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Police arrest arson suspect

Heidi Rice

A Collbran man was arrested Friday and charged with starting four fires that destroyed two businesses and damaged two others in Rifle on Labor Day.Robin Jay Clifton, 46, was leaving a district courtroom on the fourth floor of the Garfield County Courthouse on unrelated charges; he got about one foot out the door into the hallway when Rifle Police Chief Daryl Meisner handed him an arrest warrant. He was then arrested and handcuffed immediately.It was a quiet arrest, but “that’s the way we wanted it,” Meisner said.Damage from all four fires is estimated at nearly $1.6 million.Clifton is being charged with a total of 13 felony counts, which include first-degree arson, second-degree burglary, criminal mischief, attempted manslaughter and tampering with physical evidence.He was booked into the Garfield County Jail on a $100,000 bond.”I think he was a little surprised, but not really,” Meisner said after the arrest.According to a 46-page arrest affidavit for Clifton, a pair of prescription photochromatic eyeglasses left at one of the fire scenes as well as digital video images recovered from the hard drive of a computer, assisted police in making the arrest.The first of the fires was reported shortly after 3 a.m. on Sept. 5 at the Rifle Fireside Lanes on Highway 13 in north Rifle. A second fire was reported just before 4 a.m. at the Meadow Court Townhomes at 26th Street and Meadow Circle. That fire was quickly extinguished. A third fire was found at the Mi Hacienda restaurant at 2030 Railroad Avenue. The exact time of that fire attempt is unknown.Just after 4:30 a.m., authorities received a report of an explosion followed by a fire at the Rifle Amoco service station in the 100 block of Railroad Avenue.All four fires were quickly determined to be the result of arson using an accelerant. The north to south locations of the fires and the timing led officials to believe the fires were related.

A suspected motive for the fires was not exactly spelled out in the arrest affidavit, but there is an alleged link between Clifton and the Amoco station.Clifton – described as a white man, 5 feet 9 inches, 190 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes – was initially arrested several days before the arson fires. The affidavit states that on Sept. 1, police responded to a call at the Rifle Wal-Mart parking lot of a man committing indecent exposure. Police contacted Clifton in a Dodge truck with a trailer and motorcycle attached. During the investigation, police discovered the trailer and motorcycle had been reported stolen in Utah.Clifton was arrested for aggravated motor vehicular theft, larceny, indecent exposure and an arrest warrant out of Mesa County.The trailer and motorcycle were impounded and taken to the Rifle Amoco station.”At the time of his arrest, Robin Clifton is wearing a skintight black sleeveless shirt and hinged round wire frame photochromatic glasses,” the affidavit says.Clifton posted bond and was released from the Garfield County Jail on Sept. 2.Two hours after being released from jail, Clifton allegedly went to the Rifle Amoco station and requested to get his trailer and motorcycle. When told it was on a “police hold” and that the police needed to be called, Clifton reportedly started “acting nervous.” He left the station before police arrived.


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