COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
Joseph Elledge, the husband of missing Columbia mother Mengqi Ji, pleaded not guilty to three felony charges.
Elledge was arraigned Monday on one count of abuse and two counts of child endangerment. The indictment for one of the first-degree charges of child endangerment said Joseph Elledge "created a substantial risk to the life and body and health of the child, ...by separating them from Mengqi Ji."
According to Dan Knight, Boone County's prosecuting attorney, Joseph Elledge is the main suspect in the disappearance of Mengqi Ji.
The Columbia Police Department has been searching for Mengqi Ji's body at the Lamine River. Friday marked the tenth day of search efforts in the area.
Columbia police declined to say whether the search is ongoing.
Amy Salladay is representing the parents of Mengqi Ji in an ongoing custody case surrounding the child of Joseph and Mengqi. Salladay said these charges are meaningful to the family law case because it increases the sentence Elledge could receive to a total of 21 years.
"Mengqi Ji's parents' top priority is the health, safety and welfare of their granddaughter. They pray every day to know what happened to their daughter Mengqi Ji, to be able to bring her home, and to have a proper funeral for her," Salladay said. "They appreciate the efforts of Dan Knight and the Boone County Prosecutor's Office to bring justice and to protect the best interests of their granddaughter by bringing this additional criminal charge against Mr. Elledge."
ABC 17 News contacted the defense attorney for Joseph Elledge, but they declined to comment.