Accused Rifle arsonist out on bail
Post Independent Staff
The man suspected of committing a string of Rifle arsons went free Saturday after posting a total of $210,000 in bonds.
Robin Jay Clifton left Garfield County Jail around 5:30 p.m. after posting the bonds with the help of a bonding company, a jail official said.
The news was surprising and disappointing to one of the victims of the fires.
“That’s nice. Nobody’s told me anything,” said David Valencia, owner of Rifle Amoco. “I don’t agree with it. I think the bond should have been higher, given his rap sheet and everything else.”
Clifton, a Collbran resident with a long criminal record, had been in jail since April 7 after being arrested on 13 charges in connection with fires that were set Sept. 5 of last year. The fires destroyed two Rifle businesses and did minor damage to two others.
He was being held on $100,000 bond in connection with the arson case. He also had to post two $50,000 bonds on failure-to-appear charges and a $10,000 bond in connection with a bond revocation charge, according to the jail official.
The Labor Day fires caused a total of $1.6 million in damage, destroying the Rifle Fireside Lanes and Rifle Amoco, and damaging Mi Hacienda restaurant and the Meadow Court Townhomes.
After a seven-month investigation, Clifton was arrested without incident while appearing at the Garfield County Courthouse on unrelated charges.
Police say a pair of glasses found at the Amoco station and similar to ones Clifton had worn, along with video showing a similar-looking man spreading an accelerant around the station, helped build the case for his arrest.
Valencia broke ground on rebuilding his station on the same day Clifton was arrested.
Clifton’s criminal history dates back to 1978 and includes more than 20 charges ranging from robbery to drugs to prison escape.
At a hearing following his arrest, Clifton had called his bond amounts “way out of me and my family’s range.” He said he needed to get out of jail so he could work and pay for a lawyer. A magistrate refused to reduce the bond amount.
Valencia said he is surprised that Clifton could go free. He said he didn’t necessarily consider Clifton a danger to the community, but added, “It’s just amazing that it was that easy for him to get out with that much of a history. It just kind of makes me a little nervous, I guess.”
It also makes him worry about whether Clifton will return to face prosecution in the case.
“I don’t know ” that many charges against you ” that he’d hang around.”
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UPDATE: Both westbound lanes and one eastbound lane of Interstate 70, according to a 12:20 a.m. update from Garfield County.