Missouri man who molested 11-year-old girl gets probation

Posted: Updated:
RUSSELLVILLE, Mo. (KAKE) -

A central Missouri man who admitted to molesting an 11-year-old girl has been sentenced to five years of probation.

The Jefferson City News Tribune reports 22-year-old Joseph Meili, of Russellville, pleaded guilty to third-degree child molestation on Friday. Prosecutors dismissed charges of child kidnapping and statutory rape after reaching a plea agreement with Meili in March.

According to court documents, the girl gave Meili her address while using her mother's phone to exchange messages on the MeetMe dating app in July of 2017.

The documents state Meili went to the girl’s house and drove her to an apartment in Springfield. According to the Springfield News-Leader, the girl was reported missing while she and Meili were together. 

Authorities knocked on doors, searched nearby woods and attempted to locate the girl by pinging her cellphone.

The girl later returned home and was found packing a bag to leave again. She said she fell asleep at the apartment and woke up feeling as though something sexual had happened.

The News Tribune reports she subsequently tested positive for chlamydia.

Meili told investigators that the girl's page on the app had shown she was 18 years old. His attorney said Meili was "essentially catfished" or lured into believing the girl was 18, saying that his clients felt horrible when he found out she was only 11.