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Press Release

Maryland Heights Man Admits Sex with 16-Year-Old Runaway He Met Online

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Missouri

ST. LOUIS – A man from Maryland Heights, Missouri on Wednesday admitted engaging in sexual activity with a 16-year-old runaway after they met playing an online game.

Terry E. Kuehnel, 48, pleaded guilty in front of U.S. District Judge Henry E. Autrey to one felony count of coercion and enticement of a minor.

Kuehnel admitted meeting the girl in 2021 while plating an online game. At the time of initial communications, the girl was 15 but initially represented herself to be a young adult.

They began corresponding via text and audio and video communications. At that time, the girl reported that she made Kuehnel aware of her true age of 15 years. During communications, Kuehnel requested pictures of the girl’s genitals.

Kuehnel admitted in his plea that at some point he knew or had reason to know that the girl was a minor and it was not reasonable for him to believe she was older than 16. 

On June 5, 2021, ten days after she turned 16, the victim and Kuehnel arranged for her to travel from her home in another state to Missouri, where he met her in a department store parking lot. Kuehnel then brought the victim back to his home where he subjected her to unlawful sexual activity.

After her family reported her missing, law enforcement found the girl at Kuehnel’s home on June 6.

Kuehnel faces a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, a fine of $250,000, or both at his sentencing, scheduled for March 15, 2023.

The case was investigated by the Maryland Heights Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jillian Anderson is prosecuting the case. 

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the Department of Justice Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit

Updated December 14, 2022

Project Safe Childhood