When Earl Melchert was handed a $7,000 reward last week for rescuing an abducted teenager, he immediately and “without hesitation” gave his windfall to the girl he saved. She was the “real hero,” he insisted.
Richard Wyffels, the police chief in Alexandria, Minnesota, said in a Facebook post on Friday that Melchert’s gesture was “an incredible example of kindness.”
“Thank you Earl,” Wyffels wrote. “It is people like you that make this world a better place.”
Melchert, 65, rescued 15-year-old Jasmine Block on Sept. 5. She told investigators she had been held against her will for 29 days by three men, including a family acquaintance, who subjected her to repeated sexual and physical abuse. She said she managed to escape while the men were out getting food, and swam across a lake near Melchert’s property in search of safety.
Melchert said he hadn’t intended to be home that afternoon, but popped in to pick up something he’d forgotten. He said he spotted what he first thought was a “deer” in the field outside his home. As the teenager got nearer, Melchert said he recognized her “right away.”
“I could make out her face, and I went, ‘Oh my gosh, this is the gal from Alexandria that’s been gone for 29 days,’” Melchert told The New York Times. “It’d been on the news, it’d been online. It went national. It was on posters, in stores, her face, her picture.”
Melchert immediately brought her to safety and called 911.
“I was in the right place at the right time,” Melchert, who retired last week, told the Pioneer Press. “I did what I had to do.”
The three men have been charged with kidnapping and false imprisonment, reported KSTP-TV. At least two also face a charge of criminal sexual conduct.
On Friday, Wyffels presented Melchert with a $7,000 reward that had been offered by Block’s family and an anonymous donor for the teenager’s safe return.
Melchert, who retired from his job at a fertilizer plant last week, promptly handed the money over to Block and her family.
“To me, yeah, that’s a lot of money, but they need it way worse than I do,” Melchert told the Times.