Trial in ’85 double murder continues

The Chronicle (Centralia)October 27, 2013 

As the trial of Rick Riffe enters its third week of testimony, prosecutors have presented the jury with 44 witnesses.

Riffe is accused of the 1985 murders of Minnie and Ed Maurin, an elderly couple from Ethel.

Here’s a summary of some of what jurors have heard so far:

Shirley Hadaller was married to Ed and Minnie’s son, Dennis Hadaller, at the time of the slayings and was the first family member to go to their Ethel house Dec. 19, 1985, after their friends arrived for a Christmas party and found the house vacant.

Hazel Oberg is Minnie Maurin’s biological daughter and Ed Maurin’s stepdaughter. She testified on the first day of trial about her parents’ personalities.

Michael Hadaller, in his early 20s at the time of the homicides, is one of the Maurins’ grandchildren. The morning of the couple’s disappearance, Michael and his father, Dennis Hadaller, drove past the Maurins’ house about 5:30 a.m. and saw that their bedroom light was on. Both men testified that it was unusual for the couple to be up that early.

Michael Pea was one of the deputies who responded to the suspicious circumstances call about 6 p.m. to the Maurins’ house at 2040 U.S. Highway 12.

Dennis Hadaller is Minnie’s biological son and Ed Maurin’s stepson. In the early 2000s, he hired private investigators to pursue the investigation after it stalled for almost two decades.

Nonna Pierce lived down the road from the Maurins and testified she saw a suspicious man in the neighborhood looking at houses the day before their disappearance. In 2012, Pierce picked Rick Riffe out of a photo montage as the man in her neighborhood.

Bob Lyons was a family friend of the Maurins and a truck driver. On the day of their disappearance, he testified he drove past their house at about 8 a.m. and saw a white car parked outside the house.

Frank Perkins was a manager at a truck stop near Exit 72 on Interstate 5 and said he saw what he thought was the green Chrysler with the elderly couple inside, as well as a younger man sitting in the back seat. Later that morning, he saw the same young man standing in the Yard Birds area holding a rifle or shotgun. A week before the trial started in 2013, he saw a picture of Rick and John Riffe on a Seattle news TV station and recognized one of the brothers as the man he saw in the vehicle and at Yard Birds. He said it was “like going back 30 years ago.”

Norman Laymon was a former log truck driver who testified he saw the Maurin vehicle pass him about 10:30 or 11 a.m. on Ethel Hill the day of their disappearance. He told police he saw the elderly couple in the front seats with a third individual in the car seated behind them.

Marty Lee Smetzler testified that about a week before the Maurin murders, he was at a party and overheard the Riffe brothers talking about robbing and killing an elderly couple. Smetzler, who was initially a suspect in the murders, also testified he had a traumatic brain injury that affected his memory.

Lindsey Senter was a log truck driver and testified that on Dec. 19, 1985, he saw two young men walking in the area of the Maurins’ residence holding a sawed-off shotgun.

Meryl Bickgreen and his son-in-law Rock Schwartz testified they were driving past the Maurin residence Dec. 19, 1985, and a white car pulled in front of them, causing them to brake.

Ken Paul, who worked in the logging industry in 1985, testified that on Dec. 19, 1985, he was driving a large piece of equipment on Bunker Creek Road when a green 1969 Chrysler started following him. Paul said while he was only traveling about 10 mph, the vehicle did not pass him for quite some time. When it did, he saw an individual sitting in the back seat. Eventually, the car turned around and drove back down the road, and Paul saw an elderly couple in the front seat.

Dennis Dawes, the Chehalis police chief in 1985, and Centralia Police Chief Bob Berg, who was a sergeant at the Centralia Police Department, testified that their respective agencies assisted the sheriff’s office in minor parts of the investigation.

Lewis County Police Sgt. Rob Snaza testified he was working at Yard Birds in December 1985 in the sporting goods department and that on Dec. 19, they only sold one gun and it did not match the description of the murder weapon.

Lewis County Sgt. Alan Stull testified he assisted in the search efforts of the swamp area next to Yard Birds following the discovery of the Maurin vehicle.

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