Dennis Hadaller takes questions from the news media about his mother and her husband's 1985 deaths.
Updated at 8:19 p.m.
By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
CHEHALIS – Although deputies have arrested a former Lewis County man for kidnap, robbery and murder in the 1985 deaths of Ed and Wilhelmina Maurin, the sheriff is calling upon more people who might know something to come forward.
News of yesterday’s arrest at the suspect’s home outside King Salmon, Alaska took most of the elderly couple’s surviving family members by surprise this morning; when Sheriff Steve Mansfield announced to the news media his office has solved the case that’s more than 26 years old.
Rick Riffe, 53, and his brother John Gregory Riffe, 50, have long been primary suspects in the cold case, according to the sheriff.
John Riffe died last month of ill health, just after the sheriff’s office prepared their probable cause statement, Mansfield said.
Authorities say potential witnesses were threatened by the brothers, even with death, if they spoke up.
“We’re very confident now one is dead and the other in custody, (other) witnesses will come forward,” Mansfield said this afternoon. “We would like to hear from them.”
At a press conference this afternoon in Chehalis, Mansfield and Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer indicated it’s not like there was suddenly a “smoking gun” that led to the arrest.
John Gregory Riffe
Mansfield called it a long, tedious, frustrating case that the sheriff’s office felt was strong back in the early 1990s, but wasn’t able to persuade the prosector to move forward on.
Meyer said he filed the charges on Friday and got a $5 million arrest warrant.
Meyer likened it to a puzzle.
“You look at all the witness statements, go through the timeline and realize we have all the pieces we need,” Meyer said.
Sheriff’s detective Bruce Kimsey has worked the better part of seven years on the case and it’s been his sole assignment the past four months, according to Meyer.
The affidavit of probable cause offers information pointing to the brothers from several individuals; none of the witnesses are named in the document.
Rick Riffe is still in Alaska, and is being processed for extradition back to Lewis County to stand trial.
The Maurins, Ed, 81 and “Minnie” 83, vanished from their Ethel home Dec. 19, 1985. Their car was found abandoned the next day in the parking lot at Yard Birds and their bodies discovered Dec. 24, 1985 off a logging road near Adna.
The sheriff’s office says it believes the brothers forced the couple to drive to their bank, Sterling Savings and Loan in Chehalis, and withdraw $8,500 before cutting them down with a shotgun inside their car.
Family members of the Maurins sat in on the press conference.
Minnie Maurin’s son, former Lewis County Commissioner Dennis Hadaller, briefly spoke to those assembled. The 84-year-old’s voice broke as he did.
Hadaller thanked prosecutors, the sheriff’s office, and especially detective Kimsey whom he said has become a close friend.
“Also, I want to thank all the private citizens that came forward under threat of death and gave us information,” Hadaller said.
He made a plea for anyone with additional information to bring it the sheriff or prosecutor.
Prosecutor Meyer suggested the brothers selected their target more or less at random, because a friend of theirs mentioned the Maurins probably had a lot of money.
The friend, interviewed in 1991, said he used drugs with the Riffes and remembered seeing the couple outside when he and the brothers drove past the house about two weeks before the deaths, according to the affidavit of probable cause. He recalled mentioning they must have money, because they owned all the Christmas trees surrounding their property and their son had a successful logging business, the document states.
The same man, a truck driver, told investigators he gave a shotgun to Rick Riffe which he asked him to cut down so he could carry it on the job, according to the document. He said he had trouble getting it back, until two or three months after the murders, the document alleges. The gun was later tossed in Mayfield Lake, according to one witness.
The unnamed truck driver spoke of Rick Riffe having no money and then suddenly buying a commercial-type fishing boat, as well as getting an odd call from Rick Riffe’s wife Robin Riffe, who said, “You wouldn’t believe what Rick’s done,” the document states.
Another individual, in 2004, told investigators he was driving from home in Mossyrock with his mother into town that December when he saw John Riffe in a car with the Maurin couple, but that John Riffe confronted him near the Mossyrock Theater and threatened to kill both him and his mother if he spoke about what he saw, according to the documents.
John Gregory Riffe
The man reportedly came forward after his mother passed away.
This past February, he told detective Kimsey both brothers were in the 1960s green four-door car about a quarter mile from the Maurin’s house, the documents state.
One source, a drug dealer interviewed inside a federal prison in Oregon, recalled selling two ounces of cocaine for $2,200 to Robin Riffe back in December 1985, and getting paid in $100 bills by a man he was able to identify as John Riffe, the documents alleges.
Numerous other people are cited as having told detectives of seeing a man or men who matched the brothers’ descriptions at various places that day, often noting one wearing a dark stocking cap and carrying a gun.
One Mossyrock woman who said she’d never seen the brothers before but heard rumors they were involved, offered sightings in three key locations.
She said when she was driving by the Maurin’s house one morning she saw a white van parked there and a man wearing an Army jacket near the mailbox; the following day she saw Ed Maurin sitting in an old car as she left Security State Bank; and then saw the same van parked on the shoulder of Kresky Avenue near Yard Birds and two men getting into it, according to the document.
Two sheriff’s detectives, a private investigator and Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead flew to Alaska to make the arrest; they were joined by Alaska state troopers, according to Mansfield.
Meyer said Rick 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.
Because of the suspect’s poor health, he is not planning to pursue the death penalty, Meyer said.
The prosecutor said he expects whenever Rick Riffe arrives in Lewis County, he will be taken in front of a judge the next day.
After his arraignment, he will go to trial within 60 days Meyer said.
For background read “Breaking news: Sheriff: Cold case solved in 1985 shooting death of elderly Ethel couple” from earlier today, here