.m. with an officer at the 100 block of North Tower Avenue in Centralia, according to the Centralia Police Department.

GUN CRIME

• An 18-year-old Centralia resident was arrested for felon in possession of a firearm on Friday morning at the 1100 block of Long Road in Centralia. Kyle A. Long was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Centralia Police Department.

INDECENT EXPOSURE

• A 46-year-old Chehalis man was taken home by an officer to get him out of public after he allegedly urinated in an alley behind someone’s home and was seen through their window. It was about 4:30 p.m. on Friday in the area of Cascade Avenue, according to the Chehalis Police Department. Sgt. Gary Wilson said Brian Ota was somewhat intoxicated and was cited and then released.

SLEEPING BEHIND THE WHEEL

• Deputies called about 7 p.m. on Friday to a report of two unresponsive subjects inside a car with its motor running in the parking lot of the Salkum Library ended up arrested the driver who was reportedly intoxicated. The pair at the 2400 block of U.S. Highway 12 were woken up and Jeffrey D. Swett was arrested and booked into the Lewis County Jail for being in physical control of a vehicle while under the influence, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

WRECKS

• An 18-year-old motorist was hospitalized with minor injuries after her vehicle landed on its top partially submerged in a creek on the 800 block of North Gold Street in Centralia on Saturday evening. Centralia police say the young woman crawled out and walked to a friend’s house. She was subsequently cited for driving without a license and other infractions, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• A 27-year-old Rochester man was arrested for driving under the influence after he lost control of his vehicle and struck two fences in the area of B Street in Centralia on Friday. Jeremiah R. Reed was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Centralia Police Department.

AND MORE

• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, protection order violation, driving with suspended license, driving under the influence, misdemeanor assault; responses for alarms, collisions, shoplifting, stolen bicycles, disorderly person, suspicious circumstances, possible scam phone call, investigating a report of sexual assault; concerns about kitten stuck in blackberry bushes, sick possum in a yard … and more.

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News brief: Randle man assaulted with hatchet, suspect at large

Monday, November 4, 2013 at 12:00 pm

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Deputies are looking for a man who allegedly attacked an acquaintance with a hatchet during an argument in Randle on Friday evening.

The 31-year-old Randle man reportedly then used the small axe to smash out the rear window of the victim’s vehicle, which he subsequently stole.

The sheriff’s office believes Robert J. Spradlin, 31, may be in the company of his girlfriend, Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said this morning.

Deputies called about 7 p.m. to the 200 block of Savio Road were told that Spradlin and the 54-year-old man were arguing when the suspect picked up the hatchet and started swinging it, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. He then allegedly used its blunt end to strike the man repeatedly in the back and ribs, Brown said.

The victim escaped by hiding; Spradlin fled into the woods, Brown said.

The victim was transported to Morton General Hospital, but then transferred to a hospital in Vancouver as his injuries were worse than initially thought, according to Brown.

Brown said Spradlin returned later to Savio Road, threatened his parents, stole the keys and then took off in the victim’s vehicle. Brown said she didn’t yet know the model or make of the vehicle.

The sheriff’s office asks anyone who knows his whereabouts to immediately call 748-9286.

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News brief: Falling tree top kills hunter near Packwood

Monday, November 4, 2013 at 9:28 am
2013.1104.treelimbkillsDSCN1094.jpg

Courtesy photo by Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A hunter is dead after the top of an old growth tree snapped off and dropped about 100 feet onto a tent east of Packwood over the weekend.

The 20-foot length missed one of his companions by inches, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

Deputies called about 3 p.m. on Saturday to the elk hunting camp say the victim is a 69-year-old man from Kirkland.

It happened at the Cortright Creek Trailhead off Forest Service Road 45 several miles northeast of Packwood, according to the sheriff’s office.

The two had just returned to the tent after the morning hunt when the incident occurred about 2:30 p.m., Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said.

The man’s hunting partner was able to crawl through the debris to locate the victim who had been struck in the head; CPR was attempted but unsuccessful, Brown said.

2013.1104.treetopmissingDSCN1093

Courtesy photo by Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

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Maurin murder trial: What suspects told detectives, and more

Saturday, November 2, 2013 at 3:59 pm
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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.

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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.

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Friday, November 1, 2013 at 8:37 pm

WILD RIDE AND DUI

• A 21-year-old Chehalis man was arrested last night after a two-vehicle wreck in which he left the stolen car he was driving wedged against the guard rail on the Kresky Avenue overpass in Centralia and ran away, according to police. Witnesses calling about 10 p.m. reported the vehicle had been traveling as fast as 80 mph before striking a box truck, according to responders. Nobody was injured, the fire department said. A police dog was called out and Emmanuel Martinez was located several blocks away, according to police. He was booked into the Lewis County Jail for driving under the influence and other offenses, according to the Centralia  Police Department. Sgt. Stacy Denham said the car was stolen from Chehalis.

BURGLARY

• A pair of ATVs were discovered missing yesterday from the 100 block of Pinkerton Road in Ethel, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. The 28-year-old victim said they were stolen from an unsecured shop sometime since Monday, according to the sheriff’s office. Sgt. Rob Snaza described them as 2006 Honda 400EX and a Yamaha Z45.

DOMESTIC INCIDENT

• A 42-year-old Centralia man was arrested for residential burglary about 9:30 a.m.on Wednesday after he allegedly broke into his ex-girlfriend’s house on the 1300 block of Harrison Avenue in Centralia. Duane A. Hill was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Centralia Police Department.

GUNS

• Chehalis police on Wednesday picked up a firearm from a business on Northeast Hampe Way that turned up there and appeared to be stolen. The case is under investigation, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

• A 31-year-old Mossyrock man was arrested for possessing a loaded firearm inside a vehicle after a traffic stop on Wednesday night on Northwest State Avenue in Chehalis. An officer noticing the gun in the back checked it for safety reasons and found it was loaded, according to police. Joshua E. Leach, who said he’d been hunting, was cited and then released, Officer Linda Bailey said.

CAR PROWL

• Police took a report on Wednesday morning of a vehicle prowl at the 700 block of South Gold Street in Centralia in which a checkbook and what was described as a small amount of silver were stolen.

• Chehalis police were called on Wednesday morning about a car prowl on the 400 block of North Market Boulevard. Nothing was missing but the faceplate to the stereo was damaged, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

VANDALISM

• Centralia police took a report yesterday from the 500 block of North Rock Street in which someone damaged a vehicle, puncturing all four tires and “keying” the paint.

AND MORE

• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, driving with suspended license; responses for alarms, shoplifting and other misdemeanor theft, misdemeanor assault, collisions, reports of drunk drivers… and more.

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State Supreme Court: Former Chehalis doctor’s conviction stands

Friday, November 1, 2013 at 7:47 pm

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Former Chehalis family practice physician David Wooten  lost his state Supreme Court case regarding a felony malicious mischief conviction in connection with a Mayfield Lake home he was buying.

Dr. Wooten and his wife Janna Wooten were found guilty in separate trials in Lewis County Superior Court after they were accused of trashing the house they lived in at Mayfield Lake in 2008. They contended it was simply a remodeling project they left unfinished when they moved out of the home they were purchasing.

Last year, the Washington Court of Appeals Division II tossed out his wife’s conviction and then a different three-judge panel of the same court upheld Wooten’s conviction.

Yesterday the state’s high court issued its decision against Wooten, with five judges agreeing. Four judges signed the dissent.

Wooten, who was buying the property on a real estate contract, claimed he did not damage “the property of another” – an element of the crime.

However, the state Supreme Court disagreed. For the purposes of malicious mischief, Wooten was not the exclusive owner of the property, they wrote.
•••

For background, read “Conviction vacated for trashing of Mossyrock house” from Wednesday May 23, 2012, here

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Maurin murder trial: Money for drugs

Friday, November 1, 2013 at 8:42 am
2013.1031.ralph.vickers

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.

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

Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 6:48 pm

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

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Maurin murder trial: Former drug dealer claims defendant admitted involvement

Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 8:57 am
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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.

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Wednesday, October 30, 2013 at 8:46 pm

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.