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Press Release

Maryland Heights Man Who Had Sex with 16-Year-Old Sentenced to 11 ½ Years in Prison

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

ST. LOUIS – A man from Maryland Heights, Missouri who engaged in sexual activity with a 16-year-old he met online was sentenced Wednesday to 11 ½ years in federal prison.

Terry E. Kuehnel, 48, met the girl, who was then 15, in 2021 while playing an online game. She initially represented herself to be a young adult, but later told Kuehnel she was 15. He admitted in a guilty plea in December to a felony charge of coercion and enticement of a minor that 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.

The two began corresponding via text and audio and video communications, including 246 phone calls, one lasting 14 hours, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jillian Anderson said in court Wednesday. Kuehnel also requested pornographic images of the victim.

On June 5, 2021, ten days after she turned 16 and obtained her driver’s license, the victim and Kuehnel arranged for her to travel from her home to Missouri. Kuehnel met her in a department store parking lot and took her 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.

In a letter to U.S. District Judge Henry E. Autrey, the victim’s parents said she has “distanced herself from almost all of her friends at school,” has suffered from anxiety and is in counseling with a licensed clinical social worker specializing in sexual abuse and trauma. The parents also thanked law enforcement, writing, “It is very possible that our daughter would still be missing if it were not for the hard-working Law Enforcement officials who stepped up to the plate that night and are still stepping up today.”

The case was investigated by the Maryland Heights Police Department and the St. Louis County 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 April 12, 2023

Project Safe Childhood