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In fourth “sting operation” in 24 days, PCI setup leads to fourth arrested in Northern Madison County

By STEVEN MURREY

For the fourth time in 24 days, the Indianapolis-based group Predator Catchers of Indianapolis led police to Northern Madison County, this time after an Anderson man stands accused of attempted solicitation of a minor after another “sting operation” from the child advocacy group PCI.

A 46-year-old Anderson man arrested in Alexandria has become the fourth individual in Northern Madison County taken into custody following sting operations by PCI and PCM, local groups dedicated to “catching and exposing child predators.”

Clifford M. Pierce III, 46, attempted to meet a female he believed to be 15-years-old at the Dollar General Store in Alexandria, located at 711 North Park Ave.

The meetup, organized after Pierce met a 20-year-old woman through the dating app “Skout,” later moved to a text messaging application called “TextNow.” According to a woman filming the encounter with the organization’s sister chapter in Muncie, Predator Catchers of Muncie, the decoy revealed herself to be 15-years-old, and not 20, as listed on her “Skout” profile.

When Pierce entered the store, he located the decoy. Within moments, members of PCI and PCM surrounded Pierce.

The groups made small talk with Pierce, shown on dual live-streams posted to their Facebook accounts. The videos of the encounter have since amassed more than 30,100 views and were shared hundreds of times.

According to an affidavit of probable cause signed by Alexandria Police Department Detective Brian Holtzeiter, PCM called him about Pierce’s alleged attempt to engage in sexual misconduct with a minor.

In the affidavit, Holtzeiter noted that the Alexandria police had no involvement or awareness of the conversations between Pierce and the decoy. Members of PCM later provided chat screenshots between Pierce and the decoy. They showed he believed he was traveling to meet a 15-year-old girl for sex.

“The Alexandria Police Department was not involved in the meeting at the Dollar General and was notified after Clifford showed up at the store,” Holtzeier wrote.

In conversations through the two apps, the decoy stated she was 15-years-old. Pierce acknowledged the remarks, asking “who was going to watch, or babysit when her parents left for work.”

Following the confrontation with PCI and PCM outside of the Dollar General, group members described him as “disrespectful” and “without remorse.” Pierce then sped away in a white Honda, which differed from the car he said he’d drive in his chats with the decoy. He turned onto State Road 9 towards Anderson, and scanner traffic revealed police located the vehicle and pulled him over within minutes.

“Clifford was identified as the person in the chats not only through his admission but also by sending photos of himself using his cell phone and email address,” Holtzeiter wrote. “Upon his arrest, I observed him wearing the same maroon sweatshirt shown in the photographs sent to [the decoy.]”

“What about your parents?” chat transcripts included in the probable cause affidavit show Pierce asking the decoy before the meetup. The decoy responded that her parents “were pretty cool,” to which Pierce responds: “Ok, just making sure.”

In a later message, Pierce directly asks, “Is this an undercover bust?” After requesting sexually explicit photos, Pierce again expressed reservations: “You being 15, I’m just going to leave you alone.” That message is shortly followed by another sexually explicit remark.

Pierce then asks if his age bothers the decoy, and then reiterates fears about “getting in trouble,” the affidavit shows.

“Clifford also sent several pictures of his penis to [the decoy],” Holtzeiter wrote.

Officers located Pierce several miles from the store; he was detained and brought to the Alexandria Police Department for a video interview.

Pierce told police he believed the decoy to be 15-years-old and admitted to traveling to the Dollar General Store for sex with the girl. He said he believed she was possibly an underage prostitute and was willing to pay his “normal rate” of $40 to have sex with her. He admitted to sending all of the chat messages, the explicit photos, and expressed feeling “grateful” that the police were able to intervene before he had sex with a girl he believed to be 15.

Pierce was arrested and faces preliminary charges of attempted sexual misconduct with a minor, an enhanced Level 4 felony for being over 21 years of age and knowingly and intentionally attempting to have sexual intercourse with a person he believed to be under 15. Pierce was also charged with operating without financial responsibility, a Class C misdemeanor.

As with the arrest of Gordon Cook made by Elwood police, also stemming from the work of PCI and PCM, the Madison County Prosecutor’s Office has requested a 72-hour hold on filing formal charges. Rodney Cummings said he had never heard of either group; the group’s founder said last month the organization was in the process of becoming a 501c3 not-for-profit organization.

As of press time, Pierce remains at the Madison County Jail with a 10 percent surety bond of $20,000. Cook has since posted bail.