Russellville man gets probation for child molestation charge

A Russellville man has been placed on five years of supervised probation for pleading guilty to molesting an 11-year-old girl from Republic in July 2017.

On Friday, Joseph Meili, 22, pleaded guilty in Greene County Court, before Judge Calvin Holden, to one count of third-degree child molestation. Prosecutors dismissed charges of child kidnapping and statutory rape after reaching a plea agreement with Meili in March.

The girl provided her address while using her mother's phone to exchange messages with Meili using the MeetMe dating app, according to a Republic Police Department probable cause statement.

Meili went to the girl's house and drove her to a Springfield apartment, according to the probable cause statement. Police said a search was underway for the girl while she was being sexually assaulted. Officers, firefighters and sheriff's deputies knocked on doors, searched nearby woods and attempted to locate the girl by pinging her cellphone.

The girl later returned home and was found in her bedroom packing a bag to leave again. She said she had fallen asleep while at the apartment and woke up feeling as though something sexual had happened. She subsequently tested positive for chlamydia.

Meili told authorities he had met up with a girl but that her page on the app had shown she was 18 years old.

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