Remains found in park believed to be missing Chinese woman

National

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Missouri authorities said Thursday that they discovered human remains they believe are the body of a Chinese woman who has been missing since October 2019.

The remains and personal property believed to belong to Mengqi Ji Elledge were found Thursday afternoon by someone walking in Rock Bridge State Park in Boone County. Columbia Mayor Brian Treece and Columbia Police Chief Geoff Jones announced the find Thursday evening.

Authorities said DNA testing would be done to confirm that the remains are Ji’s.

Ji’s husband, Joseph Elledge, was charged in February with first-degree murder in her disappearance. He has pleaded not guilty to the murder charge and to related charges of child endangerment and domestic abuse.

The couple has a 2-year-old daughter. Elledge, a University of Missouri student, is jailed without bond.

Prosecutors have speculated thatElledge strangled his wife to avoid a costly divorce and stop her from fleeing to China with their daughter.

Elledge told authorities he realized his wife was missing on Oct. 9, 2019, 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. Authorities say he drove to remote areas, spending around 45 minutes at a secluded access point to the Lamine River after dark, during those 24 hours. Cadaver dogs detected the presence of human remains there, but law enforcement was unable to find a body despite multiple searches.

During a court hearing in November, Boone County Chief Prosecutor Dan Knight described Joseph Elledge as a “jealous, controlling, manipulative psychopath.” Knight played four audio recordings of the couple arguing.

In the recordings, the husband says, “I don’t like being with you,” ”I’m eager to end it” and “I will bury the earth under you.” Mengqi Ji Elledge can also be heard arguing with her husband, who raised his voice several times. At one point, he told her, “I know you want me to hit you,” and, “This, it’s not abusive.”

He also was heard saying he wanted a divorce “the sooner the better.”

Defense attorneys argued during the hearing that Mengqi Ji Elledge had exchanged sexually explicit messages with another person.

Mengqi Ji Elledge received a master’s degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering from the University of Missouri in December 2014. She previously attended the East China University of Science and Technology in Shanghai.

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