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Missouri authorities end river search for missing Chinese woman, 28, whose husband is charged with her murder after she vanished from their home more than a year ago

 Law enforcement officers have finished searching a section of a central Missouri river for the remains of a missing Chinese woman whose American husband is charged in her death.

The search of the Lamine River near Boonville did not recover any evidence related to Mengqi Ji, 28, who was reported missing on October 10, 2019, Columbia police said.

Her husband, Joseph Elledge, is charged with first-degree murder in her death and with abusing the couple's young daughter. 

Elledge has pleaded not guilty in both cases. No date has been set for Elledge's murder trial. 

Missouri authorities have finished searching the Lamine River for the remains of Mengqi Ji (pictured), 28, who went disappeared last year
Her husband, Joseph Elledge (pictured), is charged with first-degree murder in her death

Missouri authorities have finished searching the Lamine River for the remains of Mengqi Ji (left), 28, who went disappeared last year. Her husband, Joseph Elledge (right), is charged with first-degree murder in her death

Authorities conducted aerial and foot searches along the Lamine River (pictured) outside of Boonville for months after cellphone records showed Elledge was in the area for about 45 minutes around the time his wife disappeared

Authorities conducted aerial and foot searches along the Lamine River (pictured) outside of Boonville for months after cellphone records showed Elledge was in the area for about 45 minutes around the time his wife disappeared

Authorities conducted aerial and foot searches along the Lamine River outside of Boonville for months after cellphone records showed Elledge was in the area for about 45 minutes around the time his wife disappeared. 

Cadaver dogs also hit on a scent in the area, police have said.

A levee that extended into the Lamine River was even built to help search for Ji's body. 

Divers had searched the river before without success.

Columbia Assistant Police Chief Jeremiah Hunter said earlier this year that the levee would give searchers access to a key part of the river where cadaver dogs detected human decomposition.

The levee allowed authorities to bring larger equipment out into the water, but that effort ended in June. 


The remaining parts of the levee were removed in October and detectives and K9s searched the debris for any evidence Ji had been there.

In May, Elledge pleaded not guilty to murdering his wife. 

According to prosecutors, Elledge did not report Ji missing for more than 36 hours after she was last seen at their home in Columbia, Missouri, on the evening of October 8, 2019. 

Ji's parents said they had been trying to get in touch with Elledge and his mother since October 8 when their daughter stopped responding to them. They usually had daily conversations on the phone.

Elledge has maintained that he last saw his wife around 11.30pm on October 8. He had given her a massage with her lying on her stomach and him on her back. 

A probable cause statement filed earlier this year suggested he may have intentionally strangled or suffocated her.

Ji (right) was reported missing on October 10, 2019. Elledge (left) was also charged with child endangerment and abuse of a child in November 2019 and their one-year-old's (pictured) maternal grandparents and paternal grandparents now share custody

Ji (right) was reported missing on October 10, 2019. Elledge (left) was also charged with child endangerment and abuse of a child in November 2019 and their one-year-old's (pictured) maternal grandparents and paternal grandparents now share custody

Recordings of conversations between the couple before Ji disappeared showed him to be 'openly hostile and at times threatening to Ji'. At one point in June 2019 he said: 'I'm ready to be done talking to you forever.' In August 2019 he told Ji he wanted a divorce

Recordings of conversations between the couple before Ji disappeared showed him to be 'openly hostile and at times threatening to Ji'. At one point in June 2019 he said: 'I'm ready to be done talking to you forever.' In August 2019 he told Ji he wanted a divorce

Authorities have found no blood from the victim in Elledge's home or vehicle but noted the methods of killing are 'relatively bloodless, silent'. 

Elledge claimed that he woke up and found his wife gone on October 9. He spent time playing video games and contacted his mother and a friend without mentioning that she was missing, even though her disappearance was unusual, according to a statement.  

He didn't mention he didn't know where she was until one of her friends came to the house the next day at the request of her parents.

At that point, he put his wife's mother on a video call and told her Ji was missing and then began contacting her friends to see if they knew where she was. In the first few months that she had been missing, none of her family or friends had contact with her and there was no activity on her financial accounts. 

During the hours after his wife disappeared, Elledge took two drives with the couple's one-year-old daughter to rural areas and to a popular biking and hiking trail with access to the Lamine River near Boonville.

Police said at the time that the locations were places 'where a body could be disposed of and not located for some time'.  

While in the rural areas, Elledge did not leave a note for his wife, locked the door and took her apartment key when he left their home. 

'Joseph did not have any plans for if Mengqi returned while he was gone,' authorities said earlier this year. 

Elledge's cell phone records show he drove to that river for about 45 minutes in the hours after his wife went missing, the statement says. 

On October 10 he reported her missing. The next day his mother Jean Elledge finally returned calls to Ji's parents claiming her phone app had been off for two days.

Her mother told police Elledge was a controlling husband who would not allow Ji to have a social life and would get upset if she left the house for trips that he thought were too long. 

He was arrested October 25 while attempting to leave Columbia with his child and his mother, Jean, who claimed they were preparing to spend the weekend in Blue Springs where she has a home. He was jailed on $500,000 bond.

During the months Ji has been missing, authorities learned the couple's relationship had broken down after he allegedly beat their daughter. 

His wife took pictures and video of her injuries at the time but decided against going to the police. After she went missing, someone reported the abuse and he was arrested.

Their toddler's maternal grandparents and paternal grandparents now share custody after a hearing in November. 

In the probable cause statement, detectives were advised that Elledge abused the toddler by striking her on the buttocks hard enough to cause severe bruising in February 2019. 

The girl's mother had wanted to contact police but gave Elledge another chance after he promised he would never do it again. She sent another person a picture of the bruising, however, and officers examining the mother's iPad located pictures and videos of the bruising.

The affidavit said Elledge told officers that he did bruise the girl months earlier, saying initially that he did not know how it happened. 

He later told officers the girl was crying and would not stop. The bruising may have been caused by pinching the girl to distract her or by holding her too hard, Elledge told police.

But authorities said the yellow, purple and blue bruising resembled a strike. 

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