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Maurin murder trial: Witnesses testify about a green sedan

Monday, October 21, 2013 at 8:55 am
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Defendant Ricky Riffe, far right, and his legal team listen to testimony in his murder trial in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Jurors for the Maurin murder trial heard witnesses over the final two days of testimony last week who passed by the elderly couple’s Ethel home, who saw what may have been the Maurin’s 1969 Chrysler traveling in several places such as Jackson Highway, Avery Road at North Military Road, and Bunker Creek Road as well a woman who gave a description of a man heading away from the Yard Birds Shopping Center where the abandoned vehicle with a blood-stained front seat was discovered on Dec. 20, 1985.

Ed Maurin, 81, and Minnie, 83, Maurin were reported missing the day before; their bodies were located the following Dec. 24.

Lindsay Senter, of Mossyrock, was one of three truck drivers who drove U.S. Highway 12 regularly nearly 28 years ago that testified. Senter was delivering a load of logs to from East Lewis County to Longview and recalled seeing two males walking west on the highway around 8 o’clock that morning.

After hearing the news of the slayings, he contacted the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office to share what he observed.

It was past Harms Road and before the house where the Maurin’s lived, according to Senter. One of them was carrying something that could have been a gun, covered by a cloth, according to Senter. He didn’t actually see a weapon, he said.

“It just seemed like it was, it looked like that,” he told Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead.

Robert Lyons passed the house three times each day in his log truck, and knew the couple most of his life, as he’d gone to school with Minnie’s children, Dale, Delbert, Denny and Hazel, he said.

“I seen they had company that morning,” Lyons said when he took the witness stand in Lewis County Superior Court. “I thought, that’s awfully early to have company.”

Lyons said he saw the Maurin’s car parked at the house, as well as a white car which could have been a 1970s model.

It had to have been shortly after 8 a.m. to 8:15 a.m., he said.

Morton resident Norman Layman told the court the Maurin’s two-toned green car passed him on Ethel Hill, west of their house during his second trip of the day.

He knew of the couple because he knew Minnie’s son Denny Hadaller, he testified.

It was foggy, he was westbound moving probably less than 20 mph, he said, and it would have been between 10:30 and 11 a.m.

“As I looked down, I thought it was Marion, the lady, in the front seat, I thought,” Layman said. “I couldn’t tell what was in the backseat.”

He could see the driver’s legs, he said.

Under questioning from Halstead about what he told police decades ago, Layman agreed he’d said he thought there were two people in the front and maybe one person in the back.

Kathryn Gunderson was then in her early 30s and living just south of Chehalis. Gunderson testified that a day or two after reading about the homicides in the news, she called law enforcement to tell them what happened that day as she headed into town up Jackson Highway.

Gunderson testified she got behind a dark green, good-sized car somewhere south of Ribelin Road. She couldn’t see inside it, she said, but it may have turned off at Main Street.

Under questioning, she said she previously told police there were three people in the car, but said she had been making a guess.

Steve Amoroso lived in Winlock and worked a swing shift at Green Hill School in Chehalis, arriving at 2:15 p.m. that day, jurors heard.

He came across the car at a four-way stop, he said.

What caught his attention, he testified, was the young male sitting directly behind the driver, with his arm on back of the front seat. Amoroso noted being in law enforcement he noticed the passenger obviously wasn’t wearing his seatbelt, and was “actively” looking the other direction.

Amoroso was northbound on North Military Road, just west of Interstate 5, and preparing to make a right turn onto Avery Road, he said. The car was pointed west on Avery and it moved into the intersection very slow, he said.

The two elderly people in the front seat were staring straight ahead, and the car’s brake lights came on twice as it moved through the intersection, he said. He described the third occupant as probably 18 to 20 years old, with a partial beard and wearing a dark blue watchman’s hat.

The witness with the most detailed description of a car and its occupants was a retired truck stop manager who contacted the prosecutor after seeing television coverage when trial began to say he recognized a photo shown of the now-deceased John Gregory Riffe.

Frank Perkins told jurors of the Chrysler pulling up to a gas pump off Interstate 5 exit 72, next to the Rib Eye restaurant around 8:30 a.m. that day, stopping briefly and then driving away.

Ricky A. Riffe, 55, is charged with burglary, robbery and murder in the case. His younger brother was about to be charged as well when he died last year.

Prosecutors have contended the Riffe brothers are responsible for abducting the Maurins from their home, forcing them to drive to Sterling Savings Bank in downtown Chehalis to withdraw money and then shooting them in their backs with a sawed off shotgun, leaving their bodies along Stearns Hill Road outside Adna.

Another witness before last week ended took jurors out to Adna in his recollections of Dec. 19, 1985.

Ken Paul, from Woodland, sells real estate today but back then he worked in the timber industry, he said.

Paul said he was driving a large piece of logging equipment from state Route 6 where it had been worked on, up Bunker Creek Road to a job site. It was an an International skidder and he was moving at only about 10 mph, he testified.

All the vehicles passed him, but a full-sized older car followed him for quite awhile and then passed him quite slow as he headed up, and he could see in its rear window, he said.

“What I noticed was an individual in the back seat, a silhouette,” he said.

He assumed it was a man, he said, he thought it was in the center of the seat.

Five to ten minutes later, the same car was coming back towards him, and he saw an elderly couple in the front seat. The driver appeared in a trance, distraught, according to Paul.

“He was looking straight ahead,” he said. “He never looked at me, he had a faraway look in his face.”

Two more witnesses testified a car they saw on Bunker Creek Road looked like the 1969 Chrysler belonging to the Maurins they were shown on the overhead screen in the courtroom.

Janice Duncan lived about two miles up from state Route 6 and after getting her children off the school, walked up the road to see how a neighbor was doing, she said.

“It was a green car, very similar to one that goes by a lot,” Duncan said.

She estimated it could have been 10 to 10:30 a.m., but she didn’t see who was inside it, she said.

Dennis Dahlstrom of Chehalis has lived in Lewis County all his life.

He was working in the area, and it was either late morning or early afternoon when he observed the car, he testified.

“Cars (there) usually are going 60 mph,” Dahlstrom said. “This one was traveling fairly slow.”

William Reisinger testified he was on Bunker Creek Road when he saw a 1969 Chrysler headed up it with three occupants and then racing back down it in the 11 o’clock hour that day.

Reisinger who said he was born and raised on a farm on the 400 block was expecting his mother and her boyfriend who drove a green car just like the one on the big screen, he said.

He was in his truck heading into Chehalis to pick up some bolts for a trailer when he saw the car approaching, he said. He slowed to almost a stop, rolled down his window and put his hand out. But it wasn’t who he thought, he said.

Reisinger said instead, there was a woman with a man driving and a person with dark hair leaning up on the seat. The driver was solemn-faced, but didn’t appear distressed, he testified.

“I’d say in his 70s, he just kinda looked at me,” he said.

On his return trip, as he got close to the farm, Reisinger saw what he thought was the same car coming around the corner, somewhat over the center line, causing him to move toward the edge of the road, he said.

“He was probably going 70, it was a pretty good clip,” he said.

Reisinger said it was his impression it was the grandson taking grandparents car for a joyride. He didn’t see the gender of the driver, he said, but thought the green of the jacket or the dark hair made him think it was the person previously in the backseat.

In hindsight, it was like a getaway, he said.

Former Lewis County Deputy William Forth was on routine patrol that morning; the elderly couple wouldn’t be reported missing for several hours.

Forth recounted how he was leaving the Adna store at the intersection of Bunker Creek road near state Route 6, when a green full-sized car coming inbound, 20 to 30 feet away caught his attention.

Its driver looked at him so directly, in a way that made him think he ought to pull him over and at least learn his name, because he looked like he may have just committed a crime, Forth testified.

Forth described the driver as a caucasian he estimated in his mid to late 20s, wearing a stocking cap with dark hair showing from under it, and a beard that was heavy but not full grown. He told the court he was wearing a winter coat that was dark, he believed was multi-colored and it seemed like had some green in it.

Forth pulled his patrol car behind the sedan and both sat at the stop sign to the highway for 30 to 40 seconds, although it seemed like forever, he said. There was no oncoming traffic, and the driver continued looking at him through the rear view mirror, he said.

Then the car pulled out and headed east, he said.

Forth was due at an office Christmas party and said he had his finger on the switch to flip on his lights, but for reasons he still wonders about to this day, he didn’t do it, he said.

As he passed the car at the freeway, and it got onto the turn lane to head north on Interstate 5, he looked at the driver again, and said he recalls seeing a red blanket over the seat. Forth estimated it all occurred between 10:40 a.m. and 11 a.m.

Forth continued to talk about the days that followed and what began to go through his mind.

He heard of the Maurin’s disappearance the next morning, he said, and left for vacation that afternoon.

Over the weekend, he stopped into the garage where detectives were processing the elderly couple’s found car. Forth said he was focused on his conversation with detective Herrington, but something began turning in his head about the vehicle, like a name on the tip of your tongue, he said.

During his week-long vacation, Forth testified, he awoke at 3 o’clock one morning and it hit him where he’d seen the same car. Forth testified he has never had a doubt in his mind it was the same one.

In 1991, after he’d left the sheriff’s office and worked as roads superintendent for the county, detectives showed up at his office one day, he said, and showed him some photos. He picked one out who was the individual he believed he saw near the Adna store.

Under questioning in court, Forth told of working with now-detective Bruce Kimsey last year and selecting a person from a group of photos as the driver. He said he was positive of who it was because he recognized the eyes.

Forth said he had only learned the day before he testified that he’d selected two different individuals.

Jurors also heard from a woman who gave a description of a man walking  away from the Yard Birds Shopping Center where the abandoned vehicle with a blood-stained front seat was subsequently discovered.

Virginia Cummings said she had returned something she’d bought and was heading home to Salzer Valley in Centralia.

Cummings testified she exited the east side of the store’s lot to head north on Kresky and ahead of her walking the same direction on the left shoulder was a young man she was so certain was her neighbor, so she was going to give him him a lift.

“I don’t recall if I stopped or I just slowed,” she said.

The young man was dressed and built just like her neighbor, she recalled but as she was right beside him, she saw his face wasn’t the neighbors, she said.

He would not look at her, she said.

Cummings testified she didn’t recall that he was carrying anything or had a beard, but described him as wearing a navy blue skull cap, with dark hair that curled up around it, and his attire was an Army fatigue jacket, levi blue jeans and a black style boot, she said.

The trial began with opening statements on Oct. 8. It’s third week begins today. Jurors have been told they could be in court as long as six weeks.

As in the case of nearly all court proceedings, the courtroom is open to the public. Proceedings are scheduled from 9:30 a.m. until noon and 1:30 p.m. until 5 p.m. The courtroom is on the fourth floor of the Lewis County Law and Justice Center at Main Street and Chehalis Avenue in Chehalis.

http://www.lewiscountysirens.com/?p=21748

Former Deputy William Forth testifies about his encounter with the green sedan and the photos he identified as its driver.

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Saturday, October 19, 2013 at 10:03 am

Police would like to talk with the individuals whose pictures were captured before surveillance cameras disappeared.

SURVEILLANCE CAMERAS GONE, BUT EFFECTIVE

• Chehalis police were called to the Visiting Nurses business on the 700 block of South Market Boulevard on Thursday because someone stole two outdoor security cameras. While the devices went missing during the night, the images remained on the video equipment inside, according to the Chehalis Police Department. The pictures showed a male and a short female with short dark hair come into view, Deputy Chief Randy Kaut said. Officers would like to talk with the two suspects, according to Kaut.

ASSAULTS

• A 22-year-old Centralia man was arrested Thursday night for allegedly striking his sister with a bat during a dispute. Police called about 5:30 p.m. to the 1700 block of Maple Valley Drive in Centralia booked Riley J. Youckton into the Lewis County Jail for second-degree assault, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• Chehalis police were called to Green Hill School for Boys on Thursday to investigate a physical dispute with multiple participants. There was a fight between two student-inmates in a classroom during which another fight broke out in the hallway with several more boys, according to the Chehalis Police Department. Staff at the juvenile corrections facility dealt with it and police responded afterward, Deputy Chief Randy Kaut said. He wasn’t aware of any serious injuries yesterday or many details, but the report wasn’t yet completed, Kaut said. While the “numerous” individuals involved didn’t want to press for charges, police will be asking the prosecutor to evaluate the case for the offense of rioting, according to Kaut.

THEFT

• Centralia police took a report of appliances missing from bank-owned property at the 700 block of Bengal Court yesterday.

FRAUD

• An officer took a report yesterday from the 1700 block of West Mellen Street in Centralia regarding an unknown suspect using a woman’s credit card on the Internet. The two-paragraph report didn’t list when or how the discovery was made or the amount in question, according to Centralia Police Department Sgt. Kurt Reichert. Oftentimes with these types of crimes, while the victim is local, the official victim – the bank – is in another jurisdiction and so the case belongs there, according to Reichert. The reports are mostly perfunctory, he said. The woman may very well be reimbursed by her credit card company and the eventual victim who takes the loss may be the vendor, Reichert said.

• Centralia police were called Thursday morning regarding the fraudulent use a credit card in connection with the 1000 block of Ellsbury Street.

BAD COMBO: MIRROR, SUNLIGHT, ANTIQUE STORE

• Firefighters were called to a shop on the 300 block of North Tower Avenue in Centralia when passersby noticed wisps of smoke through a window inside the business. What happened was the sun was shining through the glass, striking an old antique convex mirror on display and the beam was directed back to just below the edge of the sill, according to Riverside Fire Authority. The Saturday Antique Market is only open one day a week, according to Firefighter Rick LeBoeuf. The call came about 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, he said. “It obviously had been doing it for awhile,” LeBoeuf said. The smoldering itself was so minute, that when a person stood in front of the mirror, the smoking stopped, he said. A firefighter scraped off a charred section about three inches in size and advised the arriving owner to move the mirror, LeBoeuf said.

AND MORE

• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, misdemeanor assault, driving with suspended license, driving under the influence, trespassing, responses for alarms, suspicious circumstances; complaints of someone throwing eggs, intoxicated person bothering customers … and more.

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Sun shines onto mirror, bounces back to window sill.

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Courtesy photos by Terry Ternan

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Deceased transient was musician, who will be reunited with his family

Friday, October 18, 2013 at 9:58 pm

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – When Alicia Wolfe read in the news last Saturday Manabu Ishikawa was going to be buried with two strangers, as one of three unclaimed individuals from the county coroner’s office, she felt compelled to visit his grave in Chehalis.

The Winlock woman didn’t know him, but had met him briefly before he died this summer.

When she checked Ishikawa in at a Centralia motel in June, she thought his name sounded Japanese and asked about it, she said.

“He said he was first generation American,” Wolfe said. “I said oh, my husband’s mother is also.”

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Manabu Ishikawa 1964 – 2013

He smiled at her comment, went to his room and she never talked to him again, she said.

The ceremony on Saturday morning at Pioneer Cemetery along Jackson Highway in Chehalis was organized by the Lewis County Coroner’s Office. The final resting place for three sets of unclaimed cremated remains was gifted by cemetery owners John and Marie Panesko.

Wolfe was really disappointed she didn’t learn about it sooner, so she could attend, she said.

“I’m not sure why a stranger passing away has hit me so hard,” she said.

The 28-year-old woman said she’s worked in the industry most of her adult life and it’s not the first time she’s experienced the death at work of a guest; she’s accepted it as part of her job, she said.

But Ishikawa is someone she’s thought about more than usual. She couldn’t get it out of her mind over the weekend that his family obviously didn’t know where he was, where he was laid to rest.

Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod said all he knew was Ishikawa was 49 years old and a transient person from Grass Valley, California. He said he tried and simply could not locate any relatives.

The remembrance with a chaplain offering prayers on Saturday took place alongside the lawned property inhabited with the remains of more than 300 individuals. It’s historically been a place for those no one else wanted, such as some in unmarked graves who died at the local tuberculosis sanatorium and even a local criminal who met his end through vigilante justice, the nine attendees were told, according to McLeod.

Meanwhile, Wolfe began searching and found a Facebook page for the stranger. One of his friends had posted last month they knew he died, but were trying to account for his whereabouts, she said.

“From what I could gather, they searched social security death records, and learned he had died June 5, but didn’t have any more details,” she said.

Wolfe messaged one of his friends, offering her condolences and explaining Ishikawa’s remains were in Lewis County and he’d been buried, but she would bring him flowers And she didn’t hear back.

Early this week, Wolfe took a bouquet to the hillside graveyard.

So when she ran into John Panesko to ask him to show her the plot, she was somewhat happy to learn the actual burial was rescheduled for yesterday. It was her day off work, so she could be there, she thought.

She messaged Ishikawa’s friend again, to share the news he hadn’t been buried yet, she said.

Finally, on Wednesday, she heard back.

“She said, you’re kidding me, his family loves him very much,” Wolfe said. “They thought he was in Portland or California. You have to go there and tell them not to bury him.”

She did.

Panesko has gotten a phone call from Ishikawa’s sister and an email from his mother in Japan. Ishikawa’s urn has been returned to coroner’s office where it waits to be reunited with his family.

Wolfe spoke to his mother yesterday.

“She called me and told me a little bit about Manabu,” she said.

Wolfe learned he went to music school in California in the 1980s.

“I guess he was like a free spirit, he did what he wanted,” she said. “He traveled around, did as he pleased. He played the clarinet.”

Even though she didn’t actually know, his mother felt he had died, Wolfe said.

His mother told Wolfe her son had a heart condition and chose against medical advice about four years ago not to seek medical intervention.

“She said he believed in God, she said, Manabu’s God is powerful,” Wolfe said.

Wolfe still doesn’t know what he was doing in Centralia.

His mother had a final request.

“She said, I have one more question for you: ‘Manibu had a dog, Swale, and she was special to Manibu and very special to me, and I would like you to find her.”

Wolfe said she knew Centralia police took custody of Ishikawa’s dog upon his death. She made phone calls and learned Swale was taken to the Lewis County Animal Shelter and probably adopted out, she said.

Earlier today, she was waiting and hoping once the new owners were given her phone number from the shelter and information about the situation, she might be able to fulfill the mother’s request.

Tonight, she learned Swale died a few months ago.

Ishikawa’s Facebook page lists his occupation as janitor at nearest pond; he has 493 Facebook friends.

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News brief: Hear local attorneys argue to the state Supreme Court on Ashford murder case

Friday, October 18, 2013 at 1:29 pm

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Three times he’s been found guilty; three times the conviction has been thrown out.

The Washington State Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday about the case of Kenneth L. Slert, who back in October 2000 fatally shot  53-year-old John Benson at a campsite near Ashford.

Slert claimed self defense.

The question is: Did dismissal of four potential jurors for answers to a jury questionnaire violate defendant’s right to public trial?

Watch and listen to appeals attorney Jodi Backlund and  Lewis County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Eric Eisenberg tell the court what should happen next, here

•••
For background, read “News brief: Supreme Court grants hearing on prosecutor’s request to overturn reversal of Ashford murder conviction” from Saturday September 14, 2013, here

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Maurin murder trial: Testimony takes day off for death of defendant’s dad

Friday, October 18, 2013 at 9:26 am
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Defense attorney John Crowley offers comfort to his client as proceedings adjourn for the day.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Ricky Riffe’s murder trial is expected to resume this morning after taking a one-day recess because his father passed away.

Riffe, 55, is charged in the 1985 abduction, robbery and deaths of Ed and Minnie Maurin from Ethel. The trial in Lewis County Superior Court is in its second week.

“I understand his mind might be elsewhere,” Judge Richard Brosey said yesterday morning when the parties convened.

Defense attorney John Crowley told the judge he learned his father died the evening before and his client was emotionally unable to assist counsel.

Brosey said he understood Crowley’s ability to represent Riffe was curtailed by the news.

Riffe’s parents live in Arizona, where his mother has been taking care of his dying father. They have not attended any part of the trial, but did travel to Chehalis during early hearings.

His step-son and step-son’s mother have been at the courthouse since proceedings began. They traveled from Alaska, where Riffe has lived since 1987.

Brosey told jurors the unexpected day off was not related to anything they needed to concern themselves with, and apologized. Riffe thanked the judge before leaving the courtroom.

The former Lewis County resident has been held in the Lewis County Jail since July of last year, when he was arrested at his home in King Salmon and returned here for the trial.

The judge made it clear one day was the maximum amount of time for bereavement.

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Thursday, October 17, 2013 at 4:28 pm

PURSUIT OF YOUNG TEEN DRIVER ENDS IN WRECK

• A 14-year-old Chehalis area boy was arrested after he allegedly tried to outrun a deputy who was trying to stop him for speeding yesterday afternoon. It happened about 2 p.m. northbound on Jackson Highway south of Chehalis, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. The 1994 Dodge Intrepid was traveling 69 mph in a 40 mph zone and instead of pulling over, continued forward until the driver tried to make a right-hand turn onto Panorama Drive, where it struck a tree according to Sgt. Rob Snaza. Three occupants tried to run away and the driver did get away, Snaza said. He was subsequently contacted and taken into custody for attempted eluding and three counts of reckless endangerment, according to Snaza. Nobody at the scene was injured, according to Lewis County Fire District 5. However, the registered owner of the Intrepid was cited for allowing the teen to drive, according to Snaza.

THEFT

• Centralia police were called about 2:30 p.m. yesterday to the 1100 block of Eckerson Road about someone changing the name and account numbers on someone else’s account. The case is under investigation, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• An investigation into a late July theft from the 600 block of Falls Road in Randle ended yesterday with a deputy forwarding recommended charges of second-degree burglary regarding a pair of Randle residents. Missing was a boat motor valued at more than $1,500, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. The suspects are men ages 51 and 24, according to the sheriff’s office.

• Officers were called about 5:30 p.m. yesterday to the 300 block of South Pearl Street in Centralia after two individuals reportedly stole keys from a business and the fled.

• Chehalis police were called yesterday morning after a man accidentally left his wallet at Sears in the Lewis County Mall and upon return, located it but missing its credit cards and a “couple hundred” dollars cash, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

• Various items including CDs were stolen and the gas tank apparently siphoned from a car parked at the 500 block of Northwest Quincy Avenue in Chehalis, according to a report made to police yesterday morning. There was no forced entry, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

AND MORE

• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, trespass; responses for alarms, littering, other misdemeanor theft, collision, hit and run, babies and / or children allegedly left or accidentally locked inside vehicles, one of which resulted in a warning … and more.

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Maurin murder trial: Surprise witness implicates dead Riffe brother

Thursday, October 17, 2013 at 8:52 am
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Witness Frank Perkins describes who he saw with the elderly couple after seeing a picture of John Gregory Riffe in the news.

Updated at 7:23 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – An individual who told police in 1985 he saw a man with the Maurins inside their car but wouldn’t be able to identify him contacted the prosecutor this week to say he recognized a photo of the now-deceased John Gregory Riffe shown on television news last week.

Frank Perkins, a retired truck stop manager, was one of 10 people who took the witness stand yesterday in the murder trial of Riffe’s brother, Ricky A. Riffe.

Prosecutors contend the Riffe brothers abducted Ed and Minnie Maurin from their Ethel home, and forced them to drive to their bank to withdraw cash before shooting them in the backs with a shotgun. The bodies of Ed, 81, and Minnie, 83, were discovered dumped on a logging road five days later, on Dec. 24, 1985.

Perkins spoke to an investigator that same week, and told him he couldn’t put the people to faces and wasn’t shown any montages of suspects, he testified yesterday. He said he was about 60 feet away from the car.

Back then, he got his news of the case from the radio, he said, but was surprised when he watched a KOMO TV story last week.

“It shocked me because it was like going back 30 years ago,” Perkins said. “I recognized the person I saw in the car on the TV.”

Perkins told the court that the morning of Dec. 19, 1985, the couple pulled up to a gas pump, sat there for a couple of minutes and then drove away.

It was at the truck stop off Interstate 5 exit 72, next to the Rib Eye restaurant, he said. In the back seat of the Chrysler was a light-bearded man in his 20s, wearing an Army jacket, according to Perkins.

“To be honest, I don’t remember, but it must have been around 8:30,” he told  Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead.

It caught his attention, because the automobile went to the pumps farthest from the building, and he always was watching for someone who might leave without paying, he said.

“I saw an older lady and a gentleman driver, and a younger fellow sitting between them in the backseat,” he said.

Perkins testified he normally ran to the bank in Centralia around 10:30 a.m. and he thought it was the usual time that day when he did so, and spotted what he thought was the same bearded man standing off National Avenue by Yard Birds holding a rifle or a shotgun. That person was wearing a dark knit cap, he said.

He knew there were ducks in the nearby swamp, but thought it somewhat brazen to hunt in town, he said. Perkins told defense attorney John Crowley there was no question he saw one person in the backseat of the Maurin’s car.

The Seattle-based attorney told jurors in opening statements last week that out of numerous witnesses, only one claims to have seen his client in the Maurin’s car, someone who was a teenager at the time and didn’t come forward for years.

Riffe, 55, is charged with murder, kidnapping, robbery and burglary. He is charged as a principal and / or as an accomplice to another person.

Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer told the jury last week in his opening, he would be calling a witness who heard the Riffes planning the crime.

Marty Smeltzer took the witness stand, since after the Maurin’s deaths he told police he overheard the brothers speak of it before it occurred.

Smeltzer testified he and his cousin were at a party on a logging road near Winston Creek back in 1985 and the Riffe brothers were about as far away as the width of the courtroom.

He was questioned by Prosecutor Meyer.

“We were all drinking,” he said. “Me and Matt, we overheard a conversation, gonna kill somebody. And take ‘em to the bank, and they was leaving.”

“We didn’t know if it was kill or what,” he said. “But it was kinda obvious, because a week or two …” Smeltzer said, but was cut off by an objection which was sustained.

The lawyers and the judge conversed, in an attempt to phrase questions and get answers specific as to what Ricky Riffe said and what John Gregory Riffe said.

“Was there any conversation from Rick about a bank?” he was asked.

“No,” Smeltzer said.

“What did you hear Rick say about getting money?”

“They was going somewhere. I don’t know. I heard him say, going somewhere to get money,” Smeltzer said.

Under questioning from Crowley, Smeltzer said he told his story to a police officer in Mossyrock, he told it again when an officer visited him at the jail, he told it again to a detective in about 1992 and then last year to sheriff’s detective Bruce Kimsey.

“Are you sure that even happened?” Crowley asked.

“Yes,” came the reply.

Smeltzer told the court he’s slow on remembering, it takes him time, because of a head injury in 1980 when he fell off the roof of a barn.

Under further questioning from Meyer, he didn’t recall where the Riffes said they were going afterward, or what weapon they planned to use.

After borrowing Meyer’s reading glasses, and reviewing a transcript of his statement to Kimsey, his memory was much clearer.

“Alaska,” he said. “They was going to take two elderly people to the bank and get money.

“Yes, they wanted to kill ‘em, dispose of the bodies

“It was a shotgun. Sawed off.”

Crowley had him read a passage, his response after Kimsey asked if he swore everything he said was true.

“I’m pretty sure it’s the truth,” Smeltzer read.
•••

Meanwhile, for previous coverage of the trial, if you are on the home page, scroll down

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Wednesday, October 16, 2013 at 6:40 pm

SHOOTING SUSPECT APPREHENDED IN NAPAVINE

• A 24-year-old Longview man was arrested yesterday evening at the McDonalds restaurant in Napavine by multiple law enforcement officers looking for him in connection with a shooting earlier this month in Longview. Lewis County deputies and police from Longview assisted the U.S. Marshal’s Service Fugitive Task Force in picking up Justin H. Nash at about 5 p.m. at the 100 block of Kirkland Road, according to authorities. Longview police say early the morning of October 5, Nash shot a 40-year-old man twice in the legs; the victim then drove himself to the hospital. Longview police say the motive was robbery, unrelated to the victim being a witness in a coming trial. Nash was booked into jail in Cowlitz County for first-degree robbery, first-degree assault and unlawful possession of a fire arm, according to police. Lewis County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Sgt. Rob Snaza said deputies later arrested the 37-year-old Chehalis woman who was with Nash, after the federal marshals conducted a search of her home on the 1600 block of Bishop Road. Based on what was found, Lori Mathat was booked into the Lewis County Jail for possession of methamphetamine and possession of a sawed off shotgun, Snaza said.

WIRING STOLEN FROM NEW STREET LIGHTS

• Someone removed 800 feet of copper wiring from below ground meant for new street lights being installed in area under construction north of Uhlmann Motors on Northwest Louisiana Avenue. A worker who discovered the theft this morning called police; it occurred sometime during the previous week, according to the Chehalis Police Department. The loss to the city is estimated at as much as $8,000 for materials and labor, detective Sgt. Gary Wilson said.

THEFT

• A stolen 2003 Honda mini van was recovered yesterday from a wooded area off the 1000 block of Long Road in Centralia. The vehicle, reported missing in August, was stripped down, according to the Centralia Police Department.

VANDALISM

• Centralia police took a report yesterday morning from the 200 block of East Third Street of windows shot out of a building. It appeared a BB or pellet gun was used, according to the Centralia Police Department.

SECRET SANTA COMES EARLY IN TENINO

• The Tenino Police Department announced today a local person who wished to remain anonymous donated $2,500 for the purchase of bullet-proof vests for the agency’s three commissioned officers. “The Chief and the officers are exceptionally happy, relieved and thankful for this person’s compassion and caring,” Chief John Hutchings stated in a news release. “This gift of love certainly lightens our burdens.”

AND MORE

• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, misdemeanor assaults, shoplifting; responses for alarm, possible shoplifting, minor collisions, suspicious circumstances, someone who thought their car was stolen but learned someone had moved it as a prank … and more.

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News brief: Centralia resident discovers man sleeping in bathroom

Wednesday, October 16, 2013 at 12:55 pm

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

An intoxicated 29-year-old Centralia man who woke up this morning on a stranger’s bathroom floor was detained by police but then hopped off a gurney and fled as he was being transported to the hospital emergency room.

Centralia police say Douglas Galloway was chased down and that he shoved an officer as he continued to try to escape.

It began with a 911 call about 6 a.m. when a woman in a house on the 900 block of North Pearl Street got up and discovered a man sleeping in her bathroom, according to police. Officers found Galloway highly intoxicated, and for unspecified reasons, an aid car was summoned so he could be taken to Providence Centralia Hospital, according to the Centralia Police Department.

When the ambulance stopped in the driveway at the emergency room, Galloway bailed, according to police. He was caught and booked into the Lewis County Jail for third-degree assault.

It’s not clear how, or why, he was in the woman’s house.

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Defense: Maurin murder trial jeopardized by hearsay evidence

Wednesday, October 16, 2013 at 9:10 am
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Retired Lewis County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Glade Austin answers question from Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead in court.

Updated

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The case of the kidnapping and murder of an elderly Ethel couple almost 28 years ago nearly ended in a mistrial yesterday as a witness blurted out information the judge had said needed to be avoided.

“Clearly that was not the answer I was expecting,” Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead told the judge after the jury was sent out of the courtroom.

Retired Lewis County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Glade Austin spent much of yesterday on the witness stand speaking about his role after the December 1985 slaying of Ed and Minnie Maurin, for the trial of longtime suspect Ricky A. Riffe who was arrested last year.

Austin, who retired in early 2002, was present during the debate by lawyers about what he could or could not say on the stand in Lewis County Superior Court.

“It should have been patently obvious to the witness we were not going anywhere near that,” Judge Brosey said. “What do you suggest I do, short of granting a mistrial?”

The issue those in the courtroom heard revolved around a tip that came in early 1991 from now-deceased Robin Riffe, that led investigators to the edge of Lake Mayfield where they dug up pieces of cloth or clothing from an old fire pit.

Austin told the jury he learned Riffe may have buried the items.

“She’s dead, I can’t cross examine her,” Defense attorney John Crowley told the judge.

Crowley called it a testimonial mistake that called for a mistrial, an issue he had already submitted a 20-page pre-trial brief on.

“Now there’s clear hearsay that’s been testified in front of the jury,” Crowley said.

After continued discussion, Judge Brosey denied the motion and prohibited prosecutors when they continued from eliciting any information the source of the information was Robin Riffe.

A jury of 12 plus five alternates are in their second week of a trial that is expected to last through the month. Several portions of yesterday included conversations out of earshot of jurors in which lawyers parsed out how to avoid hearsay evidence in the case of former witnesses who have since died.

Prosecutors have contended Riffe and his now-deceased brother John Gregory Riffe got into the couple’s home, uncovered bank records and forced the couple to go with them to the bank and withdraw money before shooting them in the backs with a shotgun inside their car and dumping their bodies on a logging road. Ed Maurin was 81, his wife was 83.

Austin was a sergeant when the deaths occurred.

Earlier yesterday, Austin spoke of a pair of women, one named Mary Jones who is now dead, working with a sketch artist to create a composite in connection with a man seen walking in the area of the Maurin’s car at which was discovered at Yard Birds. Information on the subject came both in front of the jury and also while the jury was sent out of the room as lawyers and the judge discussed which witness could properly testify to which details.

The sketch itself was held back so it could be introduced when a witness with first-hand information on its creation takes the stand.

Austin said the drawing would have been distributed widely on Dec. 24, 1985, when they still had no suspects.

The sheriff’s office began creating various montages, as the public called in to implicate various people and law enforcement officers offered names of people in the area they had in mind, Austin testified.

“I can’t say for sure exactly what the montages were based on,” he said.

Those in the courtroom heard of at least 14 sets of six photos each which were developed, none of which contained images of either Riffe brother, and that the two women did not select anyone from the montages.

Crowley objected to Austin telling the jury the dead woman didn’t choose anyone, since Crowley wouldn’t be able to cross examine her. He argued her non identification of the first 106 mug shots was non-verbal conduct.

“It’s a back door way of trying to sneak in hearsay,” Crowley said.

Judge Richard Brosey overruled that objection.

During Austin’s day on the stand, he spoke of the various tasks he engaged in during the investigation. He assisted detective Richard Herrington in lifting prints from around the couple’s house on U.S. Highway 12, he testified.

Yes, they found three place settings of tableware in the Maurin’s dishwasher, he said.

“You would naturally want to know who used those dishes,” Crowley suggested.

“It was a question in our minds, yes,” Austin replied.

Austin described taking photos of the Maurin’s abandoned Chrysler in the parking lot of Yard Birds in Chehalis on Dec. 20, 1985 and taking more pictures when their bodies were found off Stearns Hill Road on Dec. 24, 1985.

Three deputies conducted surveillance at the couple’s funeral on Dec. 28, 1985 at St. Francis Mission Catholic Church in Toledo, with one writing down license plates and another video taping in the parking lot and Austin attending the service itself.

On the one-year anniversary of the deaths, someone staked out the logging road on Stearns Hill Road, just in case the perpetrator returned, according to Austin.

Rodney Hadaller was questioned, Russ Hadaller’s name was included on a list as well, according to the former sergeant.

“My recollection is there were three or four people that got our attention, they were all eliminated,” Austin said.

A reward of $10,000 offered in early 1986 brought in even more tips from the public, he testified.

Austin estimated as many as 1,000 tips came in during the first two years, but then the case went cold until 1991, jurors heard.

2013.1015.prosecutors.riffetrial

Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer, left, and Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead during a break without the jury.

•••

2013.1015.maurins.side

Two of Minnie Maurin’s grown children – standing, center Denny Hadaller and Hazel Oberg – visit during a recess in Lewis County Superior Court.

•••

2013.1015.riffe_.side.jpg

Ricky A. Riffe’s step-son, Jeremy Kern, sits in the audience behind the defense team in Lewis County Superior Court.

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Tuesday, October 15, 2013 at 1:22 pm
2013.1015.tumwaterburnedsemisSemiFire10.14.13.jpg

Courtesy photo by West Thurston Regional Fire Authority

Updated at 8:04 p.m.

EARLY MORNING BLAZE TAKES OUT TWO SEMI TRUCKS

• Crews from West Thurston Regional Fire Authority were called about 4 o’clock yesterday morning to a report of two parked semi trucks burning at a business northeast of Littlerock. Firefighters arriving to the 900 block of 83rd Avenue Southwest found other big rigs threatened by the fire and were able to quickly extinguish it, according to a news release from the fire department. An employee coming in to work had called it in, spokesperson Lt. Lanette Dyer reported. The cause is under investigation, according to Dyer. They were destroyed. She says the business and the trucks are insured. She describes the business’s name as Southwest Trucking Olympia.

THEFT

• A stolen small cargo trailer was discovered abandoned in a lot at Southwest Circle Street in Chehalis yesterday morning.

• An individual told an officer about 9 a.m. yesterday that someone broke into her vehicle on Saturday while she was inside a store at the 600 block of Harrison Avenue in Centralia. Her wallet was missing, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• Police were called just before noon yesterday about a car prowl at the 100 block of Jefferson Street in Centralia. The victim told an officer someone got inside her vehicle but didn’t take anything, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• Chehalis police took a report yesterday from someone who said their handicap permit was taken from their vehicle the day before while at the 700 block of South Market Boulevard at Ace Hardware.

• Morton police reported yesterday they are reviewing surveillance tape following a complaint a week ago Monday that someone stole donated items from the drop box at Jan’s Lost and Found.

VANDALISM

• Centralia police responded about 8 a.m. yesterday to five victims of graffiti at the 500 block behind North Rock and Iron streets. It was plain black gang-style tagging as though someone walked down an alley and painted everything they came across, mostly garages, according to the Centralia Police Department. At about 10 a.m., an officer took reports of several buildings affected during the night on the 500 block of North Pearl Street.

RIDE HOME

• Morton police reported yesterday they responded about 8 p.m. on Oct. 4 to a dispute at the Bucksnort Inn and some of the involved parties were provided a ride home.

COLLISION

• Centralia police responded to a vehicle versus bicycle accident at the 1500 block of South Gold Street about 5:30 p.m. yesterday in which the male bicyclist, age unavailable, suffered minor injuries. He rode in front of a vehicle that was attempting to leave a parking lot, according to the Centralia Police Department.

AND MORE

• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, driving with suspended license, misdemeanor assaults, shoplifting of a beer; responses for alarms, minor collision, a student with marijuana, underage drinking, suspicious circumstances such a suspicious camo trailer in the woods near the 800 block of Main Avenue in Morton that turned out to belong to the new property owner; concerns and complaints about animals … and more.

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Maurin murder trial: Jurors hear of autopsy and finger prints

Tuesday, October 15, 2013 at 9:38 am
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Richard Herrington, with assistance from Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead, displays Minnie Maurin’s house coat.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Testimony continued yesterday in the Ricky A. Riffe double murder trial, with the former Lewis County Sheriff’s Office deputy displaying and describing pieces of evidence long-stored in anticipation of an arrest in the 1985 case.

A dozen jurors along with five alternates entered their second week in Lewis County Superior Court, of hearing witnesses discuss the apparent abduction and shotgun deaths of elderly Ethel couple, Ed and Wilhelmina “Minnie” Maurin.

Riffe, 55, is charged with kidnapping, robbery, murder and burglary. He was arrested and charged last year.

Richard Herrington took the witness stand again and told of the items he collected during the autopsy conducted on the couple the same day their bodies were found on a logging road, Dec. 24, 1985.

From 83-year-old Minnie Maurin, Herrington – with assistance from Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead – showed the jury her house coat, dress, white sweater, under garments and one shoe which matched a shoe found on the floor board of the couple’s 1969 Chrysler Newport sedan.

The darkened blood stains were obscured by the clear plastic evidence bags they were contained in.

Herrington displayed 81-year-old Ed Maurin’s clothing and a wallet from his pants containing $39 in bills.

Also collected at the funeral home from Ed Maurin was a Sterling Savings withdrawal slip showing the removal of $8,500 and a remaining balance of a little over $36,000, Herrington testified.

Prosecutors believe Riffe and his now-deceased brother John Gregory Riffe got into the couple’s home, uncovered bank records and forced the couple to go with them to the bank and withdraw money before shooting them in the backs with a shotgun inside their car.

Herrington held up a plastic bag he said contained some double-aught buckshot retrieved by the doctor.

Numerous autopsy photographs were passed to the jurors to see.

Under questioning by Halstead, Herrington said no shotgun shells or casings were found at the Maurin property, at the scene on the logging road or even inside the car.

He spoke of returning to the Maurin’s home on Dec. 21, 1985, the day after the couple’s car was found abandoned in the parking lot of Yard Birds, to “process” the scene again.

He primarily spoke of lifting finger prints, from several Rainier beer cans, pieces of glass from the furnace room floor near a broken window and also from their car.

He was not asked who the prints belonged to.

Relatively few prints were found on and in the Chrysler, according to Herrington.

“Usually I would find a lot more prints than this,” Herrington said.

Testimony is expected to continue this morning.

2013.1014.crowley.riff

Ricky A. Riffe, right, listens as his lawyer John Crowley, addresses Lewis County Superior Court Judge Richard Brosey.

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Monday, October 14, 2013 at 9:22 am
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The state patrol reports the chase up Interstate 5 ended safely. / Courtesy photo by Washington State Patrol

Updated at 8:10 p.m.

JOY RIDE BEGINS IN CHEHALIS, ENDS IN FIFE

• A 24-year-old man who picked up a set of car keys off a counter at Wendy’s restaurant in Chehalis got away with a vehicle but was stopped after high speed pursuit through Tacoma yesterday. Police called about 10:10 a.m. to the 1500 block of Northwest Louisiana Avenue learned the 2008 Toyota Camry headed north on Interstate 5. After stealing the keys, the subject tried several vehicles in the lot before finding the correct one and taking off, according to the Chehalis Police Department. The 35-year-old Chehalis woman’s purse was inside her car as well, detective Sgt. Gary Wilson said. Lacey police briefly caught up with him and troopers joined in near Lakewood as speeds reached as much as 120 mph, according to law enforcement. A trooper used the so-called pit maneuver to spin the car out and make it stop in Fife shortly after 11 a.m., according to the Washington State Patrol. The driver, Victor J. Hobbs, who is tagged in the local law enforcement database as transient from Vader, was arrested without further incident, according to Chehalis police and the state patrol.

VEHICLE THEFT

• A white 12-foot utility trailer containing emergency decontamination equipment and materials was stolen from Providence Centralia Hospital, according to a report made to police about 7 a.m. yesterday. Officers called to the 900 block of South Schueber Road were told the loss is probably more than $15,000, according to the Centralia Police Department. It disappeared during the night, according to police.

• A deputy was called yesterday about a 2005 BMW stolen sometime since the day before from the 100 block of Joppish Road in Centralia. The car, valued at $10,000, has a license plate of AKJ 9351, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

• Centralia police responded about 10 a.m. on Saturday to a report of a vehicle stolen from the 100 block of West Third Street. The 1995 Chevrolet pickup truck was subsequently located on Ham Hill Road, according to the Centralia Police Department.

BURGLARY

• Someone broke into a building on the 600 block of North Tower Avenue in Centralia and stole unspecified old military gear and other items belonging to a local collector, according to a report made to police about 7:30 p.m. yesterday.

GREEN HILL BEATING

• A student-inmate at Green Hill School for Boys in Chehalis was arrested for second-degree assault non Friday and then released back into the custody of the juvenile incarceration facility. An officer called that afternoon to the 300 block of Southwest 11th Street learned the 18-year-old had punched a 16-year-old knocking him unconscious earlier in the day, according to the Chehalis Police Department. Police also investigated a less serious assault of personnel from the same morning.

BAR FIGHT

• Police called to a dispute at a Chehalis bar around 1:50 p.m. on Sunday ended up arresting a man for shoving another man in the presence of an arriving officer. Apolinar Ruelas, 34, of Chehalis was arrested for misdemeanor assault at the 300 block of Northwest Chehalis Avenue and then booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

VANDALISM

• Police were called about 8:50 a.m. yesterday to the 2800 block of Russell Road in Centralia regarding two slashed vehicle tires.

RECKLESS DRIVING

• Law enforcement is looking for a 46-year-old Mineral area man who rather than pull over when a deputy attempted to make a traffic stop on Saturday night ran through stop signs and then leaped from his moving vehicle on and ran off into the brush. It happened around 10:15 p.m. near the 100 block of Washington Street in Mineral, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. The sheriff’s office says Timothy C. Saterdal left his passenger in the rolling vehicle. A track with a police dog was unsuccessful, according to the sheriff’s office.

AND MORE

• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, driving with suspended license, driving under the influence of prescription medication, shoplifting; responses for alarms, other misdemeanor assault, family disturbance, horses at large, apparent shoplifting which turned out to be unfounded, minor collisions such as car running into mailboxes; complaints of music so loud it vibrated the neighbor’s apartment … and more.