A missing kayaker thought to have drowned in the Mississippi River was found alive and on the run in Georgia, Louisiana deputies said.
The man’s son called the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office on Aug. 7 to report his father, 41-year-old Melvin Emde, as missing, according to a Sept. 18 news release.
The son told deputies Emde was kayaking on the Mississippi River near Hahnville, Louisiana, just west of New Orleans, when he went overboard and drowned, according to the release.
On the same day Emde’s son said his father had died in the water, Emde was due to appear in court in Brunswick County, North Carolina, on the southeastern tip of the state, deputies said.
Emde was facing charges of indecent liberties with a child and statutory rape of a child by an adult, according to the sheriff’s office.
“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. However, we could not publicly expose our suspicions for fear of tipping him off,” Sheriff Greg Champagne said in the release.
Emde was wearing an ankle monitor as a condition of his bail, and deputies used the tracking device to learn Emde had gone to Walmart on the day he “drowned” in Boutte, Louisiana, according to the release.
He had purchased two pre-paid phones, then tried to use the phones “discreetly” by turning only one on at a time for very short periods, deputies said.
Deputies tracked one of the phones to Oklahoma, where Emde is originally from, until he stopped using the phones and his trail grew cold, according to the release.
Then, on Sept. 17, a Georgia State Patrol trooper saw a motorcycle driving in Tift County without a license plate, deputies said.
When he tried to pull the motorcycle driver over, he took off, speeding away before he crashed, according to the release.
The motorcycle driver was taken into custody under a fake name after deputies said he tried to run away on foot, according to the sheriff’s office.
Once the driver was fingerprinted, Georgia authorities learned it was Emde and were alerted to his record, according to the release.
“Now it’s time for Mr. Emde to face the music for his charges in North Carolina,” Champagne said in the release.
Tift County is about 185 miles south of Atlanta.