The unfamiliar sight of prop cars and television camera crews has brought an all too familiar story back to the surface in Lewis County.
On Tuesday, a pair of decades old boxy black and white police cruisers, accompanied by a Lewis County Sheriff’s Office SUV escort, were seen gassing up near the Main Street junction with Interstate 5 in Chehalis.
Inside the gas station, customers and employees pondered what the odd caravan might be up to. One person said they’d heard that a film crew was “shooting some 80s movie.”
Other than the fact that the cars are actually being used in the filming of a television documentary, that particular ponderance was precisely on point.
The antique police fleet, camera crews and actors spotted periodically around the county in recent weeks and months are actually part of A&E Network’s “Cold Case Files” documentary program. The crews are on location to film reenactment scenes from the 1985 murders of elderly Ed and Minnie Maurin, of Ethel, by Rick and John Riffe.
“I know they’ve been out about three different times,” said Bruce Kimsey, field operations chief with the Lewis County Sheriff’s department, of the Cold Case Files crews. “They’ve interviewed myself, the prosecutor Jonathan Meyer, the senior deputy prosecutor William Halstead, a couple of retired detectives and several family members.”
Kimsey was the lead detective on the case at the time of Rick Riffe’s arrest in 2012 and once spent five hours in front of the camera during an extensive interview for the show.
Kimsey noted that the documentary is attempting to recreate the details of the murders piece by piece. So far, at least one mismatched detail jumped out at him though.
“I said, ‘What is going on with the black and white cars, because those are more of an L.A. look,” said Kimsey. “They said it’s more about the light bar and the back of the car. I guess you won’t really see the colors on the side.”
Kimsey added that the traveling escorts provided by the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office are a practical matter of public safety rather than an opportunity to rub elbows with big time television players.
“If they’re going to wear uniforms or use police cars they have to have supervision of a deputy,” explained Kimsey. “The reason why is that you obviously don’t want guys running around in uniforms that look like Lewis County deputies.”
Shawna Foster, a producer with the “Cold Case Files,” was in town earlier this month and noted that filming in the area actually began back in May.
“This is a revamped better-than-ever version,” said Foster. “What we’re doing now is the reenactments, which is making it all more movie style.”
On Dec. 19, 1985 the Riffe brothers, who have been described as small-time drug dealers from Mossyrock at that time, kidnapped the Maurins and forced them to withdraw money from their bank account before shooting the couple and dumping their bodies in a wooded area near Adna.
A break in the case eventually led law enforcement to the Riffe brothers, who had since moved to Alaska. John Riffe died before he could be extradited back to Washington, but Rick Riffe was found guilty of seven felony counts in November 2013, including charges of first-degree murder, kidnapping, robbery and burglary. Riffe appealed, but the verdicts were upheld in November 2015.
Earlier this year, Lewis County Commissioner Edna Fund, whose parents were close friends with the Maurins, was interviewed for the program.
“Ed and Minnie Maurin were such sweet people,” Fund told Chronicle columnist Julie McDonald in July. Fund added that she agreed to the television interview in order “to give hope that cold cases can be solved.”
The Cold Case Files episode is likely to air on A&E around the first of the year, although no specific date has been provided.