Missouri man charged with murder in wife’s presumed death

A grand jury has indicted a Missouri man on first-degree murder and other charges in the disappearance of his Chinese wife, who has been missing since October and is presumed dead

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A grand jury on Friday indicted a Missouri man on first-degree murder and other charges in the disappearance of his Chinese wife, who is presumed dead.

Joseph Elledge, who has a 1-year-old daughter with his missing wife, Mengqi Ji, had been in jail for months on two counts of child endangerment one count of child abuse.

Boone County prosecutors sought to charge Elledge with murder on Feb. 19 but a judge didn’t sign the warrant within a week, so they took the case to the grand jury. In addition to the murder charge, the grand jury replaced one of the endangerment counts with a domestic assault count. Prosecutors allege in one of the charges that he created “a substantial risk” to his daughter by separating her from her mother.

Prosecutors speculate that Elledge strangled his wife because he wanted to avoid a costly divorce and ensure that she didn’t flee to China with their daughter. Authorities say Elledge discovered his wife missing on Oct. 9 but didn’t report that she was gone until the next day, when a friend came to the house at the request of Ji’s mother. During that 24 hours, he allegedly drove to remote areas, spending around 45 minutes at a secluded access point to the Lamine River after dark. Cadaver dogs detected the presence of human remains there, but law enforcement was unable to find a body despite multiple searches.

John O’Connor, the lawyer who has been defending Elledge against the child abuse charges, declined to comment about the murder case.

The county’s prosecuting attorney, Dan Knight, said he couldn’t comment on the specifics of the case or his trial strategy.

“I’m pleased the grand jury returned indictments in both cases and we’re going to do everything we can to make sure justice is secured,” he said.

Amy Salladay, an attorney for Ji’s parents, who share custody of their grandchild with Elledge’s mother, said Friday the Ji’s family was pleased with the grand jury indictment.

“They’re not surprised by it, so for them, the charges just mean they have to face the reality that she really is gone,” Salladay said. “This is a first step toward resolution. They appreciate the fact charges have been filed, and are hopeful that with the filing of these charges, they can move toward resolution of all of this.”

The couple married in 2017 and attended the University of Missouri.

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