GREENE COUNTY, Mo. (Gray News) - Nearly two years have passed since officers, firefighters and deputies searched Missouri neighborhoods and wooded areas for a missing 11-year-old girl from Republic.
Those searches proved fruitless because she ended up coming home all on her own. Still, authorities found her in her room packing her bags to leave again.
She told them she’d fallen asleep at a man’s apartment and woke up feeling as though something sexual had happened.
Because the girl is a minor and a survivor of sexual violence, she is not being identified.
Police identified the man as 22-year-old Joseph Meili. He pleaded guilty Friday to third-degree child molestation, the Jefferson City News Tribune reported.
Even so, he won’t be going to prison. Instead, he will spend the next five years on supervised probation.
His plea agreement removed kidnapping and statutory rape charges.
Police said the two met on the dating app MeetMe. The girl had given him her address using her mother’s cellphone.
Meili picked her up in July 2017 and drove to his apartment in Springfield, police said.
While authorities pinged her cellphone to get a location, search parties knocked on doors and canvased the area trying to find her. At that time, she was being sexually assaulted.
A subsequent test on the girl came back positive for chlamydia.
Meili told investigators he agreed to meet the young girl because her profile said she was 18.