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Search for missing Gamaliel teenager enters fourth week

A stepmother is making a desperate plea for help from the public in looking for her 14-year-old stepdaughter, who disappeared after being let out of school nearly three weeks ago.

Natalie Davis, the stepmother of Sara Gilpin of Gamaliel, Arkansas, said Sara has not been seen since class dismissed for the day at Pinkston Middle School in Mountain Home on May 12. Before her disappearance, Sara was living with her mother, Michelle Irene Gilpin, who also uses the last name of Simmons, and her siblings.

Davis lives in Georgia with Sara’s father, Raymond Gilpin.

Sara is believed to have been allegedly been taken by Isaac James Melder, an ex-boyfriend of Michelle Gilpin, who had previously been caught taking Sara from her home in January of this year.

Davis said she believes that Melder has been grooming Sara over the past few years.

“She was taken by her mother’s ex-boyfriend,” said Natalie Davis. “They were on-again, off-again. We don’t really know their relationship status.”

Photo provided by Natalie Davis.

Documents provided to the Mountain Home Observer reveal a troubled life for Sara, who was also prone to missing school and disregarding authority and had a Family in Need of Service Petition filed against her in the 14th Judicial Circuit Court of Baxter County Juvenile Division.

Incident reports from the Baxter County Sheriff’s Office reveal that Sara had a close relationship with Isaac Melder, who was stated to have bought several gifts for her, including a cell phone.

The January Incident

On Jan. 24, after arguing with her mother, Michelle, over her refusal to let Melder visit her at their house, Sara went missing around 7 p.m. after leaving to take a walk.  

The incident report from that night states that “Isaac James Melder was traveling to their residence to see the daughter after the mother stated that he was not allowed to come out to see the daughter. The daughter, who was on the phone with Melder at the time, became mad that she wouldn’t allow him out and stated that he was turning around and wouldn’t come to the residence.”

The report then states that Sara went for a walk along a trail near the residence and did not return. A neighbor who a Sheriff’s Deputy interviewed, dispatched to the scene said he saw a vehicle that Melder was known to drive, traveling the road to Sara’s home before quickly leaving.

The Baxter County Sheriff’s Office then put out an alert to nearby agencies about Sara’s disappearance. Investigators with BCSO were notified by law enforcement in Marion County that Melder and Sara had been pulled over in Summit, Arkansas. They were then transported back to Baxter County.

Melder was not arrested and has two warrants out for his arrest for contributing to the delinquency of a minor and interference with custody.

Following the finding of Sara and Melder during the first incident, the incident report goes on to state that Michelle Gilpin and Melder had been arguing and that he was supposed to have come to the house to work out their issues, but Michelle decided to not let Melder come to the house.

The incident report then states that “Mrs. Gilpin stated she had known Mr. Melder for the past two years, and that they were in a physical relationship for a short time, before terminating that part of the relationship. Mrs. Gilpin stated they remained friends and that Mr. Melder would frequently come to the house to help her and acted like a father figure to her children.”

The report continues stating “Mrs. Gilpin stated she lately started to notice that Mr. Melder and her daughter were communicating a lot more than usual. Mrs. Gilpin state he would buy her daughter things and not get anything for the other children.”

The incident report then details a late night event inside the Gilpin house.

“Mrs. Gilpin stated that on one occasion Mr. Melder was staying at the house overnight and that she awoke around 3 a.m. to find them both sitting next to each other on the couch with a blanket over their laps. Mrs. Gilpin stated they appeared to be watching a movie, but when Mr. Melder realized she was in the room, he jerked his arm that was resting on the top portion of the cushion away. Mrs. Gilpin stated the arm was not directly wrapped around her daughter’s neck and may not have even been touching her, but Mrs. Gilpin found the reaction of him seeing her presence weird. Mrs. Gilpin also advised that she was told on today’s date by a neighbor that she observed Mrs. Gilpin’s daughter and Mr. Melder holding hands when they were walking the dogs.”

In their filings, law enforcement noted that Sara was not entirely honest about the fleeing incident.

The report details that Sara claims to have walked approximately two miles to a bridge off of Highway 101, where she was then picked up by Melder who stated that he would take her to his mother’s house in Yellville to play with her dog. The detail contradicts the account of the neighbor who saw Melder driving towards Sara’s home. The deputy who interviewed Sara noted that she was lying and called her out on it. The report states that Sara stuck to her story.

Sara also denied having any consensual or non-consensual sex with Melder.

The report also details Sara’s claim that her mother invited over a “Chomo,” slang for child molester, to the house that day, who had a history of beating her. In the report Sara stated, “she does not feel comfortable when he comes over to the house and that [blank] has been violent with her mother in the past.”

The incident report then notes that text messages revealed that Melder received notification from Michelle that he was not supposed to contact Sara anymore but continued to contact her anyways because he wanted to “only tell her he could not come over to the house and that he was heading home.”

The report further states that, “Sara was not responding to his calls and asked if Mrs. Gilpin took her phone and why, because he paid for Mrs. Gilpin’s phone and that Mrs. Gilpin isn’t supposed to mess with Sara’s phone.”

After authorities found Melder and Sara, the incident report states that Melder was, for some unknown reason, allowed by those officers on the scene to drive back to the Baxter County Sheriff’s Office in his own vehicle, while Sara was transported in a separate vehicle.

The report notes that Melder failed to appear, and that during a subsequent phone call, asked to be allowed to show up the following morning because “he was tired and had a business to run.” The investigator also noted that Melder asked him to buy a hotel room for the night, which led to an argument between the reporting officer and Melder.

Melder called back and again stated his reasoning for not showing up until the next morning. It is documented on page 4 of the incident report that Melder never came in to give his statement and ducked investigators’ attempts to contact him by phone.

The Love Letter

As BCSO conducted their investigation, they uncovered a love letter from Melder to Sara.

The letter, which is handwritten, reveals that both Melder and Sara were exchanging an unknown number of letters with each other.  Natalie Davis stated that the pair were also exchanging as many as 15,000 messages over Xbox Live, an online service from Microsoft, which allows gamers playing video games on Xbox consoles to send each other direct messages.

Davis said Sara has used the service to speak to her and her father.

In the letter, Melder repeatedly makes references to God’s plans for both Sara and him, and that “I feel like it’s a sign from God to me that you do truly love me.”

Melder then goes on to state that, “I am the waiting one. I wait for the day we are free to be together forever.”

He also states, “I have never been loved the way you love me!!! You make me feel like the most blessed man on earth to have your heart and your love!! I want you to know because of how you love me and how you love God, that you have my heart too!”

A screen shot of the love letter sent to Sara Gilpin from Isaac Medler.

The Search for Sara Gilpin

It has been three weeks since Sara disappeared from Pinkston Middle School in Mountain Home. Sara is roughly 5’7’’ and weighs approximately 150 pounds. She has brown eyes and brown hair.

She is believed to be traveling with Isaac James Melder who is approximately 5’11’’ and 250 pounds. Melder has blond/reddish hair. Melder is known to have driven several vehicles including a maroon truck and a white van.

Melder is known to have lived in Flippin, Arkansas, and his mother is known to live in Yellville, Arkansas. He also has family located in Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida.

Natalie Davis said she is asking members of the public to help find her stepdaughter and that any information on Sara and Melder’s whereabouts should be sent to 870-425-6366 or to the Baxter County Sheriff’s Office.

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