A 57-year-old Centralia woman who had an “intimate” online relationship with Rick Riffe in the year preceding his arrest told the jury during the 22nd day of testimony Thursday that she was afraid to tell investigators about their conversations because she thought his friends would kill her.
Deborah George testified her online correspondence with Riffe, which eventually developed into a sexual relationship, continued for about a year, and on a few occasions involved conversations about the 1985 murders of Ed and Minnie Maurin.
Throughout her testimony, George appeared reluctant to answer the prosecutor’s questions, squirmed in the witness chair and on occasion nervously giggled. She frequently looked down at her hands and responded to the attorney’s questions with, “I don’t recall.”
While George avoided eye contact with the attorneys as they questioned her, she looked over at Riffe multiple times throughout her testimony.
George told the jury the relationship started in 2011 or 2010 when Rick Riffe sent her a friend request to her Facebook account, which she shared with her husband, Leslie George. She said she married Leslie about 15 years prior.
Leslie George testified earlier in the trial that he was friends with the Riffe brothers during the 1980s and frequently did drugs with them. Leslie, who suspected that the Riffe brothers were involved in the Maurin homicides, told the jury he loaned his shotgun to Rick Riffe in 1984, and did not get it back from Rick Riffe until the spring of 1986. When it was returned to him, the barrel had been sawed off. George also said he told the Riffe brothers, while driving past the Maurin house shortly before the homicides, that the elderly couple likely had a lot of money.
His wife told the jury Wednesday that Leslie George did not approve the friend request for more than a month. Deborah George, however, said she was curious about Riffe because of the rumors she heard about him being involved in the Maurin homicides, so she accepted it.
Their relationship spanned about a year, she said. Riffe was a good listener, and she told him things she would not tell anyone else.
“He seemed like he was a really nice guy,” she said.
Throughout the course of their online relationship, which grew more sexual and intimate, she said she spoke to Riffe on a few occasions about the homicides.
“Rick kept asking me about how much I heard about him,” George said. “He was asking what people were saying about him.”
On one of the occasions, she said, he told her about how Ed Maurin was hit in the head before he was shot because he refused to get out of the car. A medical examiner testified earlier on in the trial that Ed Maurin had a head injury that he sustained either right before or after his death.
Though the jury was not provided any copies of the digital conversations, a computer forensics expert, James R. Dibble, who examined the computers belonging to Riffe and George, testified that there was regular contact between the two, and that their relationship appeared to be “intimate.”
Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer told the jury during opening arguments that Riffe used their online relationship to “keep tabs” on the investigation that was occurring in Lewis County.
Earlier in the week, Meyer told the judge outside the presence of the jury, the sexual conversations included remarks regarding Riffe telling George he wanted her to have sex with a dog and a donkey.
Meyer also previously said that Deborah told investigators Riffe had once told her he wanted to have sex with her where the Maurins were shot and killed.
Presiding Judge Richard Brosey ruled Thursday morning, prior to George resuming testimony on the stand, that the detailed discussions about sex were not allowed to be retold in front of the jury.
George, however, was allowed to testify about certain aspects of their sexual conversations, which she said grew more graphic as time went on. His sexual requests also became increasingly odd, she said, adding that Riffe frequently asked her to do things she felt uncomfortable with.
Though she did not tell the jury that Riffe had told her he wanted to have sex where the Maurin bodies were found, she did say that Riffe said he had sex where dead people were located.
Under questioning about their sexual relationship by the prosecution, George began to sniffle and cry slightly.
“He said he used to do that over dead people,” George said as she looked down at her hands, adding that she would never do that. “He said he does it over the graveyards ‘cause nobody can catch him.”
She testified Riffe would decide how they would communicate, whether it would be over instant message, email or video chat, and afterward would tell her to delete all their communications.
“Rick Riffe told me to erase everything he ever wrote,” she said.
Riffe had told her that his long-term girlfriend, Sherri Tibbets, who he was living with the defendant at the time the digital conversations occurred, would kill her if she ever found out about their online relationship.
“He said she would kill me,” George said. “And him.”
George said the first time she saw Riffe in person was at his initial appearance in Lewis County Superior Court on July 31, 2012, after his Alaska arrest and his extradition to Washington.
After the court hearing, she said, Detective Bruce Kimsey approached her and asked to speak with her. Kimsey previously testified he was aware of Deborah’s conversations with Riffe because her husband had told the detective about it.
In her first conversation with the detective, she told him she was not sure if she could be honest with him.
“I can’t tell him much because I don’t want to be killed,” George told the jury Thursday.
After she spoke to detectives, George said she went to visit him in the jail. The visit only lasted a few minutes, and she said Riffe was very short with her and told her he could not speak with her.
“He just wasn’t friendly,” she said.
During cross examination, Crowley pointed out that George frequently responded to questions with “I don’t recall,” and asked George if she had any memory difficulty due to a head injury.
George told the jury she was in a car accident in 1984 and sustained a head and neck injury, adding that doctors told her it affects her memory.