A 65-year-old man helped a 15-year-old girl escape after she had been held captive in a mobile home for nearly a month – and later gave the girl his $7000 reward money, The Washington Post reported.
The girl was held in a western Minnesota mobile home by three men for 29 days, where she was tied up, raped, and threatened with guns, according to the Post. She was held in a closet, restrained by zip ties. But one day, she managed to break free, fleeing across fields and swimming across a lake until she stumbled onto the property of Earl Melchert.
Melchert recognized the girl from news reports about her disappearance, and called 9-1-1, staying with the teenager in his pickup truck until police could take her to a hospital.
Last week, Alexandria Police Chief Richard Wyffels offered Melchert a $7,000 reward for helping to save the teen. But Melchert refused the gift, instead passing it onto the girl and her family.
“Reward money means absolutely nothing to me,” Melchert said to the teen. “You guys deserve it, and I think it’s going to the best place it can go.”
Melchert, who is recently retired, reportedly told Wyffels that he “could use that money more now than ever” but “it wouldn’t be right.”
As deputies arrived at the Melchert house to pick up the teen girl, she saw a vehicle that she said belonged to one of the men who kidnapped her. The driver, Steven Powers, 20, was stopped and arrested.
Police later arrested Thomas Barker, 32, and Joshua Holby, 31, for the girl’s disappearance and assault.
The three men were charged with kidnapping and false imprisonment. Barker and Powers were also charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct, and Barker was charged with second-degree assault.
[Image: Alexandria Police Department. From left to right: Barker, Holby, Powers.]