Springfield, MO – A Missouri man convicted of molesting an 11-year-old girl was sentenced to just five years of supervised probation with no prison time.
The Republic Police Department’s probable cause statement said the girl was using her mother’s phone to access the online dating app MeetMe when she met 22-year-old Joseph Meili, the Jefferson City News Tribune reported.
The two exchanged messages and the girl gave Meili her address so he could come pick her up.
The man admitted to police that he had met up with the girl at her home in July of 2017, but said that her MeetMe page had said the 11 year old was 18, according to the Jefferson City News Tribune.
Meili picked the girl up at her house and brought her back to his apartment, WDCA reported.
While this was happening, the girl’s parents had contacted the authorities to report that she was missing.
Police officers, firefighters, and sheriff’s deputies were conducting a door-to-door search and searching nearby woods, WDCA reported.
They also pinged her cell phone.
She was found after she returned home on her own later that night. Authorities said the girl was busy packing a bag so she could leave again when she was located.
She told police that she had fallen asleep at Meili’s apartment and thought that something sexual might have happened, the Jefferson City News Tribune reported.
Investigators tested her underwear and detected semen.
Three weeks later, she tested positive for a sexually transmitted disease, according to the Jefferson City News Tribune.
Court records showed that Meili was initially charged with child kidnapping, statutory sodomy and statutory rape, the Springfield News Leader reported.
Under the agreement he made with the prosecutor in March, he pleaded guilty to one count of third-degree child molestation, and the charges of child kidnapping and statutory rape were dropped.
He was sentenced to five years of probation.
Meili’s attorney, Scott Pierson, said that his client had been “catfished” by the younger girl and felt horrible when he found out he sexually abused an 11 year old child.