A Columbia man accused of child abuse pleaded not guilty to two felony charges in court on Tuesday morning.
Joseph Elledge, 24, pleaded not guilty to child abuse or neglect and endangering the welfare of a child after he waived his preliminary hearing, said Boone County Prosecutor Dan Knight. The case is now being heard by Boone County Judge Jeff Harris.
Knight said for each of the charges, Elledge could face up to 7 years in prison. "The defendant is presumed to be innocent until he is proven guilty in court, that's something I need to say," Knight said. "But yes, he faces up to fourteen years in the penitentiary."
Knight said the next step in the case is setting the trial date, which is set for Dec. 5. Elledge's attorney John O'Connor of Kansas City told ABC17 in an email he intends to try the case to a jury, instead of just a judge.
The trial date has yet to be set, but O'Connor said he filed a motion for a speedy trail Tuesday. He hopes the trial will happen in the next 120 days.
Elledge was originally arrested and charged with child abuse or neglect in October after officers allegedly found evidence of abuse during their missing person's investigation centered on his wife Mengqi Ji Elledge. He was also charged with endangering the welfare of a child in November in the same case.
Prosecutors named Elledge as the prime suspect in the disappearance of his Mengqi Ji, who went missing at the beginning of October.
"There are updates, but things I just can't share with the media at this time," Knight said.
Joseph Elledge has not yet been charged with his wife's disappearance.
Knight said the Mengqi's family is watching the case closely.
"They're hearts are broken," Knight said. "And I know they are intensely interested in what's going on in the court process throughout this and certainly my heart goes out to them."
ABC17 asked O'Connor about how Joseph Elledge and his family are feeling, but he declined to comment.