‘Missing’ kayaker faked death by drowning in Louisiana to avoid child sex charges, police say.
A missing kayaker in Georgia has been arrested after officials say He faked his death A day before authorities learned he was scheduled to stand trial on child rape charges in another state.
Authorities arrested Melvin Phillip Emde, 41, after a high-speed chase in south-central Georgia’s Tift County on Sunday, St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne told USA TODAY on Tuesday.
The area where he was detained is about 500 miles from where Champagne said Emde faces felony child sex abuse charges in Brunswick County, North Carolina, south of the state’s coastal city of Wilmington.
The suspect’s arrest follows a weeks-long multi-jurisdictional investigation by state, local and federal law enforcement that spanned four states.
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Kayaking and alleged drowning in the middle of the night
On August 7, his son reported Emde missing. According to initial reports, Emde allegedly went overboard and drowned while kayaking around midnight on the Mississippi River in Hahnville, Louisiana, located 30 miles west of New Orleans.
At the time of reporting, the father and son, both from Talihina, Oklahoma, were in Louisiana for work after Hurricane Ida, Champagne told USA TODAY.
“They (father and son) traveled to the southeast to do work related to the storm,” the sheriff said.
On Aug. 8, the day after Emde’s son reported him missing, Champagne said the detective learned that Emde was scheduled to appear in court in North Carolina that same day on pending charges of indecent liberties with a child and rape of a child.
“We treated this case as a missing persons case, but the day after it happened, we were sure it was a hoax,” the sheriff said.
But Champagne said investigators couldn’t reveal their suspicions publicly for fear of tipping off Emde.
“Through investigation investigators learned earlier on the day of the reported drowning, Emde visited Walmart in Butte and purchased two prepaid phones,” the release continues.
Working with North Carolina authorities with the assistance of U.S. Marshals, investigators tracked down the phones — one of which was “secretly used” and only turned on for short periods of time. The statement said the search was focused on Emde’s home state of Oklahoma, until authorities said they learned the phones were no longer active.
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Traffic stop, chase and motorcycle collision
Early Sunday, around 3:30 a.m., a Georgia State Highway Patrol trooper attempted to stop a motorcycle for not having a license plate, Champagne said. The motorcyclist fled at a high rate of speed, crashed, and its driver — later identified as Emde — attempted to run but was taken into custody, Champagne said.
It was not immediately known if Emde had an attorney. Officials did not reveal the details of the rape charges against him.
Emde is scheduled to be extradited to North Carolina and will later return to Louisiana on pending felony charges including filing a false report, Champagne said.
Charges will also likely be filed against the man’s son, Champagne said, adding that the investigation was continuing Tuesday.
Natalie Nessa Alund is a senior correspondent for USA TODAY. You can contact her at email@example.com and follow her on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter @TALIEALUND.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Kayaker Melvin Emde pretends to drown to avoid sex crime charges: Police