Accused sexual predator a high-ranking member of a Central Texas church

By Jim Bergamo

KVUE News (Austin, TX)

February 11, 2010

An accused sexual predator is also a Sunday school teacher and church deacon.

In September of 2007, fire destroyed the sanctuary of the First Baptist Church of Dripping Springs.  This week, as the rebuilding nears its completion in the next few months, a firestorm of controversy has already enveloped one of the church's key members.  Robert Riffle, is accused of using his work computer at UT to have sexual conversations online with someone he believed was a 12-year-old girl.  First Baptist Pastor Craig Curry had this to say on Riffle's arrest.

"This individual is a member of our church, we're just learning of the charges against him, and recognize that the charges are serious, and we are compassionately praying for all those involved," said Curry."

The church's website reveals Riffle and his wife have been members since 2003, that they both teach children's Sunday school and that he was recently elected as a deacon.  Former church members and vacation Bible school teachers we talked to did not know Riffle personally, but were saddened and shocked at the news of his arrest.

"If he can do it to that little girl, I have an 11-year-old granddaughter and a 14-year-old granddaughter and they are on Facebook," said Bersha McIntyre, a former member of the First Baptist Church Dripping Springs.

"Knowing that you go to church with someone like that, then you really don't know who anybody is.  How can you trust somebody?  I don't know, that kind of shocks me actually," said Suzette Raesz, who taught vacation Bible school at First Baptist Church Dripping Springs.

Riffle told investigators he ran an academic program for army officers at UT.  He remains on paid administrative leave tonight.  (with video)

SNAP Note: First Baptist Church of Dripping Springs, Texas, is a church affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.