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Crews return to Lamine River in search of missing mom


Search teams returned to the Lamine River on Wednesday, in search of a missing Columbia mother.

"Our goal is really to gain some closure for the family and to truly investigate to a point where we find evidence of her body and close the case," Brittany Hilderbrand, a Columbia Police Department spokesperson said.

With divers searching in the water, dump trucks from the City of Columbia took turns dropping truckloads of rocks into the southside of the river. Teams then used an excavator to push and shape the rocks into a solid surface which looked like a wide walkway.

On Tuesday, we reported work began to build a levee on the river to help in the Columbia Police Department's search for the body of a missing woman.

Authorities have been searching on and off for Mengqi Ji in the river near the De Bourgmont access point since she went missing in Oct. 2019.

"A lot of debris that is under the river that we can't see. So, the construction crews out there digging, digging a hole, making sure that all that debris is removed and divers can kind of get down in there and see anything," Hilderbrand said.

After several dumps and shaping, a larger excavator would roll out onto the new surface and remove debris from the river bottom and place it on land.

This continued for several hours while divers in the water searched the river for the missing mother.

Among the authorities on scene were Missouri Task Force 1, CPD, members of the City of Columbia and volunteer divers.

Joseph Elledge, Mengqi Ji's husband, reported her missing on Oct. 10, two days after she was last seen.

The Columbia Police Department arrested Elledge on a possible child abuse charge on Oct. 26, he was charged three days later.

Boone County Prosecutor Dan Knight called Joseph Elledge the "prime suspect" in Mengqi Ji Elledge's disappearance and possible murder during a court hearing on Nov. 6.

On Nov. 26, law enforcement agencies then began the search at the Lamine River.

Authorities have used SONAR boats, human remains dogs, divers and other methods in the search.

"We've had the human detection dogs out here, and they've continuously got hits on scent of human remains, that's what keeps bringing us back to the same location and we'll keep going until we find what we're looking for," Hilderbrand said.

CPD officials say the levee project will cost $50,000. A non-profit out of St. Louis that supports missing persons efforts donated $10,000.

A grand jury indicted Elledge on first-degree murder in February. His jury trial is scheduled for June 2.

A hearing is scheduled in the child abuse case for June 8.

Boone / Child Abuse / Columbia / Columbia Video / Cooper / Crime / Elledge case / Homicide / Missing Person / Missouri / Must-See / Top Stories / Video

Zach Boetto

Zach Boetto started working with ABC 17 News in June after graduating from California State University-Channel Islands with a degree in organizational communication. He reports weekday evenings and weekend mornings.


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