Fayetteville – Isaac James Melder, age 42, of Yellville was sentenced on February 13, 2024, to 360 months 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 illegal sexual activity.  The Honorable Judge Timothy L. Brooks presided over the sentencing hearing in the U.S. District Court in Fayetteville.

According to court documents, in May of 2022, a fourteen-year-old female was reported missing after failing to get on the afternoon school bus.  An extensive search involving multiple law enforcement agencies began, during which officers discovered that Melder and the victim 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. The investigation further revealed that Melder had groomed both the victim and her family by providing groceries, money, alcohol, and marijuana and referred to the victim as his wife.

On June 22, 2022, an informant led law enforcement to the cave where Melder and the victim had lived since their May disappearance.  Melder was immediately taken into state custody.

Melder was indicted by a Grand Jury in the Western District in April of 2023 and entered a plea of guilty in July 2023.