Joseph Elledge pleads not guilty on child welfare charges
COLUMBIA — Joseph Elledge, the husband of missing Columbia woman Mengqi Ji Elledge, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges of child endangerment and child abuse and neglect.
Elledge appeared in person in court, where he waived his right to a preliminary hearing. He was then arraigned in Boone County Circuit Court on the charges and pleaded not guilty.
The charges stem from evidence of child abuse Columbia police found while investigating Mengqi Ji's disappearance. In a probable cause statement, an officer said they recovered images of bruising on the couple's daughter. Elledge admitted to causing the bruising, but said it was caused by pinching her.
The court appearance comes after an explosive Nov. 6 hearing, where Boone County Chief Prosecutor Dan Knight played audio recordings of conversations between Elledge and Mengqi Ji.
According to previous Missourian reporting, Elledge can be heard saying he "will bury the earth under you," to Mengqi Ji. He also said, "I don't like being with you. I'm eager to end it."
Knight said at the Nov. 6 hearing that Elledge is a "prime suspect" in his wife's disappearance. He has not been charged in relation to that case. After Tuesday's court appearance, Knight said the family of Mengqi Ji is "heartbroken."
The case was moved to the trial request docket, where Elledge's trial date will be set. There is not an official estimate of how long that process will take.
Mengqi Ji Elledge has not been seen since she was reported missing on Oct. 9 by Joseph Elledge.