Jury selection in the long-awaited criminal trial for Rick Riffe, an Alaska man accused of killing an elderly Lewis County couple in 1985, will begin Monday morning in Lewis County Superior Court in Chehalis.
Since Riffe’s 2012 arrest, the trial has been delayed four times. Last week, days before the trial was to start, it appeared the case was again in limbo after Riffe’s lead defense attorney failed to appear in court for a pretrial hearing.
However, after a court hearing Friday, it appears that after more than two decades of investigation, as well as 15 months of trial preparation, both the prosecution and defense are prepared to start the four- to six-week trial Monday.
The 1985 double homicide is one of Lewis County’s most notorious unsolved murders. The investigation has gone on for more than two decades, passing through multiple administrations of elected sheriffs and prosecutors.
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It’s an investigation that has continued for so long that one of the suspects and several witnesses have died.
Authorities allege Rick Riffle and his brother, John, both originally from Mossyrock, abducted the Ethel couple from their home, forced them to withdraw money from a bank and later shot and killed them in their car.
The brothers then allegedly dragged the bodies of Wilhelmina “Minnie” Maurin, 83, and Edward “Ed” Maurin, 81, off a rural logging road and dumped them. The
bodies were found Christmas Eve 1985, a few days after family members reported the couple missing.
Court documents allege some of the money from the Maurin robbery was used to buy cocaine.
Since then, for nearly three decades, the unsolved murders haunted the Maurin family, the Sheriff’s Office and the community.
“We’ve known for over two decades that Rick and John Riffe have been responsible,” Lewis County Sheriff Steve Mansfield told reporters during a news conference in 2012 after Riffe’s arrest.
At that time, the sheriff described the case against Riffe as “rock solid.”
The brothers left Washington in 1987 and moved to King Salmon, Alaska, a rural community with fewer than 400 people. Investigators traveled there to arrest Riffe on July 8, 2012.
Investigators had intended to arrest both brothers, but two days before the probable-cause affidavit was signed, detectives learned John Riffe had died of a longstanding medical condition.
Rick Riffe, now 54, and his brother were in their 20s at the time of the slayings.
Riffe is charged with two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of kidnapping and robbery in the first degree, as well as first-degree burglary. Each charge also includes special allegations of lack of remorse, deliberate cruelty and acting against particularly vulnerable victims.
If convicted, Riffe could face life in prison.
Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer said he would not pursue the death penalty because of Riffe’s poor health.