Missing kayaker accused in rape case arrested after faking death

ST. CHARLES PARISH, La. — An Oklahoma man was arrested in Georgia after authorities said he faked his own death in a kayaking accident a day before he was to appear in court on rape charges in another state.

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Melvin Phillip Emde, 41, of Talihina, Oklahoma, was arrested by authorities in Tift County following a chase in south-central Georgia on Sunday, the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office in Louisiana said in a news release posted on Facebook.

According to Sheriff Greg Champagne, Emde was reported missing by his son shortly after midnight CDT on Aug. 7. Seth Emde said his father fell overboard while fishing and drowned while kayaking in the Mississippi River in Hahnville, Louisiana, located approximately 30 miles west of New Orleans, WDSU-TV reported.

The sheriff’s office reported at the time that the search covered two days and used divers, sonar, a small boat and a drone, according to The Associated Press.

Investigators in Louisiana learned that Melvin Emde was due in court on Aug. 8 to face charges of indecent liberties with a child and statutory rape of a child in Brunswick County, North Carolina, according to USA Today. He was wearing an ankle monitor, WDSU reported.

They also discovered that Emde bought two pre-paid phones at a Walmart in Boutte on the day of the alleged drowning, according to the television station.

“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,” Champagne said in the news release. “However, we could not publicly expose our suspicions for fear of tipping him off.”

Champagne told USA Today that at the time of the alleged drowning, Emde and his son were in Louisiana, doing storm-related work in the area in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.

On Sunday at about 3:30 a.m. EDT, the Georgia State Highway Patrol attempted to pull over a motorcycle that had no license plates, WDSU reported. The driver fled the scene and crashed, then began running, according to the television station.

He was taken into custody, USA Today reported.

The motorcyclist gave troopers a false name but was identified through his fingerprints, Champagne told the AP.

Emde’s son has not yet been charged in the case, Amanda Pertuis, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office, told the news organization. The sheriff told USA Today that is was “likely” to be filed against the younger Emde.

Champagne said Emde is likely slated for extradition to North Carolina and will later return to Louisiana for pending felony charges that include filing a false report, according to the newspaper.

An investigation is ongoing, the sheriff said.

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