Rifle residents respond to arson arrest
RIFLE – When Shari Neuroth was told Saturday that alleged arsonist Robin Jay Clifton, 46, of Collbran, was arrested Friday for his alleged Labor Day arsons in Rifle, she said the Rifle Police Department had shown its professionalism. Neuroth, a broker associate at Coldwell Banker in Rifle Commons, said it’s “fabulous” that Clifton was captured. “It’s nice to see that the police force here in Rifle has been able to use the necessary means to find and capture the person suspected,” she said. “We have a very talented crew of professionals here with the means to do just about anything.”She said the alleged arsons were shocking. “We’re a small town,” she said. “We’re a community. We band together. To know that somebody came in and systematically went through the town destroying things by fire is extremely frightening.”A sigh of relief spread through Rifle Saturday as residents and workers got the news that Clifton had been arrested. Clifton is accused of starting four fires in Rifle on Sept. 5, which destroyed a local bowling alley and gas station, and damaged two other businesses. “It’s quite commendable for the Rifle Police force to be right on and continue the investigation and follow through,” said Ted Wernsman, a Choice Liquors employee. “They nabbed him, you know?” Wernsman said he first thought the arsonist was someone who had been passing through Rifle, not someone from the area. “Just the way Rifle’s situated, it’s easy to hit and run with I-70 (nearby), so I’m real glad that they caught somebody,” he said. “I hope he’s the one, the right one.”Tonice Jones, who was working at A&D Pawn Shop on Saturday morning, said he had his doubts about the alleged arsonist’s eventual capture. “I honestly didn’t think they would ever catch whoever did it,” he said. “I figured it was somebody who was probably transient and already left the area.”But, Jones said, he is “absolutely” glad that the alleged perpetrator was arrested. Theresa Hamilton, director of districtwide services for Garfield County School District Re-2, commended the Rifle Police for their excellent work tracking down Clifton, whose alleged arsons had quite an impact. “Until you actually catch them, there’s always that doubt in the back of your mind with the fire trucks rolling down the street, especially late at night,” she said. “Gosh, to be able to identify the perpetrator seven months later is great. The colder the trail gets, the harder it becomes to believe they’re going to actually find somebody.”Hamilton said she has to take off her hat to Rifle Police Chief Daryl Meisner, who arrested Clifton at the Garfield County Courthouse in Glenwood Springs on Friday. As to whether she thought Clifton would ever be caught, Hamilton said, “I think you always had to hold out hope.”
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