BOONE COUNTY - The Boone/Callaway County Medical Examiner's Office confirmed Tuesday that the human remains found at Rock Bridge State Park belong to Mengqi Ji. She had been missing since Oct. 10, 2019.
Columbia Police held a press conference Tuesday at 2 p.m. to announce the identification. CPD said they received the results Friday, but held off until the family was notified Tuesday morning.
The positive identification came from the forensic odontologist, Chief Geoff Jones said. Ji's dental records were compared with the remains.
The remains are still being examined so authorities do not know how exactly Ji died. The anthropologist will come in next and do more of a thorough examination, but Chief Jones says it's a process, so it will take time. He also said it has potential to give more leads and more insight.
"We're not sure what we'll find or where it will take us. We want to be open minded. We're closer to the truth than we've ever been and we want to get there for the family," Chief Jones said.
Chief Jones also said the remains had been there for "quite some time" but can't say for certain yet.
He also referenced that more evidence was found at the scene but will not release that information quite yet. When asked if there was evidence that Joseph Elledge had been there, CPD Assistant Chief Jeremiah Hunter said the department can't speak to that but they will continue to look at physical evidence and remains.
Hunter also said there are no other suspects at this time, but the possibility still exists that they would bring more people in to interview if the evidence leads to it.
The skeletal remains were found Thursday, March 25 after a hiker came across them in an isolated area at the park and contacted authorities. Officials said the remains were found nearly a mile in on the Gans Trail and about 30 feet from a road.
"It would have been very easy to walk on by," Chief Jones said in reference to the hiker who found the remains. "So, just, thank you."
Ji's driver's license and credit cards were found nearby, along with clothing and "other items" they believe belonged to her.
Columbia Police and city officials held a press briefing after the remains were found. The department said they believed the remains found belonged to Ji, but could not say for certain until the extensive identification process was finished.
Assistant Chief Jeremiah Hunter said at the briefing that CPD initially searched Rock Bridge State Park and did consider it as a location in the search for Ji's remains but didn't find anything.
Ji was reported missing by her husband, Joseph Elledge, on Oct. 10, 2019. She was last seen on Oct. 8, 2019.
Elledge had visited several conservation areas surrounding Boone County prior to reporting her missing. Aerial and ground searches were conducted near Ashland Lake and the Pine Ridge Recreational Campground.
Detectives were able to track his route from his cell phone and learned there was one specific location where he spent more time than any other locations: the Lamine River at Highway 41, just outside of Boonville in Cooper County.
Elledge spent 45 minutes at the location. Detectives and crews searched the river and eventually built a levee in the river to search for her.
Elledge faces first degree murder charges and his three-week jury trial is set to begin this November.
Below is a map of where Ji was last seen, the locations CPD searched and where her remains were eventually found.
Mayor Brian Treece thanked CPD, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, Missouri State Park Rangers, the Boone County Sheriff and many more for their help in the case. He says it was the public who ultimately helped bring closure to Ji's family.
"We're not experts in every field. Thanks to people who volunteered boats, equipment in river search, utility department with expertise and equipment we don't have," Hunter said.
A full timeline of Ji's disappearance can be seen below.
This story is breaking and will be updated.