Posts Tagged ‘news reporter’

Maurin murder trial: Witnesses pick out Riffe brothers as men they saw at Yard Birds

Saturday, October 26th, 2013

Sheri Amell Potter answers questions from the witness stand; defendant Ricky Riffe, far right, listens to her testimony.


By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS –  So far, no one who knew defendant Ricky Riffe has offered testimony placing him at the Maurin’s house, at the bank, at the Yard Birds or the logging road where the elderly couple’s bodies were found on Dec. 24, 1985.

Riffe, 55, is on trial in Lewis County Superior Court for the kidnapping, robbery and murder of Ed and Minnie Maurin. His younger brother John Gregory Riffe was about to be charged similarly last year, but he died of ill health at age 50.

Prosecutors contend the former Mossyrock area brothers are responsible for forcing the couple to drive from their Ethel home to withdraw thousands of dollars from Sterling Savings in Chehalis before cutting them down with a shotgun and leaving them dead in the woods outside Adna. The Maurin’s green sedan was found abandoned the next morning in a far corner of the parking lot at a Chehalis shopping center.

Numerous witnesses have told the jury of seeing a man in a green jacket and dark cap walking away from Yard Birds in Chehalis carrying a a rifle or shotgun.

As the trial ended its third week, three more individuals took the stand to discuss who they noticed when they drove through the shopping center almost 28 years ago.

One woman seemed very certain she saw Ricky Riffe there on Dec. 19, 1985. Another was positive she saw John Gregory Riffe there. Each said the man they observed was alone.

A third witness however, came forward last September to tell of seeing two men he identified as the brothers at the eastern edge of the parking lot, wiping down the Maurins’ 1969 Chrysler.

Sheri Amell Potter lives in Olympia but in December 1985 was a passenger in a vehicle heading toward the northeast exit from Yard Birds. Amell Potter told of a man stepping out of the fog and crossing behind them, and into the marshy area north of the property.

“As he passed, I said, ‘Oh my God Mary, that guy had a gun’,” she testified.

It was in his left hand, something white was wrapped around where the trigger would be, she said.

He was white with really dark hair, very dark eyes, a mustache and like two to three days worth of whiskers, dressed in something like an Army jacket, she described.

Amell Potter said she thought he was in his late 20s, as she was in her early 20s and she knew he was older than her.

She estimated the man was about six feet away from her. She swiveled in her seat to watch him walk up a berm-path toward the Lewis County Mall.

Amell Potter said she was employed at a bank at the time and was told at work some old people had gone into a bank and were missing. It was two days later when she thought again about the man with the gun and called her friend Mary to ask which day the couple disappeared, she testified.

She called the police.

Amell Potter and her friend were taken to a forensic artist in Portland where their descriptions helped create a drawing of the person. Later they went to Seattle where her friend assisted with a second composite.

In the courtroom, she was shown a number of images on the big screen. She felt like the face of the man in the first drawing was a bit too wide, she said. The second drawing was better, but she didn’t get the correct sense of the chin, she said.

“He had a really distinctive chin,” he said. “He didn’t have much of a chin.”

In February 2012, she met with Lewis County Sheriff’s Office detective Bruce Kimsey, who showed her actual photos of people. She chose one which showed both a full face and a side profile. It was Ricky Riffe.

“I felt very confident that was the person,” Amell Potter said of her selection.

Under questioning by Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead, she was asked if she’d had an opportunity to look at the defendant in the courtroom.

“Yes, his side profile is very familiar to the picture I picked then,” Amell Potter said.

Brenda King has lived in Lewis County since 1969.

Back in 1985, she was a single mother with three children who worked two jobs, one of them as a bartender at the Wilson Tavern in Centralia.

On Dec. 19, 1985, she and the man who later became her husband were driving past the north end of the Yard Birds Shopping Center building, she testified.

“I noticed a 1969 Chrysler Newport, it was green,” King told the jury.

“I see John Gregory Riffe getting out of the car with a shotgun,” she said.

It startled her.

“I’m the driver of a 1972 Montego, my husband is a passenger,” she said. “To the best of my recollection, the person I seen was going by a different name.”

He used an alias, she said.

“At the time, I recognized him as John G. Muzzleman.”

He looked at her, she looked at him, and then he looked down, according to King. He was squeezing his way out of the vehicle, she testified.

“He had the door so close to his body, he obviously didn’t want us to see what was inside,” she said.

King said she was the one wearing a watch, so she knew it was between 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. She said she was 100 percent positive the shotgun was sawed off and it had a brown butt.

It was a few days after the arrest hit the news in July of 2012 that King first contacted police. She saw photos of Ricky Riffe and his brother in the newspaper story, she said.

King said she knew both the brothers, who used the last name Muzzleman, as she’d served them at the bar.

“They’d come in periodically, to the point where I got to know them quite good,” she said. “They were usually together.”

Her husband Steven King testified as well yesterday, that he recalled the day. He saw the man getting out the car, with dark hair and a stocking cap, but didn’t see a gun, he said.

“The reason I looked at him is cause Brenda told me she knew the guy,” he said.

The couple both testified they saw him again later, walking up Kresky Avenue, on the east side of the road.

They’d been out to shop for materials for a remodeling project, and stopped to get coffee while they waited for Yard Birds to open, they said.

Steven King, under questioning by defense attorney John Crowley, said he’d heard of the Maurins murders, but he was busy and didn’t get involved.

After his wife told him last year about the newspaper article, they figured they should speak up, he testified.

Witness Gordon Campbell lived in Chehalis between 1970 and 1999; he worked at the Centralia Steam Plant, he testified.

Campbell first spoke to the sheriff’s office in 1988, to tell them that about two years earlier, he had seen a man walking north of Kresky Avenue with either a long rifle of a shotgun, covered up with something, he testified.

Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer asked him what prompted him to talk with police.

“Well, the case had been going on a long time, I thought I could help a little bit, so I thought I’d come in and tell ’em what I seen,” Campbell said.

The cap was dark blue, the finger-tip length jacket was olive drab and he was walking toward Lewis County Mall with it in his right hand, he testified.

“I could see just the shape of a gun,” Campbell said.

Campbell said at the time, he was working the graveyard shift, so he was out driving around that morning, killing time to get his sleep patterns back on track.

He testified he spoke next with the sheriff’s office in June 2012, and then he contacted them once again that September, after word of Riffe’s arrest had been in the news.

He saw photos of the Riffe brothers on television, he said, and it reminded him of something else he remembered.

Campbell testified about driving through the Yard Birds parking lot and to the northeast corner where he spotted two men wiping down a car. It was the same vehicle Meyer showed on the overhead screen in the courtroom, the Maurin’s 1969 Chrysler, according to Campbell.

He suggested they take it through a carwash, he said.

Meyer showed Campbell pictures of the Riffe brothers.

John Gregory Riffe was on one side and Ricky Riffe, on the driver’s side closest to Campbell, doing the same thing, wiping the open car door, according to Campbell.

“Did you get a good look at both of them?” Meyer asked.

“Yes,” Campbell said.

Campbell testified he didn’t remember what their response to him was, but John Gregory Riffe told his brother to close the door. And he did, he said.

Meyer asked the witness about why the detectives didn’t hear about the car wiping when Campbell first was interviewed.

“Well to begin with, I thought I was talking about one person,” he said. “Then I find we’re talking about two.”

The first the lawyers on both sides learned from Campbell he had the brief conversation with the men was this past Tuesday.

The one he saw carrying what looked to be a covered up gun was Ricky Riffe, according to Campbell.


Witness Brenda King uses a laser pointer on a big screen in Lewis County Superior Court.


Denny Hadaller, center, talks with prosecutors as the court sessions ends.

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Friday, October 25th, 2013


• The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office says a lengthy drug investigation ended yesterday after the SWAT team assisted in serving a search warrant about 2 p.m. at the 700 block of Winlock-Vader Road near Winlock. Two people were arrested for allegedly delivering and possessing methamphetamine as well as child endangerment, according to the sheriff’s office. Booked into the Lewis County Jail were Michelle R. Holt, 34, and Patrick D. Edie, 49, according to Sgt. Rob Snaza. Snaza said they are from Longview.


• Centralia police took a report yesterday in connection with the 1300 block of South Gold Street regarding a scam in which an individual called pretending to be from Money-gram and asked for money.


• Centralia police were called twice yesterday morning about car prowls in the 2800 block of Russell Road in Centralia. In the first instance, someone got into an unlocked vehicle overnight and stole a purse, according Centralia Police Department. In the second case, the vehicle was entered but nothing apparently taken, according to police.


• A fire investigator was headed up to Randle today to look into a last night blaze involving one, possibly two travel trailers.


• The Thurston County Sheriff’s Office is prepared to take old guns and old prescription drugs off your hands, if you like. The turn in and take back event tomorrow is an opportunity for the public to safely get rid of unwanted firearms and pharmaceuticals, according to the sheriff’s office. Sheriff John Snaza says often they are not secured properly, and end up in the wrong hands It takes place tomorrow from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the McLane Fire Department at 125 Delphi Road NW, Olympia.


• A 24-year-old hitchhiker was killed this morning when he stepped into a semi truck as a motorist across the road stopped to give him a ride on U.S. Highway 12 west of Rochester this morning, according to the Washington State Patrol. Troopers called about 10:15 a.m. to the scene just east of Moon Road  report Joseph A. Myer, of Olympia had been walking east on the shoulder with his back to traffic. A motorist stopped on the westbound side and Myer attempted to cross, according to the state patrol. The semi driver, a 52-year-old man from Aberdeen, tried to avoid him, but couldn’t the state patrol reports.


• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, driving with suspended license, misdemeanor assault; responses for alarms, collisions, shoplifting, suspicious circumstances; complaint about an extremely mean small dog … and more.

Maurin murder trial: Robin Riffe’s family talks

Friday, October 25th, 2013

Larry Vessey, brother-in-law to defendant Ricky Riffe, tells of gift of cocaine for Christmas.

Updated at 6:51 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS –  While defendant Ricky Riffe’s wife has died and won’t be able to be questioned in his murder trial, her family and others who knew him in the mid-1980s gave testimony yesterday for the prosecution.

Riffe, 55, is on trial for the December 1985 abduction and shooting deaths of Ed and Minnie Maurin, an elderly couple who lived on U.S. Highway 12 in Ethel. Prosecutors contend Riffe and his now-deceased younger brother from the Mossyrock area are responsible for getting the Maurins to withdraw $8,500 from their bank, killing them with a sawed-off shotgun and then dumping their bodies near Adna. The brothers later moved out of state to Alaska.

Robin Riffe allegedly gave some information to Lewis County detectives in 1991, but by November 1994 when they attempted to contact her again, she had died.

Two of Robin Riffe’s siblings took the witness stand yesterday to talk about Christmas Day in 1985, during a family gathering in Grays Harbor County.

Larry Vessey said he, his brother and Riffe went duck hunting before dinner, and Riffe wore an olive green Army coat.

Under questioning from Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer, Vessey said Riffe asked him an unusual question.

“Is there a way you can trace shotgun pellets?” Vessey said his brother-in-law asked him.

It also struck him as out of the ordinary that Riffe, his sister and her three children all wore brand new clothes that day, he testified.

“They were really poor, they never really had a lot of nothing,” he said. “The kids wore hand-me-down clothes. They just had nothing.”

The couple bought presents for everyone that year, he said. Riffe scooped a gift of cocaine from a bag that contained more than his brother-in-law had ever purchased himself, and he had a job, Riffe didn’t, he said.

“He gave me $300 worth of cocaine and said, ‘Merry Christmas’,” Vessey testified.

Tammi Graham thought her sister worked as a waitress, but not steady, she said. She indicated on the witness stand she suspected they may have sold drugs.

On Christmas day, her  sister wore makeup, something she ordinarily didn’t do.

“There was almost a puffiness to her face, like she’d been crying,” Graham said.

Two of Robin Riffe’s now-grown children were asked to offer facts and recollections from the three to four years the couple was together.

M. Shelly Lev, now 37, pointed out on a map where they lived in a three bedroom single wide trailer off U.S. Highway 12 in Silver Creek.

She said the family had three vehicles: a blue Blazer, a “mail Jeep” and creamy gray colored car.

Lev recalled a road trip trip to Disneyland that spring break, in which they had picnics during their travels and slept in their car but stayed in a hotel while there. Her mother and Riffe were still together, but he didn’t go along, she said.

David Giddings, who said he thought he was about 13 years old at the time, remembered Riffe showing him a “sawed off” shotgun in their living room, he said he was making for a truck driver friend

“I almost want to say he was filing on the barrel,” Giddings said. “That’s why he said he was making it.”

In the courtroom, from the witness stand, looking in Riffe’s direction, Giddings said he didn’t see Riffe anywhere. But then he did.

“Oh, now I recognize his crooked nose,” he said.

Vessey had already testified watching Riffe use a hacksaw to cut the barrel off a 12-gauge single shot shotgun at his dad’s place in Forks in September or October.

Graham was asked when she came to learn about the Maurin’s deaths.

It was mid-January when she and her family stopped at Spiffy’s restaurant on the way home from White Pass, she testified.

Two sketches at the cash register stopped her in her tracks, and she exclaimed to her husband, she said, ‘Oh my God Arvid, that looks like Ricky Riffe’.”

Under questioning, Graham said she  believed they were drawings of Ricky Riffe and his brother John Gregory Riffe.

Jurors learned that by the following June, Ricky Riffe and his wife separated; she’d gone to Arizona.

Derrick McMillion of Cinebar is the person whose testimony prosecutors hope will help them show the jury that after the Maurin’s murders, the Riffe brothers moved away to a remote fishing village in Alaska never to return to the area, except for the rare important occasion.

When the sheriff’s office made their arrest last year, they said the Riffe brothers moved to Alaska in 1987, however, jurors have been told John Gregory Riffe began living there in May of 1988 and Ricky Riffe’s residency commenced in July of the following year.

McMillion was asked in court yesterday to point out his cousins in some photos.

One was taken at an anniversary party for Riffe’s parents held in downtown Centralia, around 2006 or 2007, he said.

Under questioning by Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead, McMillion spoke about what happened when they heard police activity and sirens outside.

One of the Riffe brothers walked over to the window to take a look and then other, three or four times, he testified.

“It was kind of strange,” he said. “They seemed kind of concerned with what was going on out there.”

McMillion recalled another time at a relative’s funeral in Olympia when one of them showed up, sat in the front and then left.

“I couldn’t tell which one of the boys it was,” he said.

John Gregory Riffe passed away on June 12 of last year, after charging documents had already been drawn up for him, with the identical allegations as his brother.

The trial in Lewis County Superior Court is in its third week.

More and more time has been spent with the jury sent out of the courtroom while the lawyers and Judge Richard Brosey argue rules of evidence.

Seattle-based defense attorney John Crowley has increasingly complained the prosecution is “dancing down thin-iced roads” by getting witnesses to make comments that ultimately aren’t allowed, but the jury still hears them. He calls it the trickle effect, contending the state’s strategy is to drop enough extra hints the jury will be swayed his client is guilty

One such debate was conducted over the death in Alaska in 1992 of John Gregory Riffe’s wife. While prosecutors wanted a witness to mention it, Judge Brosey barred the comment they sought.

Crowley said it was an accidental death or suicide, although the gossip was she was murdered.

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Thursday, October 24th, 2013


• A Centralia area woman called 911 yesterday after waking up and realizing someone had burglarized her home while she and her children were sleeping. A deputy arriving about 9 a.m. to the 100 block of Mills Lane southeast of town learned the 37-year-old resident got up about 2:30 a.m. to take her medication, which was locked in a safe on a desk in the living room, where she, her daughter and son were sleeping, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. The woman said when she got up later, the safe was gone, Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said. It appeared someone opened a window as well as cut through some plastic sheeting used to block a draft, according to Brown. The safe was later found, destroyed, in a ditch along Centralia-Alpha Road, after a neighbor called to report they’d seen a bluish-green car stop and toss it out, Brown said. Inside the safe were a wallet, old coins, a friend’s white-gold ring and various cards, according to the sheriff’s office.


• A web cam, a laptop and a Kindle Fire tablet computer were among the valuables missing after a burglary at the 600 block of Northwest St. Helens Avenue in Chehalis. Police were called about 6:30 p.m. yesterday; a door had been left unlocked, according to the Chehalis Police Department. The loss is more than $1,500, Sgt. Gary Wilson said.


• A 21-year-old Centralia resident was arrested for possession of methamphetamine about 8:30 p.m. yesterday at North Washington Avenue and Center Street in Centralia. Luis Ontiveros-Murillo was  booked into the Lewis County Jail, according Centralia Police Department.


• Police took a report yesterday morning that someone broke the back window out of a car at the 1100 block of South Pearl Street in Centralia.


• Two people were hospitalized after a two-vehicle wreck this morning on state Route 6 about three miles west of Pe Ell when a Dodge Caravan stopped for wild turkeys crossing the roadway and was rear ended. Troopers called about 9:30 a.m. found the Dodge driver, Janet L. Shepperd, 40, of Pe Ell, injured although she was not transported, according to the Washington State Patrol. Both it and the 2013 Ford Edge which struck it were damaged. The Edge’s occupants, Arthur and Barbara Cox, both 73 and both from Grandview, were taken to Providence Centralia Hospital, according to the state patrol. Cox was cited for violating the basic speed rule, the investigating trooper reported.


• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, driving with suspended license, responses for alarms, misdemeanor assault, suspicious circumstances, a dog being walked on a leash getting clipped by a passing vehicle leaving it with an abrasion on its leg … and more.

Maurin murder trial: Ed and Minnie go to the bank

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

Updated at 7:49 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS –  Patricia Hull handled some banking matters for the Maurins the same day the elderly couple went missing nearly 28 years ago.

At his request, she gave Ed Maurin an envelope of $100 bills.

The following morning, after hearing the Maurins were missing, her manager at Sterling Savings and Loan in Chehalis called the sheriff’s office to report what they knew.

Hull was among many individuals who took the witness stand this week in Lewis County Superior Court and talked about the Ethel residents whose bodies were subsequently located off a logging road near Adna.


Ed and Minnie Maurin

Hull was the savings supervisor at the bank at the intersection of Market and Park streets. She retired in 1991 after 24 years with the institution.

She recalled the Maurins as congenial customers who came in every month or two.

Eighty-one-year-old Ed Maurin phoned her the morning of Dec. 19, 1985 and asked if they had any money, Hull testified.

She recognized his voice.

“I, joking with him said we had a nickel or two,” she said. “He said he needed a little more than that, he wanted $8,500.”

He wanted it in cash, and she suggested she get him a check instead, according to Hull.

“No, no, he wanted currency,” she said. “They were going to buy a car, and that’s the conversation we had.”

Under questioning by attorneys, Hull explained the bank didn’t have that much cash available, and had to get it from a commercial bank.

When Ed Maurin showed up about 10:30 a.m., the money wasn’t yet there, so she asked him to take a seat to wait, she said.

She suggested he ask his wife Minnie Maurin to come in from the car to have coffee or cookies, Hull said.

“He said no, she wasn’t feeling well,” she said.

Hull said she got the impression he was saying he wanted cash because he was dealing with someone up north who didn’t know him.

“He seemed calm, we joked with him and told him he’d have to come through the drive through to show us the car, and he said he would,” she said.

He said, “You betcha,” she testified.

Ed Maurin said he’d go out and ask his wife to come in while they waited. Subsequently when Hull was ready for him, she stepped out the door to motion he should come in, she said.

She saw their car parked, the door opening, he waved back and then he came inside, she said. The windows were fogged up, she recalled.

After signing the documents, he left.

The trial is in its third week. Former Lewis County resident Ricky A. Riffe, 55, is charged with burglary, kidnapping, robbery and murder in the case. His younger brother John Gregory Riffe was about to be charged as well when he died last year.

Hull was questioned by Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead and defense attorney John Crowley. She, and the jury, were shown documents on the overhead screen in the courtroom.

The bloody bank receipt found in the pocket of Ed Maurin’s trousers showed a balance of $36,035.12.

The bank’s copy of the withdrawal ticket she was given to look at showed a balance of zero.

The zero balance made her think he’d closed out the account, she said. But the paper showing the large balance suggested to her Ed Maurin has asked about a balance on another account, she testified.

Hull told of getting a phone call around 4 p.m. the day before Ed Maurin came in, from a customer asking about making a large withdrawal. The bank was closing, and she wasn’t sure who it was, she testified.

Jurors have already heard how the Maurin’s green 1969 Chrysler was found abandoned the following morning in the parking lot of the Yard Birds shopping center, the keys in the ignition, the front seat covered in blood and how law enforcement searched for the couple for days.

Yesterday, Mike Haunreiter took the stand to describe what he stumbled upon days later on Stearns Hill road outside Adna.

Haunreiter said he worked at the coal mine, they’d gotten off early, had a parking lot party and then he went for a drive on logging roads, to look for deer. It was the morning of Christmas Eve.

Something by the roadside caught his eye, but it wasn’t until his way back down he looked closer, Haunreiter said.

At first he thought it looked like a “Susie doll”, like they’d practiced CPR with in a recent session, he said.

“But a Susie doll doesn’t have a housecoat on,” Haunreiter said.

When he realized he was looking at a dead body he got back in his truck, speeding away in fear, according to Haunreiter. But then he stopped at a house to say he needed to call 911.

Dr. William J. Brady was the pathologist who conducted autopsies late that afternoon and evening at a mortuary in Centralia.

On Ed Maurin he found wounds on the top of his head, like two blows from a heavy object. One shotgun blast in the middle of his upper back below his neck killed him immediately, he described.

His stomach was empty, but Minnie Maurin had eaten fairly recently, he said. The doctor recalled removing three rings from her fingers.

Brady indicated Ed Maurin had a pacemaker, a bit of hypertension and a somewhat enlarged heart, but otherwise was in good health. The same could be said for 83-year-old Minnie Maurin, who suffered from arthritis, but had an excellent heart, according to the doctor.

The blast that killed her entered through her left shoulder and toward her cheek and neck, he said. She too would have died instantly, he said.

Testimony resumes this morning.

Missing: Chehalis business owner makes appeal for return of totem pole

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

Fred Wildhaber’s face is among the features on lost family heirloom.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS –  Jeremy Wildhaber wants his totem pole back.

He called police after realizing it was missing but he’s not sure it was even actually stolen, he said.

Among the features on the 15- to 16-foot tall pole are an eagle, a salmon and a couple of faces, including his father’s, Wildhaber said.

“It’s kind of a family heirloom and its been part of the building since we’ve owned it almost,” he said.

It was previously the centerpiece column at his dad’s business Industrial Specialists and for a time was stored in a barn, but Wildhaber was preparing to have the paint touched up so it could be displayed at his new Jeremy’s Marketplace and Restaurant when it opens, he said.

He’s been remodeling the building on the 500 block of West Main Street in Chehalis, and was keeping it in a storage building about a block south, on the Darigold property.

It accidentally got left out by workers on Friday who were moving items around in the building and forgot to put it back inside, he said. He estimates it weighs as much as 400 pounds.

“It would have taken several guys and a trailer to move it,” he said.

He’s thinking, however, that since it was left laying on pallets, near a pile of walls to be discarded, someone may have thought it was bound for the dump and taken it home, he said.

Wildhaber is asking whoever has his totem to please return it. Or call him and he will come pick it up.

“I’m not going to press charges,” he said. “I don’t want anybody to chop it up for firewood because they’re afraid they’re gonna get in trouble.”

It’s not even complete as is, according to Wildhaber. He still has the detachable wings and ears.

Wildhaber can be reached at 360-827-0093.

Examination of 2010 Morton plane crash yields some answers

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – As the third anniversary approaches of the crash that killed three aboard the plane belonging to a Chehalis-based eye clinic, the entryway to the local airport has been named in honor of the pilot, but authorities still aren’t exactly sure what happened.

The Cessna 340A wrecked about 10 minutes into its flight, in the mountains northeast of Morton on Oct. 25, 2010. No one survived.

Perishing were two employees of Pacific Cataract and Laser Institute and their pilot Ken Sabin. He and technician Rod Rinta, 43, both resided in Chehalis. Ophthalmologist Dr. Paul Shenk, 69, was from Woodland.

A probable cause report issued by the National Transportation Safety Board in August indicates it’s most likely the pilot experienced a partial loss of power of the right engine and after incorrectly turning into the failed engine, the plane became uncontrollable. The airplane continued a clockwise descending turn as it dropped off the radar at more than 10,000 feet, according to the report.

The issue with the engine was not determined because examination of the Cessna did not reveal any mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation, according to the NTSB.

The flight began at the Chehalis-Centralia Airport and was enroute to  Lewiston, Idaho.

Airport Manager Allyn Roe said the question still isn’t answered as to what made Sabin turn into the engine.

“Those reports aren’t ever nice to read,” Roe said. “They will cite pilot error nine out of 10 times.”

Sabin, a member of the Centralia-Chehalis Airport Governing Board, was an experienced pilot with thousands of flight hours who clearly knew not to do that, he said.

“It’s the circumstances you’re given; you may or may not have a chance of getting out of it,” Roe said.

This summer, the entry drive at the south end of the airport was named Ken Sabin Way in his memory. Sabin was retired from Security State Bank and had more than 40 years experience as a pilot.

For background, read:

• The NTSB report, here

• “Bad weather prevents recovery of plane crash victims” from Wednesday Oct. 27, 2010, here

• “Chehalis Cessna’s last transmission: ” ‘We’re losing it’ from Saturday Nov 20 2010, here

Maurin murder trial: New information in old case takes both sides by surprise

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

A small number of spectators observe proceedings in Lewis County Superior Court, where former Lewis County resident Ricky Riffe is on trial for kidnapping and murder.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The judge in the Maurin murder trial was informed this afternoon that both prosecutor and defense attorney learned for the first time today, a witness allegedly spoke to Ricky Riffe while he and his now-dead brother were wiping finger prints from the car nearly 28 years ago.

“It’s an obvious surprise,” Riffe’s Seattle-based attorney told the judge.

Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer said it was new information from a man already on their witness list.

“Yes, that’s correct, the first time we heard of the conversation was today,” Meyer said.


Ricky Allen Riffe

The trial for Ricky Riffe, 55, is in its third week in Lewis County Superior Court. He is charged with burglary, kidnapping, robbery and  murder in the December 1985 deaths of an elderly Ethel couple, Minnie and Ed Maurin.

Very little, if any, testimony has been about anyone conversing with the suspect.

Jurors have heard numerous witnesses speak of seeing a man at various key places that day, often noting him wearing a dark stocking cap, wearing an Army jacket or carrying a gun. They have heard about heard several sightings of the Maurin’s 1969 Chrysler on Dec. 19, 1985, carrying the couple with a person in the backseat.

Meyer told the jury when the trial began all the blood and DNA evidence came back to match the Maurins and their family. Today, jurors heard from former detective Ross Kenepah that none of the approximately 65 finger prints collected in the case match Riffe.

Meyer said the coming witness said he made small talk with Riffe and his since-deceased younger brother John Gregory Riffe. The brother was about to be charged in the case last year along with the defendant when he died.

“The individual said he was watching the news which had a story and two pictures side by side,” Meyer told the judge.

The witness indicated the person on the left was Rick Riffe who was on the right side of the car, and Greg Riffe said maybe you should close the door, Meyer said.

Crowley told the judge his problem was that based on the early information he was given that the witness would testify to, his team chose not to conduct their own interview with him.

Crowley said he previously understood the witness would talk about seeing a man with a gun when he was first interviewed by police in 1988, and did not identify anyone from any photo montages.

Lewis County Superior Court Judge Brosey indicated the witness couldn’t take the stand until after Riffe’s attorney’s private investigator has had a chance to interview him. Before today ended, the meeting was scheduled for 8 a.m. tomorrow morning.

Prosecutors have said they have as many as 180 witnesses, although exactly how many of them will be called to testify is not clear. So far, about three dozen have taken the witness stand.

It was just last week when another person seeing photos of the Riffes on television after the trial began contacted the prosecutor to say he recognized a picture of John Gregory Riffe.

Maurin murder trial: What jurors didn’t hear about

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

Ricky Riffe, right, consults with defense team member Richard Davis as the issue of his ex-wife Robin Riffe is discussed in court much of yesterday afternoon

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Jurors in the 1985 Maurin homicide case heard yesterday that in 1991, a task force was formed regarding the deaths from several years earlier and a deputy suggested they should try to talk with Robin Riffe. If they could contact her away from her ex-husband Ricky Riffe, they might get some information, jurors were told.

Former Lewis County Sheriff’s Office detective David Neiser testified he phoned to where she was in prison in Arizona, introduced himself and he said needed to talk with her about an old homicide in Lewis County.

“She said, ‘you mean the one where two old people were killed?’ ” Neiser testified.

Did you have other contacts with Robin Riffe? Neiser was asked, to which he replied yes. And the jury was sent out of the room.

Neiser, who worked for the sheriff’s office from 1972 to 2009, had already spoken about his role in the investigation. He interviewed the two victims’ families, but only went to some of the scenes, noting he recalled vividly Minnie Maurin’s body lying on the side of the road.

Much of the information heard in Lewis County Superior Court yesterday regarding the investigation came while the jury was out of the room.

Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead had given a heads up to the court he was going to elicit from the former detective a statement made to him by the now-deceased woman about the case and the detective would testify about taking her for a drive around the county, but wouldn’t be talking about what she did or anything she pointed out.

Defense attorney John Crowley said he wanted to be able to confront the Robin Riffe, but she’s dead so he can’t.

Crowley asserted the actual reason prosecutors wanted the information put before the jury was to make an inference that Ricky Riffe’s ex-wife Robin Riffe must have known something from his client.

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 Ed and Minnie Maurin from their home, forcing them to drive their bank get money and then shooting the elderly couple in their backs, leaving their bodies along a logging road near Adna.

While jurors were out, Judge Richard Brosey asked questions of the attorneys to learn if certain details were relevant, considering anything else Robin Riffe may have told police would not be allowed to come in to trial.

Halstead said it would explain what detectives did next, which jurors would hear about subsequently during the trial.

“It’s how they came onto further information,” Halstead said. “Without that, all these people who pop up in 1991 pop up for no reason at all.”

Brosey wanted to hear for himself first what the detective would say on the stand so potential issues of confrontation or hearsay could be sorted out, Neiser took the witness stand while jurors were still out of the courtroom.

“I want it clearly understood by detective Neiser I don’t want him blurting out anything Robin Riffe said,” Brosey told prosecutors.

Neiser explained how they got Robin Riffe transferred from prison in Arizona to the closer Washington prison for women in Purdy to finish her term.

She was brought to Lewis County, where she went for a ride with detectives he said.

Neiser said he told her they would pretend she was driving and would not stop or turn unless directed by her.

Neiser noted the various points of interest they encountered, such as an area near west end of Lake Mayfield, Perry’s store where there was a telephone booth, a dump site outside of Ethel, Marys Corner where there was a telephone booth, over the freeway at Avery Road and up Highway 603 to Stearns Hill Road in Adna.

Under questioning by Crowley, Neiser told the court:

“She pointed out Perry’s shop and said, that’s where I dropped ’em off,” Neiser said.

Crowley: “Did anyone else in the investigation have knowledge of some fact regarding Perrys Market?”

Neiser: “Other than your client, you mean?”

Crowley: “Yes.”

Neiser: “No.”

The session continued with the lawyers and the judge sorting out what testimony jurors would not be allowed to hear.

Neiser said detectives attempted to contact Robin Riffe again in November 1994 and learned she had died the day before.

The judge ruled that Robin Riffe directing detectives to various locations during the drive was nonverbal communications which would be inadmissible because the defense would not be able to confront her.

The jury of 12 plus their five alternate jurors were brought back into the courtroom.

It was only about 10 minutes later when  Crowley asked for a mistrial. He noted Neiser’s statement about a deputy telling them they should try to talk with Robin Riffe, while away from his client.

Brosey said he was a bit surprised Crowley hadn’t brought it up while he had the opportunity with the jury out of the room. He denied the motion.

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.

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Monday, October 21st, 2013


• Deputies responding about 5:35 a.m. yesterday to an alarm at a business on the 2800 block of Centralia-Alpha Road east of Chehalis found someone had created a hole in the side of a building and smashed out a small window in the rear. There was no actual entry into Austin Powder, an explosives business, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. The investigation is ongoing, according to the sheriff’s office.


• A deputy was called yesterday to a burglary at the 800 block of Lucas Creek Road east of Chehalis where someone had, sometime since the day before, stolen more than $5,000 worth of valuables such as a Stihl chainsaw, a backpack leaf blower and other tools, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

• Morton police were called about a residential burglary at about 3 p.m. on Friday at the 600 block of Westlake Avenue. The case is under investigation, police reported yesterday.


• Someone broke into a travel trailer along the 100 block of Jerrells Road near Mossyrock and stole a sleeping bag, food, mens’ clothing, CDs and a flat screen television, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. A deputy responding on Saturday was told it occurred sometime since the Saturday before, according to the sheriff’s office.


• Centralia police reported yesterday morning they are investigating the theft of jewelry from a residence on the 900 block of K Street. The suspect may be someone the victim knows, according to the Centralia Police Department.


• Police were called about 2 p.m. yesterday to the 200 block of West Center Street in Centralia following the discovery a collectible item on display was missing.


• A 23-year-old woman who allegedly fought with store security who attempted to stop her when she left with $12 worth of deli food from the 1100 block of Harrison Avenue in Centralia was arrested for second-degree robbery on Saturday evening. Centralia police say Briana L. Carrothers, from Rochester, had outstanding warrants and was booked into the Lewis County Jail. She was released without charges from the robbery count pending further investigation.


• Someone stole gas from vehicles parked in a lot at the 300 block of South Pearl Street. It was reported Saturday morning and occurred in the night, according to police.


• Centralia police responded to the 1100 block of J Street in Centralia yesterday evening regarding a report of a forged document on a piece of property. The case is under investigation, according to the Centralia Police Department.


• Police took a call from an individual at the 1400 block of Delaware Street in Centralia yesterday regarding a neighbor stealing electricity by using and extension cord and an outlet without permission. A summons for third-degree theft is being sent to the suspected offender, according to the Centralia Police Department.


• Chehalis police were called about 2:15 p.m. yesterday to the 1600 block of North National Avenue where someone cut through a fence and got into a truck stealing various items.


• A 45-year-old Chehalis woman was arrested for allegedly intentionally breaking a mirror off a parked vehicle in connection with a location at B and May streets in Centralia on Saturday afternoon. Police say Mary L. Barajas stated she was only trying to get someone’s attention. Barajas was arrested for malicious mischief and booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Centralia Police Department.


• Deputies arrested a 20-year-old homeless person yesterday in connection with a police pursuit the night before northwest of Napavine. According to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office, at about 9 p.m. on Saturday deputies were in the area of Harmon and Carroll roads on another matter when a vehicle drove by which they tried to stop but he eluded them. The driver reportedly drove the vehicle off the road, struck a utility pole and fled on foot, according to the sheriff’s office. A track with a police dog was unsuccessful but upon getting information their suspect was present at a location Sommerville Road, deputies arrested Brandon A. Cruzan, Sgt. Rob Snaza said. He had outstanding warrants and was also booked for obstruction and eluding, Snaza said.


• Morton police were called just after 6 a.m. on Friday about strange flashing strobe lights in the fog near the 100 block of Westlake Avenue. It was a school bus picking up students, according to police.


• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, misdemeanor theft, driving under the influence, driving with suspended license; responses for alarms, suspicious circumstances, bar dispute, road rage, collision in a parking lot, collision into a tree, graffiti spray painted in park restrooms, a male reporting people yelled obscene things at him as he walked down the street, reporting party with a videotape of a toddler and a baby left alone in a vehicle in a store parking lot; concerns about hearing voices, someone haunting an individual, shady looking characters in a retail parking lot; complaints of barking dog, loud neighbor music, someone breaking a sink in a bathroom, man urinating outdoors, possible protection order violation by comment on Facebook, train blocking an intersection for about 25 minutes, someone egging a parked car, two teenagers making out “heavily” on the swings at a playground … and more.

Maurin murder trial: Witnesses testify about a green sedan

Monday, October 21st, 2013

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.

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

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Saturday, October 19th, 2013

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


• 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.


• 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.


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


• 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.


• 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 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.


Sun shines onto mirror, bounces back to window sill.


Courtesy photos by Terry Ternan

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

Friday, October 18th, 2013

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.”


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.

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

Friday, October 18th, 2013

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

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

Friday, October 18th, 2013

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.

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Thursday, October 17th, 2013


• 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.


• 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 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.