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Shifting the focus in the death of Mengqi Ji to Rock Bridge Memorial State Park


The Columbia Police Department announced Thursday it believes remains found at Rock Bridge State Park belong to Mengqi Ji.

Since October 2019, the Columbia Police Department has been investigating the disappearance of Mengqi Ji, who was reported missing by her husband Joseph Elledge.

Elledge is the key suspect in the disappearance of his wife and was charged with first-degree murder by a Boone County grand jury in February.

Columbia police searched the Lamine River outside of Boonville for Ji after cellphone records showed Elledge being in the area of the Lamine River on Oct. 9 for around 45 minutes. According to a probable cause statement, he also drove to several other areas around mid-Missouri.

Officers did an aerial search and a search on foot in each of those areas. After months of searching the river, the department built a levee in order to get larger equipment further out into the water.

After more than a year of performing multiple searches of the river, a hiker found badly decomposed human remains at Rock Bridge Memorial State Park.

CPD said personal property fit the description of what Ji was last seen in. Credit card documents and a driver's license belonging to Ji were also discovered.

Former Cole County Prosecuting Attorney Bill Tackett said the different location "causes some confusion and that's a word you don't want in front of a jury."

Tackett said when looking at this case through the eyes of a juror you have to realize that although the body is at Rock Bridge and the cellphone was at Lamine River, there is no cellphone coverage at Rock Bridge.

"If you're somebody who is committing a murder you could go to the Lamine River and cause everyone to drag the river, bring the cellphone home and either leave it there or drive out to Rock Bridge where there is no coverage and dispose of the body," said Tackett.

In a news conference Thursday night, the police said there can not be confirmation of the identity of the remains until DNA testing is completed.

Dr. Michael Graham, professor of pathology at St. Louis University, said the identification will go a long way in making closure for the family.

Graham said, "Assuming that the skeleton is intact they will be able to compare it with previous dental records and x-rays." He said depending on how well the bone marrow is preserved they may be able to do DNA.

Tackett said with the evidence that is currently confirmed, it looks as if it was premeditated and Elledge wanted the body to be found there or it was done in haste and he got rid of the body in a way that he could leave the scene.

Stephanie Golda a forensic anthropologist at Columbia College said a lot of information can be gathered from skeleton remains.

"It depends on the amount of decomposition and skeletonization of the remains but possibly those could indicate post-mortem interval, which means the time since the descendant has passed," said Golda.

Golda said forensic anthropologists can also provide law enforcement with the descendant's sex, ancestry, height, as well as determining indicators of different types of trauma.

Elledge faces a count of first-degree murder in the case. As of Friday, Elledge was in the Boone County Jail being held without bond. A trial date has been set in the case for November.

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Chanel Porter

Chanel joined ABC 17 News in January 2021 after graduating from Penn State University. She enjoys traveling and a daily iced coffee.


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