A Minnesota man who helped rescue a kidnapped teenage girl returned his $7,000 reward to the girl's family.
Earl Melchert, 65, helped find 15-year-old Jasmine Block, who went missing on Aug. 8, according to the StarTribune. Block was missing for 29 days and was reportedly abused by three men during her kidnapping.
Melchert found the girl on Sept. 5, when he returned home in the middle of the day because he had left something in his shed. He was preparing to go back to work when he noticed a dark spot moving in the grassy field behind his home in Barrett.
Melchert initially thought the moving figure was a deer, but as the shape came closer, he realized it was the missing teen.
"It was, 'Oh my gosh, this is the girl from Alexandria that has been missing,'" said Melchert. "I'd seen her picture on the internet, in newspapers, in bulletins and on signs. I recognized her right away."
Melchert called police as he helped Block, who was "frantic and crying," into his truck.
"I got dispatch on the line and told them I had the Block girl in my pickup and that she is alive and looks fine," recounted Melchert. "There was silence [on the other end], like it was a dropped call. Then they said, 'Don't get off the line, don't hang up. We'll send help.'"
Block had managed to escape her captors, reported to be Thomas Barker, 32, Steven Power, 20, and Joshua Holby, 31, after nearly a month of being moved from place to place. During her 29-day ordeal, Block had been assaulted, restrained with zip ties and locked in a closet, Alexandria Police Chief Richard Wyffels said.
Block managed to pull off a daring escape after the three men went out to get food and left her alone. After breaking free, she swam across Thompson Lake. That's when Melchert found her in the field.
Melchert said Block was the "real hero," according to The New York Times.
According to Melchert, the kidnappers were looking for Block just outside of his home. Police arrested Barker, Power and Holby, charging them with false imprisonment, assault and kidnapping.
After rescuing Block, Melchert received a $7,000 reward, which he generously handed over to the victim's family.
"The family needs the money," said Melchert. "To me, yeah, that's a lot of money, but they need it way worse than I do."
"I was not interested in the $7,000 reward, it wasn't a big deal," he said. "I wanted to give it to the family. They need it more. It went to a good place. I hope Jasmine is OK."
After his act of kindness, Wyffels praised Melchert's generosity in a post on Facebook.
"Thank you, Earl, it is people like you that make this world a better place," wrote the police chief.
Sources: StarTribune, New York Times / Featured Image: Philip Taylor/Flickr / Embedded Images: Alexandria Police Department, Alexandria, MN/Facebook, Mark Fischer/Flickr