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Fugitive Ex-Trooper Not Easy to Catch

January 28, 1986

LAGUNA BEACH, Calif. (AP) _ A former Indiana state trooper accused of murder has slipped through police fingers twice in a year, the latest time here, when he was arrested on lesser charges but got free before police learned he was wanted.

In between those arrests, he was caught once by the FBI but escaped.

Part of the problem is the length of time needed for the FBI, which has millions of prints on file, to compare fingerprints sent in by police for fugitive checks against the prints of people listed as being wanted, officials said.

″It takes several months to process those prints for identification in Washington,″ said FBI agent Garry Schoon in Indianapolis.

A Japanese-made computerized fingerprint system that reduces the time needed for fingerprint comparisons was officially inaugurated in December for California police agencies, but that only searches for people wanted in California.

The man being sought is Jerry W. Cliver, 34, accused of shooting his ex- wife and killing her boyfriend in Indiana in 1984.

″Obviously he knows the tricks of the trade,″ Schoon said. ″But he still has to eat and he still has to work someplace. He is going to make a mistake and get caught.″

Laguna Beach police Sgt. Greg Bartz was less optimistic.

″He could live for 50 years going from town to town,″ Bartz said.

Cliver was arrested Nov. 11 by Laguna Beach police after he allegedly tried to sell a handgun to a restaurant owner and was booked for investigation of carrying a concealed and loaded weapon.

Cliver, who gave his nephew’s name when he was booked, was released on his own recognizance and hasn’t been seen since.

It wasn’t until Jan. 21 that the FBI’s computer in Washington identified Cliver as being sought by the FBI on a warrant charging unlawful flight to avoid prosecution in the 1984 slaying and shooting.

In February 1985, Cliver was stopped for running a red light in Sunrise, Fla., and was arrested when police found the license plates on the car were stolen. He gave the identity of a dead Florida man and was eventually released.

It wasn’t until April that the FBI identified him and the charges on which he was being sought.

However, FBI agents got lucky that time.

Cliver was still using the same name he gave in Sunrise and was working for a Fort Lauderdale construction company across the street from the FBI’s offices.

He was arrested and sent to Sullivan County, Ind., where officials decided not to put him in a regular jail cell for fear the former police officer might be attacked by other prisoners.

Instead, Cliver was placed in a juvenile cell usually assigned to female prisoners, and on Oct. 12 he cut through a window screen and disappeared until his arrest in Laguna Beach.

The $22 million computerized fingerprint system installed for California police ″does years of work in a matter of minutes,″ state Attorney General John Van de Kamp has said.

Before it was put into general use, the computer was tested on a number of California cases. It needed only three minutes to identify 10 possible suspects in the Night Stalker killing cases, based on a print found at one site. The man whose name was No. 1 on the list was arrested the next day.

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