Man Gives Reward to Kidnapped Girl He Found: 'It's the Best Thing I've Ever Done'
By sheer chance, Earl Melchert discovered a teenage girl on his property who had been missing for 29 days.
Earl Melchert was supposed to be at work.
But the Minnesota man had forgotten something, and turned back to his farm.
That's when he saw something moving in his field, and the 65-year-old thought it was a deer.
But it was actually 15-year-old Jasmine Block, who disappeared from her home on Aug. 8 and had been missing for nearly a month. The haggard, distraught girl had escaped her captors and swam across a lake to freedom.
On Friday, Alexandria Police Department Chief Rick Wyffels presented Melchert with a $7,000 reward that had been offered for her safe return. The girl’s family had donated $2,000. The rest came from an anonymous donor.
Melchert, in turn, gave the money to Block and her family, calling Jasmine the “real hero.”
The Blocks, he said, needed the money much more than he did.
Then he wrapped his arms around Jasmine and her mother, Sarah. "It's the best thing I've ever done," he told The New York Times.
“Thank you, Earl. It is people like you that make this world a better place,” Wyffels wrote on the force’s Facebook page.
He called Melchert’s act a show of “kindness and generosity that came straight from Earl’s heart.”
Jasmine’s nightmare began after she was allegedly lured from her home by family acquaintance Thomas Barker, 32.
The teenager was repeatedly attacked and sexually assaulted by Barker and friend Steven Powers, 20. Another friend, Joshua Holby, 31, was also involved in holding her captive, according to court documents.
They bound her with zip ties, locked her in closets, and moved her to different locations, authorities said. She was able to escape after the men left her to get food, she said.
“I was usually in a closet and I usually stayed quiet because I was scared they might hit me or do something,” the teen said in an interview after her ordeal.
The three have been charged with kidnapping and false imprisonment. Barker and Powers were also charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct.
Barker and Powers are being held on $2 million bail each. Holby is being held in lieu of $1.5 million bond.
Melchert “believes that young lady that came running towards him that September day is the real hero, and without hesitation, Earl handed the reward over to her, followed by a hug,” the chief said.
“Please remember to be kind to one another,” he said.
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