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Missing kayaker faked death to escape rape charges

The day after the fake drowning, detectives learned that Emde had pending rape charges in North Carolina.

ST. CHARLES PARISH, La. — A man who went missing kayaking on the Mississippi River in St. Charles Parish was arrested in Georgia on Sunday for rape charges. 

41-year-old Melvin Emde was reported missing by his son after he was seen going overboard while kayaking in Hahnville just after midnight on August 7, 2023. 

The day after the fake drowning, detectives say they learned that Emde had pending charges of Indecent Liberties with a Child and Statutory Rape of a Child by an Adult in Brunswick County, North Carolina, and was due in court that same day. 

“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,” said Sheriff Champagne. 

Authorities in North Carolina told the St. Charles Parish investigators that Emde was on bail and wearing an ankle monitor. 

On August 6, 2023, Emde went to Walmart in Boutte and bought two prepaid phones. Detectives worked with authorities in North Carolina and the United States Marshals Service to track the phones until Emde stopped using them.

Officials said the search for Emde focused on Oklahoma "until it became obvious the phones were no longer being used."

On Sunday, around 3:30 a.m., a Georgia State Highway Patrol officer attempted to stop a motorcycle for not having a license plate. The motorcycle tried to get away but he crashed. 

The driver then attempted to flee on foot but was taken into custody. He gave a false name, and once he was fingerprinted, they determined he was Melvin Emde. 

If anyone has any information, they are urged to contact Detective Joshua Deroche with the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office at (985) 783-6807, (985) 783-1135, or jderoche@stcharlessheriff.org. 

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