COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
A second probable cause statement filed in the murder case of a missing Columbia woman alleges her husband may have strangled her.
Prosecutors charged Joseph Elledge with first-degree murder Wednesday in connection to the disappearance of his wife Mengqi Ji.
The second probable cause statement filed said Elledge gave Ji a backrub on the night she disappeared. Elledge told investigators he sat on Ji's back as she laid on her stomach.
The statement also said Elledge did not have any defensive injuries when he was photographed seven days later.
The Columbia police officer who wrote the statement said strangulation or suffocation is a relatively bloodless and silent act.
During a search of Elledge and Ji's apartment and their vehicles, investigators did not find any blood.
Mike Hamilton is a criminal defense attorney in Columbia, he is not associated with the case. Hamilton read both probable cause statements from the case Thursday.
"I think they're convinced that he killed them, they're trying to figure out how," Hamilton said. "The new paragraph about the person being an expert on strangulation looks like pure speculation in my book."
Investigators have not found any human remains in the case, but have spent months searching for Ji. They have searched the Lamine River near Boonville several times after police found Elledge had traveled to a river access by looking at his cellphone location.
"It could have been a drowning. It could be that she is living in Tahoe with her boyfriend for all we know," Hamilton said.
Hamilton said there is a chance the portion of the probable cause statement about Elledge possibly strangling Ji may not be introduced in court.
"It's up to the prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt each and every element, and if something's wrong in the probable cause statement they will end up just not putting that evidence on," he said.
He said if it is introduced in court, it is possible a judge would not allow it unless the prosecution has something more to prove strangulation took place.
Hamilton said he feels there is a lack of evidence in the case to be able to prove Elledge killed Ji by strangulation.
"I mean if there was a lot of hair on the bed, or skin cells or something to show that there was a strangulation," he said. "For somebody to just come on and say, 'I'm an expert at strangulation and I can tell this is a strangulation,' is absurd."
Hamilton said the probable cause statement could cause people to think the prosecution is grabbing at straws.
He also said the case will be incredibly difficult to argue in court because of the lack of evidence. He said in a case without a body the prosecution has to prove that the person is dead.
"That's one of the hard parts. There's not a tooth, there's not blood, there's nothing," he said.
"They've got an uphill battle to prove that she actually is dead and that he's responsible for it is going to be a tough case," he said.
Hamilton said there have been convictions upheld without any physical evidence to support it, but they are very rare.