‘Missing’ kayaker faked death to escape child sex abuse charges, say police

Police in Louisiana searching the Mississippi River for missing kayaker Melvin Phillip Emde. Police allege Emde faked his own drowning to escape child sex abuse charges in North Carolina. St. Charles Parish Sheriff's Office/Facebook

When a highway patrol officer attempted to pull over a man for driving a motorcycle without a licence plate, the man took off, kick-starting a dramatic police chase that ultimately ended in the man crashing his motorcycle and attempting to flee on foot.

The man gave a fake name when he was arrested, but when investigators fingerprinted him, they learned why he had been so desperate to get away.

The motorcyclist turned out to be Melvin Phillip Emde, 41, who was reported missing by his son in early August after he allegedly went overboard and drowned while kayaking in Hahnville, La., the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office said in a release.

Police searched the Mississippi River for two days looking for the kayaker, using divers, sonar, a cadaver dog and a drone. No body was found.

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Meanwhile, police in Louisiana learned that Emde was facing charges of “indecent liberties with a child” and statutory rape and was due to appear in court in North Carolina.

Investigators also learned that Emde bought two prepaid cellphones from Walmart the same day he allegedly drowned.

“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,” Sheriff Greg Champagne of St. Charles Parish said. “However, we could not publicly expose our suspicions for fear of tipping him off.”

Police in Louisiana and North Carolina collaborated on the case with the United States Marshals to track down Emde and the two phones he purchased.

Emde used one of the phones but only turned it on “for short periods of time.” Investigators focused their search on Oklahoma, where Emde is from, but the trail went cold as police say “it became obvious the phones were no longer being used.”

Eventually, Emde was located for reasons unrelated to the prior allegations or the investigation, when he was pulled over for riding the motorcycle without a licence plate on Sunday.

“Now it’s time for Mr. Emde to face the music for his charges in North Carolina,” Champagne said.

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Emde will be extradited from Georgia to North Carolina, St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office public information officer Amanda Pertuis told CNN.

Details about Emde’s child sex abuse charges have not been made public by the Brunswick County Court.

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