Missing kayaker faked his own death ahead of court date: Sheriff

HAHNVILLE, La. — (HAHNVILLE, La.) -- A missing kayaker from Louisiana has been arrested for faking his own death by drowning in an apparent bid to dodge rape charges, according to the St. Charles Parish Sheriff's Office.

Melvin Phillip Emde, 41, was arrested by authorities in Georgia over a month after his son, Seth, allegedly reported him missing.

Emde's son allegedly told police his father fell out of a kayak and drowned while on the Mississippi River in Hahnville, Louisiana, according to the St. Charles Parish Sheriff's Office.

After he was reported missing, detectives learned that Emde had pending charges of indecent liberties with a child and statutory rape of a child by an adult in North Carolina. He was due in court just one day after being reported missing, authorities 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 statement.

The sheriff's office discovered Emde was wearing an ankle monitor as a condition of bail. Further investigation revealed that Emde purchased two prepaid phones at a Walmart on the day of his alleged drowning, the sheriff's office said.

St. Charles Parish sheriff's detectives worked with authorities in North Carolina and the U.S. Marshals Service to track the phones. Police said Emde only used one of the phones and turned it on for short periods of time.

Detectives initially focused their search on Oklahoma until it became obvious that the phones were no longer being used.

On Sunday, a Georgia State Highway Patrol officer attempted to stop a motorcycle for not having a license plate, but the motorcycle fled and ultimately crashed.

The driver attempted to flee on foot but was taken into custody. The driver gave police a false name, but it was discovered that he was Melvin Emde when he was fingerprinted, according to the sheriff's office.

"Now it's time for Mr. Emde to face the music for his charges in North Carolina," Champagne said in a statement.

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