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Man who saved kidnapped victim receives $7,000 reward, then gives it back to her

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MINNESOTA – A man who received $7,000 after rescuing a kidnapped teen gave the money back to the girl he saved.

On September 5, Earl Melchert, 65, was supposed to be at work. Instead, he had returned home briefly for a diesel can he was wanting to fill on his way home, hoping to mow his lawn later that evening.

When he looked out his vehicle window, he noticed something walking in his field, about a half-mile away.

“I thought at first it was a deer,” Melchert told the New York Times.

Immediately, he recognized 15-year-old Jasmine Block, walking in the field. She had been missing from her home on August 8.

“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,’” Mr. Melchert said. “It’d been on the news, it’d been online. It went national. It was on posters, in stores, her face, her picture. Right away I recognized her.”

Block had escaped from a nearby abandoned house, “where three men who abducted her had kept her for the previous few days,” reports the New York Times.

Block was at home when 32-year-old Thomas Barker, a family acquaintance, told her he needed help with a family situation, police said.

Because the teen knew who Barker was, she agreed to help. But once at Barker’s home, he restrained her with zip ties.

For the next 29 days, Barker, and two other men, 20-year-old Steven Powers and 31-year-old Joshua Holby, would assault Block, threaten her with weapons and move her several times to different places.

The men left her alone for the first time on September 5 to get food.

That’s when she escaped, knocking on the doors of multiple homes with no answers, then swam across the lake near Melchert’s property, and ran to him in his vehicle.

“I opened the door and told him to call 911,” she said. “[I said] ‘My name is Jasmine Block and I’ve been kidnapped.’ And he asked if I was the missing girl from Alex and I said ‘yes.’”

All three men were arrested not long after. They are now facing multiple charges.

Police called the girl “amazing” and a “young lady with a lot of strength.” Melchert calls Block a hero.

On October 6, police gave Melchert a $7,000 reward. $2,000 of the reward had come from the girl’s family, while the other $5,000 came from an anonymous donor.

But, Melchert wasn’t interested in keeping the money. Instead, he gave it back to Block and her family.

“It’s the best thing I’ve ever done,” said Melchert, who had just recently retired. “What a retirement present, to hand over some money to people that really need it.”

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