ILWACO, Wash. - Two police officers traveled to Hawaii and came back with a story that may have solved the mystery of the Fourth of July weekend disappearance of an Oregon fisherman.
The tale led to the arrest of a Pacific City man for the murder of his shipmate - even though his body has never been found.
Erin Dean Rieman, 47, of Pacific City, is in the Tillamook County Jail facing a second-degree murder charge and a first-degree theft charge in the death of his 54-year-old business partner, John Curtis Adkins, of Albany.
Sgt. Jon Harrington of the Oregon State Police and Officer Casey Meling of the Long Beach (Wash.) Police Department traveled to Hilo to interview the third man on the boat, deckhand Walter B. Bremmer.
Here's what authorities say happened to the skipper of the Tiger. The account is based on the probable cause affidavit filed with Pacific County Prosecutor David Burke: The trio, Adkins, Rieman and Bremmer, had sailed the Tiger from Garibaldi to Ilwaco and planned to put the vessel into dry dock for repairs. They arrived the afternoon of July 4. After a night drinking, 46-year-old Bremmer returned to the vessel on C Dock and saw the pair fighting in the pilothouse.
"He said he saw Rieman punching John in the face and then saw Rieman grab John and smash his head through the window of the port side of the boat," the report said.
Bremmer told the police he saw Rieman punch Adkins several times then throw him down the stairs to the galley. He said he heard Adkins - who did little to defend himself - say that Rieman was "going to kill me."
Rieman then throttled Adkins to death with an electrical cord, the deckhand told police, and threatened to kill him and his girlfriend too if he didn't help him. Bremmer told police Rieman was wrapped in a sleeping bag and tied up with the cord. He also said Rieman grabbed Adkins' $5,000 travel funds.
After pretending to look around the area for Adkins for a day, the pair departed for Garibaldi in the 47-foot vessel. Police say Bremmer's statement makes it clear the body was dumped overboard on that trip south. "Rieman piloted the board out to sea, nearly three miles from shore," police reported. "About 4 1/2 hours into the trip south, Rieman told Walter Bremmer to drive the boat. Bremmer went to the pilothouse and watched as Rieman removed John's body from the engine compartment, tied two large cylindrical fishing weights to the sleeping bag using a thin metal cord, and then threw John's body into the ocean."
Police had become suspicious about the case when they checked out the Tiger in Garibaldi July 11. Rieman had several cuts on his left hand but offered a story about having cut himself when he lost his footing. Two large fishing weights were missing from a rack, the pilothouse window was broken and there was evidence of blood spattered in the pilothouse.
The joint investigation involves OSP Criminal Investigations Division, Tillamook County Sheriff's Office, Long Beach, Wash., Police Department, and the Pacific County Prosecutor's Office.