DARLINGTON — A Chesterfield County man will spend two decades behind bars after a sexual relationship with his teen stepdaughter led to an Amber Alert and a nationwide manhunt.
Harlan Donnell Melton, 43, of Mount Croghan, received a 20-year sentence for criminal sexual conduct with a minor and two concurrent three-year sentences on counts of second-degree assault and battery Monday, Assistant Fourth District Solicitor Kernard Redmond said.
Melton will serve the consecutive three-year sentences at the conclusion of his 20-year sentence on the child sex charge for a total of 23 years in prison, Redmond said. He will not be eligible for parole until the 20-year sentence is served.
The sentences were handed down Monday in Darlington County General Sessions Court. Melton pleaded guilty to the charges earlier this month.
Authorities captured Melton on the southern Oregon coast Feb. 13 following a two-week search. Sheriff Jay Brooks said Melton picked his stepdaughter up from school and took her out of state without her mother’s permission, prompting the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division to issue an Amber Alert on Jan. 30.
The 14-year-old girl was safely returned home on Feb. 2, but SLED and the FBI continued the manhunt for Melton.
“Upon the victim’s return to South Carolina, she disclosed that Mr. Melton had engaged her in a long-term sexual relationship,” Fourth Circuit Solicitor Will Rogers said in a statement. “Mr. Melton was subsequently apprehended and extradited from Oregon after a nationwide search involving multiple law enforcement agencies, including authorities from SLED, Lancaster County, North Carolina, Oregon and federal agencies.”
Brooks told The Cheraw Chronicle in February that a stolen truck played a key role in locating the suspect.
“We knew that there was a stolen truck in the area from the place where he used to work,” Brooks said. “we had everybody in the world looking for that truck. Friday night we got a call from Oregon.”
That call was from authorities in Oregon who had found the stolen truck behind a laundromat in the fishing village of Port Orford.
“Then about five or six hours later, they called and said they had him, that he was walking down the street pushing a bicycle and had a .22 rifle strapped to the bicycle,” Brooks said.
Melton traveled more than 3,000 miles from Lancaster to the coastal Oregon town in the two weeks he was at large.
“We got her back, and him later,” he said in February. “We are real glad that it turned out like it did.”