A convicted sex offender who prompted North Dakota's first Amber Alert was killed by a train Tuesday near Jamestown, N.D., less than a half-hour before reporting to prison.
Authorities believe Robert A. Meikle, 49, committed suicide when he stopped at a railroad crossing seconds before a train hit his car at about 7:35 a.m.
The Jamestown man was supposed to surrender to authorities at 8 a.m. to start serving his prison sentence, according to the Stutsman County clerk of District Court.
Instead, Stutsman County authorities called to say Meikle had died, said State Prison Warden Tim Schuetzle.
Meikle was to serve nearly 11 years in prison for helping a teenage girl run away from her Rolette County home last March.
Investigators are calling the death an apparent suicide based mostly on his driving before the crash, said North Dakota Highway Patrol Trooper Craig Beedy.
"That and he had made some comments to his family that he didn't want to go to prison," Beedy said.
The patrol said Meikle was driving north on a gravel road when he slowed as he approached the railroad crossing.
The train conductor told investigators that Meikle's car stopped on the tracks seconds before the eastbound train engine hit the driver's-side door.
His car came to rest 138 feet to the east. Meikle, who was thrown from the vehicle, was pronounced dead at the scene.
The coal train was headed from a Montana mine to Superior, Wis., said BNSF Railway spokesman Gus Melonas. It was delayed for about two hours, he said.
"Minor repairs were made on-site to the locomotive," Melonas said.
The conductor and engineer were not injured.
The crossing, about two miles west of Jamestown, had warning signs but no crossing arms, Melonas said.
Meikle was arrested last March, after the FBI and the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation traced Internet exchanges from a computer at the missing 14-year-old's home on a farm on the border of Rolette and Pierce counties in north-central North Dakota.
The girl later said she met Meikle in an Internet chat room and went willingly with him to his Jamestown home.
Her disappearance triggered the state's first Amber Alert, a statewide notification used when a child is missing and believed to be in danger.
The girl said she saw reports of her disappearance and told Meikle she wanted to leave. Police found her at a rest stop near Jamestown, crying and clutching her cat.
She was gone from home for about 34 hours.
In October, Meikle entered Alford pleas in Southeast District Court for felony charges of felony gross sexual imposition and using a computer to lure a minor.
The pleas meant Meikle did not admit guilt but acknowledged there was enough evidence for a conviction.
He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the gross sexual imposition plea and one year and one day for the other plea, with credit for four days served, said Fritz Fremgen, Stutsman County prosecutor.
Meikle also was charged in Rolette County with gross sexual imposition, burglary and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
He was scheduled to appear March 21 on those charges, according to The Associated Press.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Andrea Domaskin at (701) 241-5556