Alaska man charged with 1985 murders in Washington state

Rolf Boone
Lewis County Sheriff's Office handout photo

CHEHALIS, Wash. -- A man was arrested in King Salmon Sunday for the 1985 kidnapping, robbery and murder of an elderly Washington couple, authorities said.

Rick Riffe, 53, and his brother John had been long suspected of the killings. John Riffe died the same week that Lewis County, Washington, police bought their tickets to Alaska to make the arrests, county Sheriff Steve Mansfield said in a written statement.

"It has been 26 years and seven months," said Dennis Hadaller, Minnie's son. "I thought about it at least three or four times a day."

In December 1985, 81-year-old Edward "Ed" Maurin and his wife, 83-year-old Wilhelmina "Minnie" Maurin, were reported missing after they failed to show up for a family Christmas party, the Lewis County Chronicle reported.

The sheriff's office alleges that the Riffe brothers kidnapped the couple at their home and forced them to drive to a bank and withdraw $8,500. The couple was then shot with a shotgun inside their vehicle and their bodies dumped in a wooded area, authorities said.

Authorities said the brothers were primary suspects throughout the investigation, but police lacked probable cause for an arrest until much later, when new evidence was uncovered and witnesses came forward.

"Detectives feel many witnesses did not come forward during the ... initial investigation due to being fearful of the Riffe brothers and possible retaliation for speaking out," Mansfield said.

Mansfield said extradition proceedings will be initiated to bring Riffe to Lewis County to stand trial.

The Riffe brothers moved to Alaska in 1987.

In King Salmon, Riffe had worked as a truck driver and crane operator for at least one company, Bristol Bay Contractors. He left the job several years ago, according to George Steinberg, who has worked for the company for about 15 years.

When told Monday about the arrest and allegations against Riffe, Steinberg said he was "kind of surprised."

"He was just a regular guy," Steinberg said. "Hard working."

Associated Press