Man fakes drowning death in kayaking incident to dodge rape charges, captured in Georgia

The St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office announced this week the once missing Mississippi River kayaker Melvin Phillip Emde, 41, was taken into custody on Sunday, September 17 by authorities in Tift County, Georgia.

Emde, a native of Talihina, Okla., was reported missing shortly after midnight on August 7 by his son Seth, after allegedly going overboard and drowning on a kayaking trip in the Mississippi River near Matis Road in Hahnville. Within 24 hours of the missing person report, St. Charles Parish detectives learned Emde had pending child rape related charges and was due in court the same day in Brunswick County, N.C.

“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, N.C.,” Sheriff Greg Champagne said in a recent press release. “However, we could not publicly expose our suspicions for fear of tipping him off.”

Working closely with North Carolina authorities and the United States Marshals Services, local detectives helped identify and track two prepaid phones it learned Emde had purchased at Walmart in Boutte on the day of the reported drowning. Emde attempted to use one of the two phones sparingly, turning it on for short periods of time. Authorities initially focused on searching Oklahoma until it became clear the phones were no longer being used.

Emde was later apprehended early Sunday morning around 3:30 a.m. by the Georgia State Highway Patrol, after an officer attempted to stop him for operating a motorcycle without a license plate. Emde fled on the motorcycle and crashed, allowing highway patrol officers to take him into custody. Initially giving a false name, the once missing kayaker was identified as Melvin Emde after being fingerprinted.

Following Emde’s arrest, Sheriff Champagne recognized St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office Detective Joshua Deroche, along with the Georgia State Highway Patrol, United Marshals Service and the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office for their collective efforts on the case, which later led to Emde’s capture.

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

Anyone with additional information regarding the incident is urged to contact St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office Detective Joshua Deroche at 985-783-6807, 985-783-1135 or via email at


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