COLUMBIA (Mo. -- A Missouri man charged with murdering his wife has admitted Tuesday that he buried the body in a park, but claimed that it was an accident that occurred after he pushed her during an argument.
Joseph Elledge was charged with the first-degree murder of Mengqi Ji (28 years old), who he reported missing in October 2019. Her remains were discovered in March in a park near Columbia Missouri.
After presenting evidence for a week detailing the couple's deteriorating and troubled relationship, the prosecution decided to rest their case. Ji came from China to attend the University of Missouri. She stayed there after marrying Elledge.
Elledge testified Tuesday that he and his wife had argued Oct. 8, 2019, when he confronted them about exchanging sexual messages via a China-based messaging platform. Elledge claimed that they pushed one another during the argument, and she fell on her head.
He claimed Ji moved to a sofa and went on a walk. He found his daughter on the couple's couch later that night and went to bed. He claimed that he woke up at 5 a.m. to Anna, their daughter, crying. He went to check on Anna, The Columbia Tribune reported.
He returned to Ji's bedroom and found her unresponsive. He checked her pulse, but she was still cold.
Elledge stated that he didn’t call for help immediately because the scene was strange and his mind was moving at 100 miles per hour. ... I was sure people would suspect me." Elledge called this "stupid."
Elledge claimed that he put his wife's body into the trunk of her vehicle and then returned to the apartment to reflect.
"I was panicked. He said that he wasn't thinking at the time.
He claimed he drove to Jefferson City, Fulton and Ashland, but didn’t know where Ji should be buried, so he returned to his home.
Elledge then lied to Ji's mother and a friend about her whereabouts the next day. He said that he didn’t know how to explain why his body was in the trunk of his car.
When he returned to his home, he reported her missing. Initial reports stated that Ji and he had argued. However, he later discovered that Ji had fled the apartment the day after waking up. He remained faithful to this story for many months, as he searched for his wife. His body was never found.
Elledge testified earlier Tuesday that he and his wife had a difficult marriage because of their differences in culture and communication styles.
Ji and Elledge met at Nanova in 2015. The couple began to date the next year, and he eventually went to China to ask Ji's parents permission to marry him. They married in 2017, and were planning to have three to five children.
Elledge stated that he was initially friendly with Ji's parents, but tensions developed after they moved in together when their daughter was due on Oct. 3, 2018.
Elledge stated that his in-laws would "buttin and take over" the responsibility of raising Anna. They also communicated in Chinese with Ji.
Elledge stated that he felt isolated and as if he was pushing him out of his home. Elledge said Ji's parents moved away and their relationship improved.
Trouble brewed when Elledge was placed at a Carthage home furnishing company as a summer intern. The couple were forced to maintain their two homes financially.
He stated that their intimacy had diminished and he started to consider divorce. He did online searches but didn't consult an attorney as they both wanted to mend their relationship.
The Columbia Missourian reported that the prosecution presented evidence that primarily focused on Elledge's journal, text messages between them, and audio tapes that described their complicated relationship.
Dan Knight, the prosecutor, referred to Elledge's 51-page journal "grievances diary" as it contained pages of complaints regarding his wife. Monday's evidence included segments that Elledge claimed his wife was demanding, didn't care about his feelings, and was secretive.
Ji received a master's in mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of Missouri in December 2014. Elledge was a student of the university at the time his wife died.