It was December 19th, 1985 in Ethel, Washington when Minnie Maurin planned on hosting a ladies church luncheon at her home. Minnie along with her husband Ed Maurin ran a Christmas Tree farm and were very well known members of Ethel’s community. When the guests arrived for the luncheon there was no one home to answer the door. Ed and Minnie always left their door open so the fact that their door was locked was very out of the ordinary. This is when they started making phone calls around town to see if anyone had any idea where the couple was. Eventually they managed to gain entry into the home and saw clear signs of disturbance. There were draws left open, papers thrown all over the place and boxes of bank statements on the floor.
Police were immediately called and an investigation was underway. A few things they initially noticed was that there was no forced entry, Minnie’s purse was hidden behind the couch under a news paper, and that the blinds behind the Christmas tree were closed. This lead the police to theorize that they had been kidnapped. Being Christmas tree farmers, they would never have the blinds behind their Christmas tree closed during this time of year and according to friends and family Minnie would never leave her home without her purse. Not only did the Maurins have a successful Christmas tree business but their son Dennis had one of the largest logging companies in the Pacific Northwest. Could they have been kidnapped and held for ransom?
As the investigation continued an employee who worked at the Yard Bird Mall reported seeing a green Chrysler in the parking lot of the mall. On December 20th the police go to the scene and confirm that it is indeed the vehicle of Ed and Minnie Maurin. Once they were able to get inside the car they were met with a grim reality. There were shotgun pellets throughout the vehicle and large amounts of blood which leaked out through the doors. There was no sign of the bodies but it was clear to the police by the amount of blood that at least one person was murdered in that car.
On December 24th a driver had spotted what he thought was a CPR dummy on the side of the road. When he got out the car to inspect he came across the bodies of Ed and Minnie Maurin. The autopsy showed that both of them had succumbed to shotgun wounds and Ed had experience head trauma indicating that he had been beaten prior to his death. There were drag marks from the side of the road to the spot the bodies were found, the killers had not made a serious attempt to hide the bodies.
At this point in history DNA was not an option and there were no fingerprints found in the car so there was very little to work with. The cops did find a receipt from a bank in Ed’s pocket and decided to follow that lead. They spoke to a woman who worked at the bank and was there when Ed made the withdrawal. She explained that on 9:30am December 19th Ed had called her and said he needed to make a withdrawal of $8,500.00 to which she replied yes. When he showed up to the bank his withdrawal wasn’t ready for him so he told the teller that he would just wait in the car. Once it was ready and the teller went outside to give him the money, Ed quickly got out of the car and met her halfway not allowing her to get too close to the car. The bank employee mentioned that he didn’t seem like he was in trouble but she did notice there were other people in the car.
By January, police were working on improving the composite sketches to identify the man that was spotted in the Yard Bird Mall parking lot. Even though he looked nothing like the sketch there was suspicion that Mike Hadaller, the Maurins grandson might have had something to do with it. He had a short temper and was no stranger to the law. When questioned about it Mike became furious that he was being accused of killing his own grandparents and agrees to take a polygraph test which he passes. Since immediate family was ruled out the cops had to broaden their investigation to people who knew the Maurin but weren’t related to them. They started taking a look at the seasonal workers who were employed on the Christmas tree farm. This part of the investigation led to a dead end since each of the workers had an alibi for the time of the murders.
Years later in 1990 there was a phone call the police received from a man who claimed that his brother was involved in a double homicide. The caller claimed that this man killed his wife’s grandparents and sole their life savings. This person was now their number one suspect and a unique plan was hatched to confiscate this suspect. The police posed as the mob looking to recruit the suspect to join. Two detectives posed as mobsters and have a meeting arranged with the suspect. During this meeting the detectives say that they heard about a double homicide that the suspect may have been involved in and they need to confirm that he was indeed the person who did it. Only by this confirmation would he be eligible to join the mob.
The suspect quickly speaks of a an incident that matched the story perfectly except for one important detail. In this story the suspect kills an elderly couple with a .22 magnum instead of the shotgun that was actually used in the crime. There continued to be more inaccuracies in his story and detectives soon realized he was just using the incident to gain street cred.
By 1992 there were many tips that pointed to new suspects. Rick and John Riffe had established themselves as violent drug dealers from the neighboring town. Despite so many tips pointing to the Riffe brothers arrests couldn’t be made due to a lack of evidence. There was no murder weapon, no connection between the Riffes and the Maurins and not enough credible witnesses.
From the outset, detectives harbored suspicions regarding brothers John and Rick Riffe’s involvement in the murders, as they were reportedly spotted near the Maurins’ residence during the week of the incident. Despite lacking concrete evidence of probable cause, their relocation to Alaska in 1987 shielded them from thorough questioning or investigation. In 2002, a renewed interest in the case emerged when Minnie’s son offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the apprehension of his mother and stepfather’s killer. This incentive sparked a flurry of tips, ultimately revealing crucial clues. By 2012, additional witnesses and evidence emerged, pointing to Rick and his long-suspected accomplice, brother John.
Consequently, in the summer of that year, detectives journeyed to King Salmon, Alaska, intending to make the arrests, only to discover that John had passed away a week prior. Nearly three decades after the double homicide, John, then 53, was apprehended and extradited for prosecution. Throughout the trial, witnesses testified that Rick and John had utilized a friend’s shotgun and had openly boasted about the abduction and killings. They admitted to withholding information earlier due to fear of facing a similar fate.
On November 18, 2013, Rick Riffe was convicted of two charges of first-degree murder, two charges of kidnapping and robbery, and one charge of first-degree burglary. Despite remaining silent during his court appearances, his attorney disclosed that Rick expressed neither apologies nor remorse, asserting that he was innocent of the crimes. Rick persisted in proclaiming his innocence through an appeal, but it was ultimately denied by a judge two years later. Consequently, he is currently serving a sentence of nearly 103 years in prison. Additionally, in 2014, Rick received an extra six-year sentence for the sexual abuse of a 10-year-old girl in the 1980s.