Coach arrested in child-predation sting

St. Louis-area swim coach was arrested after a detective posed online as a teenage girl.
Thursday, January 13, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 5:39 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Boone County Detective Andy Anderson arrested Jeffrey Vernace of Valley Park at noon Saturday on suspicion of enticing a child to meet him to engage in sexual misconduct.

Anderson is leading an undercover investigation that began Oct. 1 into enticement of Boone County children over the Internet. As part of the investigation, Anderson enters Internet chat rooms and poses as female children between the ages of 12 and 14.

In this case, Anderson pretended to be a 13-year-old Boone County girl.

“The suspect contacted what he believed to be a child and began chatting with that child,” Anderson said. “In a period of approximately five weeks, he coaxed the child to meet him. Fortunately, instead of being a real child, it was really the police he was talking to.”

Anderson said detectives identified the suspect as Vernace, a 30-year-old swim coach for the Clayton-Shaw Park Tideriders, a St. Louis-area swim team. Terry Freerks, executive director of the team, said Vernace was suspended from coaching immediately after the swim team received word of his arrest. Vernace had been coaching the Tideriders’ senior team, which consists of primarily high school students, since September.

Anderson could not say how the suspect’s identity was determined.

According to Clayton police Sgt. Bob Walsh, the suspect was arrested at a McDonald’s restaurant in St. Louis County.

Vernace had arranged to meet the child after a friend dropped her off, Anderson said. Anderson made the arrest with detectives from the Clayton Police Department and the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

Vernace is charged in Boone County Circuit Court with first-degree attempted statutory rape, first-degree attempted statutory sodomy and attempted enticement of a child. Vernace posted a $50,000 bond and was released late Saturday night.

Anderson said the suspect engaged the masquerading detective in sexually explicit conversation and sent him pornographic photographs before asking the “child” to meet.

Investigators obtained information indicating Vernace also had frequent contact with other female children the same age as the child portrayed by Anderson.

Six other men have been arrested since October as a result of the Boone County Sheriff’s Department investigation. Two of the men are from Boone County.

Like what you see here? Become a member.

Show Me the Errors (What's this?)

Report corrections or additions here. Leave comments below here.

You must be logged in to participate in the Show Me the Errors contest.


Leave a comment

Speak up and join the conversation! Make sure to follow the guidelines outlined below and register with our site. You must be logged in to comment. (Our full comment policy is here.)

  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Don't use language that makes personal attacks on fellow commenters or discriminates based on race, religion, gender or ethnicity.
  • Use your real first and last name when registering on the website. It will be published with every comment. (Read why we ask for that here.)
  • Don’t solicit or promote businesses.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report comment" link.

You must be logged in to comment.

Forget your password?

Don't have an account? Register here.