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An Oklahoma man who authorities said faked his death in a kayaking accident last month to dodge child rape charges in North Carolina was captured on Sunday after a weekend police chase and motorcycle crash in Georgia.
Melvin Emde — a 41-year-old Talihina, Oklahoma, resident — had been reported missing by his son on August 7 after authorities were told at the time that he drowned in the Mississippi River during a kayaking and fishing trip, according to a news release reported by local media.
The bogus accident prompted authorities to launch a search and rescue operation that spanned two days and used divers, sonar, and a small boat — but officers never found Emde’s body.
Emde was scheduled to appear in court the day he went missing for charges of “indecent liberties with a child and statutory rape of a child” in North Carolina.
“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 reportedly said. “However, we could not publicly expose our suspicions for fear of tipping him off.”
“So, we just kind of left it as a missing person’s report, another person who just drowned in the river, and his body didn’t appear,” he added. “It sounds like a pretty good concoction that they came up with, but like most of those, they don’t work.”
After learning about the allegations against Emde, authorities reportedly worked with detectives in North Carolina who said he had been wearing an ankle monitor while out on bail. They discovered he had purchased two prepaid cell phones at a Walmart in Boutte, Louisiana.
U.S. Marshals helped track the phones and learned Emde had only turned on one of the cellular devices to use it briefly.
Authorities eventually located Emde on Sunday in Georgia after a Highway Patrol officer attempted to stop a motorcycle for driving without a license plate around 3:30 a.m.
Champagne said Emde fled the scene until he eventually crashed the motorcycle and attempted to escape on foot, but authorities ultimately captured him. Champagne said Emde then gave officers a false name, but a fingerprint scan revealed his true identity.
He now faces charges in Louisiana for having wasted police time in addition to his child rape allegations in North Carolina. Prosecutors have not filed charges against Emde’s son, but authorities reportedly said the investigation is ongoing.
“Basically, filing false reports, which we refer to as injuring public record in Louisiana, which is a felony,” said Champagne. “Obviously, he’s got more serious things to deal with.”
“Now it’s time for Mr. Emde to face the music for his charges in North Carolina,” he added.