Yellville man gets 30 years in prison after being found living in cave with teen girl

Isaac Melder
Isaac Melder

FAYETTEVILLE — A Yellville man was sentenced last week in federal court to 30 years in prison without the possibility of parole after being found guilty of communicating with a minor through the internet to entice the minor to engage in sexual activity.

Isaac James Melder, 42, was indicted by a grand jury in the Western District of Arkansas in April and pleaded guilty to the charge in July.

Judge Timothy L. Brooks presided over Melder’s sentencing hearing Tuesday in the U.S. District Court in Fayetteville.

A 14-year-old girl was reported missing in May 2022 after failing to get on an afternoon school bus, according to court documents. An extensive search involving multiple law enforcement agencies began, during which officers discovered Melder and the girl had communicated via the internet using an Xbox. The messages revealed the two had planned to run away and live in a cave in the Marion County wilderness, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Western District.

The investigation further revealed Melder had groomed the girl and her family by providing groceries, money, alcohol and marijuana and referred to the girl as his wife, according to the release.

The girl told a State Police special agent she and Melder met at an agreed upon location in Mountain Home after school one day in May 2022 and went to a cave in Marion County, where they lived for six weeks, according to court documents.

On June 22, 2022, an informant led law enforcement to the cave where she and Melder were found. Melder was immediately taken into custody, the news release states.

Numerous agencies investigated or assisted in the search in the case including the Mountain Home Police Department, Baxter County Sheriff’s Office, Marion County Sheriff’s Office, Arkansas State Police, Flippin Police Department, Arkansas Department of Correction, the U.S. Marshals Service, FBI, Harrison Police Department, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Arkansas State Parks and the 14th Judicial District Drug Task Force.

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