A man from Yellville Arkansas who was found living with a 14-year-old runaway girl in a cave in 2022 has been sentenced to 30 years.

James Isaac Melder, age 42, was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison, with an additional 20 years of supervised release following the judges sentencing.

Melder is also required to register as a sex offender, and must participate in a treatment program, Melder upon supervised release, is not allowed to have any type of contact with the victim or unsupervised contact with any other minor.
Authorities say a 14-year-old female from Baxter County was the subject of a search before she was found in a cave in Marion County with Melder, with provisions for an extended stay.

THe victim claimed to be in a sexual relationship with Melder, also claiming she was picked up by Melder after leaving her middle school in Mountain Home.

Statement from the US Department of Justice:
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.

U.S. Attorney David Clay Fowlkes of the Western District of Arkansas made the announcement.
Mountain Home Police Department, Baxter County Sheriff’s Office, Marion County Sheriff’s Office, Arkansas State Police, Flippin Police Department, Arkansas Department of Correction, the U.S. Marshal’s Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Harrison Police Department, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Arkansas State Parks, the 14th Judicial District Drug Task Force, investigated or assisted in the search in the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Devon Still prosecuted the case for the United States.
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.