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Yellville man found living in a cave with teen girl sentenced to 30 years in prison


A Yellville, Ark., resident has been sentenced to 30 years in prison without parole related to a federal conviction of communicating through the internet to entice a minor to engage in illegal sexual activity, after an investigation that included Mtn. Home and Baxter County, Ark., law enforcement.

Isaac J. Melder, 42, was charged after a 14-year-old girl was reported missing in May 2022 after failing to get on the school bus to return home and was found the following month, living in a cave with Melder in Marion County, Ark.

The Mtn. Home Arkansas Police Department and Baxter County Sheriff's Department assisted in the investigation, along with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, Arkansas State Police, Flippin Arkansas Police Department, the Arkansas Department of Corrections, the U.S. Marshal’s Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Harrison Arkansas Police Department, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Arkansas State Parks and the 14th Judicial District Drug Task Force.

The sentence was handed down Feb. 13 by Judge Timothy L. Brooks in the U.S. District Court in Fayetteville, Ark.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Western District of Arkansas reported that during a search for the girl by multiple agencies, officers discovered Melder had communicated with the victim over the internet using an Xbox, revealing a plan for the two to run away and live in a cave in the Marion County wilderness.

Investigators also found that Melder had groomed both the victim and her family by providing groceries, money, alcohol and marijuana, and had referred to the victim as his wife.

An informant led law enforcement to the location the two where the two were living since both had disappeared the previous month, and Melder was taken into custody immediately.

He was indicted by a Western District grand jury in April 2023 and entered a plea of guilty in July 2023. U.S. Attorney David Clay Fowlkes of the Western District of Arkansas made the sentencing announcement, and the case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Devon Still.

This case was prosecuted as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and CEOS, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, visit www.justice.gov/psc.