Stunning Details About The Man Who Got A $7,000 Reward For Saving A Kidnapped Girl — And Gave Every Last Dollar To The Teen And Her Family

Photo: Twin Cities Pioneer Press

So amazing.

Earl Melchert had been working near his home in Alexandria Minnesota that Tuesday afternoon when he realized he had forgotten a diesel can at home he needed to fill so he could mow the lawn that evening. 

And that slight human error would change more lives then he could have ever realized as he was driving his truck past a nearby lake. 

Out of the woods, the 65-year-old fertilizer plant manager spotted what he first thought was a deer moving in his field. 

"I would have been there (at home) about a minute,” Melchert said. “But I happened to look out and I saw a speck. Eventually, she got close to me and I said, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s a woman.’ Then pretty soon I said, ‘No, it’s a young girl.’"

Melchert said he quickly recognized that face to be that of Jasmine Block, a 15-year-old girl whose photo had been all over the local news, websites, and fliers around town for the 29 days she went missing. 

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Block had been abducted by a family friend and two other men and kept in a vacant foreclosed home. She escaped when they went out for lunch and left her one of their trucks.

She started knocking on doors of nearby homes. When no one answered, she swam across a lake. 

Melchert got Block into his truck and called 911. On their way to the police station, she spotted one of her abductors’ cars which lead to all three of them being arrested the day she was found. 

All three men were charged with false imprisonment, kidnapping, and assault. 

Block’s family and officers of the Alexandria Police Department chose Melchert as the recipient of the $7,000 reward for the teen’s safe return. Her family put $2,000 to the reward and $5,000 came from an anonymous donor. 

But at a gathering Oct. 6 at the department, Melchert turned the reward down and gave the money to the girl he saved. 

“I was in the right place at the right time,” he said. "I did what I had to do. The reward money means absolutely nothing to me. I want to present this money to you and Jasmine. You guys deserve it." 

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It was the first time Sarah Block, the girl’s mother, had met Melchert and was eager to thank him. 

“I’ve been waiting to meet him,” she said. “He’s really a hero for us. We wanted to thank him. … He didn’t have to help her and he did. He risked a lot of things and put himself in danger.”

Sarah Block said her daughter’s life is slowly returning to normal, and that she’s back in school, recently got a therapy dog and is hanging out with her friends again. 

Police Chief Richard Wyffles said Jasmine Block was an amazing young lady with "a lot of strength,” and Melchert called her the “real hero.”

“The family needs the money,” he said. “To me, yeah, that’s a lot of money, but they need it way worse than I do.”

Melchert, who retired from his job last week, has been praised on social media for his actions and even been asked to run for president. 

But the self-described country boy is happy knowing he did the right thing. 

“What a retirement present,” he said, “to hand over some money to people that really need it.”

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Emily Blackwood is an editor at YourTango who covers pop culture, true crime, dating, relationships and everything in between. Every Wednesday at 10:20 p.m. you can ask her any and all questions about self-love, dating, and relationships LIVE on YourTango’s Facebook page. You can follow her on Instagram (@blackw00d) and Twitter (@emztweetz).