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A man accused in a child rape case was arrested weeks after he faked his own death, sheriff says

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A man arrested after a weekend police chase and motorcycle crash in Georgia turned out to be fugitive accused of avoiding a child rape charge by faking his own drowning death last month in a Mississippi River kayaking accident, according to a Louisiana sheriff.

Melvin Emde, 41, of Talihina, Oklahoma, had been reported missing by his son early on Aug. 7, St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne said in a news release. Authorities were told at the time that Emde had fallen from a kayak while fishing and had drowned. The sheriff's office reported at the time that the search spanned two days and used divers, sonar, a small boat and a drone.

No body was found. Meanwhile, investigators learned that Emde was facing charges of “indecent liberties with a child and statutory rape of a child” in North Carolina.

“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," Champagne said in the release. “However, we could not publicly expose our suspicions for fear of tipping him off.”

Detectives learned that Emde had bought two prepaid cellphones in Boutte, Louisiana, before the reported drowning.

Detectives worked with authorities in North Carolina and the United States Marshals Service to track the phones, but Emde used only one phone and kept it on only briefly, authorities said.

The break in the case came Sunday in Georgia after a Highway Patrol officer attempted to stop a motorcycle for not having a license plate. The driver crashed and tried to run way but was captured. The driver gave a false name but was identified as Emde through fingerprints, Champagne said.

Emde's son has not been charged, Amanda Pertuis, the public information officer for Champagne, said Tuesday. She said the investigation was ongoing.

Authorities in Brunswick County, North Carolina, and Tift County, Georgia, did not immediately respond to queries about Emde's custody status or whether he has an attorney who can comment on his behalf.