By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
CHEHALIS – Prosecutors alleged in Lewis County Superior Court yesterday that murder defendant Ricky A. Riffe raped his 9-year-old step-daughter 28 years ago, filing new charges for a crime that has a possible penalty of life in prison.
Riffe’s attorney is calling it a ploy to smear his client, in a small community that is closely following the news of Riffe’s upcoming double murder trial.
Riffe, 54, was returned to Lewis County from his home in Alaska last summer when Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer charged him in the December 1985 abduction and slaying of Ed and Wilhelmina Maurin, an elderly couple who lived in Ethel.
While not exactly a cold case because Riffe and his now-deceased brother were longtime primary suspects, the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office in conjunction with a newly elected prosecutor stepped up a re-investigation, noting that fear of the brothers had kept many witnesses from coming forward when the crimes occurred.
The two men moved to Alaska in 1987, according to the sheriff.
The sheriff’s office has said it believes that on Dec. 19, 1985 the brothers somehow got into the couple’s home, and then forced them to drive to a bank in Chehalis to withdraw $8,500 before shooting them in the backs with a shotgun.
The bodies of the Maurins, Ed, 81 and Wilhelmina, 83, were found on Christmas Eve 1985 dumped off a logging road outside Adna.
Riffe is charged with two counts each of first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping and first-degree robbery, as well as one count of burglary.
His trial is scheduled to begin in May and last as long as a month.
Yesterday, in Lewis County Superior Court in Chehalis, Meyer told the judge Riffe is now charged with two incidents of child sex abuse, one from 1984 and the other from 1986.
Judge Richard Brosey read the charges aloud, advised Riffe they are separate from the other matter and that he is presumed innocent. He asked Riffe how he pled.
Defense attorney John Crowley jumped up and objected to the late filing of charges beyond the statute of limitations.
Crowley asked the judge to enter not guilty pleas on behalf of his client, and all agreed to revisit the matter after the murder trial ends.
Meyer, outside the courtroom, said the statute of limitations doesn’t apply because Riffe had left the state.
The allegations were investigated by police at the time and no criminal charges were filed, according to both Meyer and Crowley.
“It was investigated then, it came up again during this investigation,” Meyer said. “We got some new information.”
In Washington, all crimes except murder have a statute of limitations, according to Crowley. It’s a limit on the amount of time that can pass beyond which prosecutors can’t file criminal charges against a person, he said.
Crowley, a Seattle-based attorney, said it’s true if a person moves out of state that stops the clock, as long as authorities don’t know where they went.
But the sheriff’s office knew the brothers moved to Alaska, and contacted them in 1993, Crowley said.
“They interviewed him and his brother, it’s no secret where he was,” he said.
Judge Brosey has already said more than once the court plans to bring in an extra large number of potential jurors for the murder trial, to allow for the amount of pre-trial publicity the case has generated.
The most serious of the new allegations is that shortly after the victim turned 9, her mother was gone from the home and she was told to keep that “side of the bed warm.” Charging documents state she awoke to Riffe raping her.
The girl left the room with an excuse and then slept on the floor of her brother’s bedroom, according to the documents.
For that, Riffe is charged with what was then called statutory rape.
The second count, then called indecent liberties, is in connection with when she was 10 years old and Riffe allegedly fondling her.
Riffe denies any sexual contact, according to charging documents.
The hearing yesterday continued with tentative scheduling in April for two days of pre-trial hearings and deadlines decided for the submission of pre-trial motions.
Riffe remains held in the Lewis County Jail on $5 million bail.
For background, read “Man held in 1985 slayings of Ethel couple now accused of child sex abuse from nearly 30 years ago” from Friday February 22, 2013 at 11:24 a.m., here