A Talihina, Oklahoma man facing child rape charges in North Carolina was found alive over the weekend after faking an accidental drowning and death by going overboard while kayaking on the Mississippi River, authorities say.
The St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office in Louisiana said 41-year-old Melvin Phillip Emde was arrested in Tift County, Georgia on Sunday, more than a month after he was reported missing.
On Aug. 7, 2023, Emde’s son Seth reported his father missing just after midnight, alleging he went overboard and drowned while kayaking on the Mississippi River near Matis Road in Hahnville, Louisiana.
Detectives investigating the missing person’s case learned the next day that Emde was due in court in Brunswick County, North Carolina the same day, on charges of indecent liberties with a child and statutory rape of a child by an adult.
"We immediately became quite suspicious that this may have been a faked accidental drowning and death in order for Mr. Emde to escape charges in Brunswick County, North Carolina," St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne said. "However, we could not publicly expose our suspicions for fear of tipping him off."
Champagne’s detectives reached out to authorities in North Carolina, who said Emde was wearing an ankle monitor as a condition of bail. A further investigation revealed that on the day Emde was reported missing, he went to a Walmart in Boutte and purchased two prepaid cell phones.
Authorities in North Carolina and the U.S. Marshals Service helped track the phones, learning Emde only used one of the phones for brief periods of time.
The investigation at the beginning focused on Oklahoma, but when investigators learned Emde stopped using the phones, they broadened the search.
On Sunday, there was a break in the case when a Georgia State Highway Patrol officer attempted to stop a motorcycle for not having a license plate at about 3:30 a.m.
The motorcyclist fled the officer until ultimately crashing. Then, the person on the motorcycle attempted to run away but was taken into custody.
The driver provided the officer a fake name, but once fingerprinted, he was identified as Emde.
"Now it’s time for Mr. Emde to face the music for his charges in North Carolina," Champagne said.
Although Emde is in custody, the case is ongoing.
Anyone with information is encouraged to contact Detective Joshua Deroche with the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office at 985-783-6807, 985-783-1135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.