A North Carolina man is in custody after police say he tried but failed to fake his own death in a poorly staged kayaking accident in order to evade rape charges.
Melvin Emde, 41, was taken into custody in Georgia on Sunday after a traffic stop and subsequent motorcycle crash revealed to authorities there that he had supposedly died in a tragic accident weeks earlier, according to the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office.
The alleged ruse began on Aug. 7, when Louisiana deputies say they received a call from Emde’s son reporting that he’d fallen overboard while kayaking in the Mississippi River near Hahnville.
Emde had been due in court in North Carolina on the same day of his supposed drowning. He faced charges of indecent liberties with a child and statutory rape of a child by an adult, police said.
“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,” St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne said in a press release.
Police went along with the hoax drowning, Champagne said, because they knew they’d eventually be able to catch Emde. Meanwhile, local news reports detailed the frantic search efforts for the missing kayaker, and social media posts about the tragedy were flooded with comments from hundreds of well-wishers offering their “prayers” for Emde’s rescue. Some of Emde’s own family members took to Facebook to express their shock about his apparent death: “This cannot be happening,” wrote a woman identified in public records as his sister.
The scheme, police say, was doomed from the get-go, however: Emde was still wearing the ankle monitor he was required to wear as a condition of his bail. On the same day of his supposed drowning, the ankle monitor showed he was actually in a Walmart buying two prepaid phones, authorities said.
While the trail went cold after he apparently stopped using those phones, a motorcycle driving without a license plate in Georgia over the weekend caught the attention of the Georgia State Patrol. When a trooper tried to pull the driver over, he fled, crashed, tried to flee again on foot, and then gave authorities a bogus name. But fingerprints unmasked him as Emde, the tragic kayaker at the center of search efforts in Louisiana who’d conveniently “died” on the eve of his court hearing.
“Now it’s time for Mr. Emde to face the music for his charges in North Carolina,” Champagne said.