COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
The lawyer for a Columbia man whose wife disappeared in October is seeking a change of venue in his child abuse case.
John O'Connor submitted the application for a change of venue on behalf of his client, Joseph Elledge, on Friday. In his application, O'Connor cites the ongoing intense coverage of the case and the search for Elledge's wife, Mengqi Ji Elledge, as the primary reason for the request.
"News coverage, including TV and print media, has been extra ordinary [sic] in this case," O'Connor wrote in the six-page brief. O'Connor writes that longtime Columbia lawyers he has spoken with say the intensity of coverage is like no case they've seen.
O'Connor also cites statements by Boone County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Knight in court that Joseph Elledge is the prime suspect in his wife's disappearance.
"If this case is tried with a Boone County jury, during jury selection, Mr. Elledge will be handicapped with a venue already prejudiced against him because of the substantial media buzz surrounding his case," O'Connor wrote.
Joseph Elledge is charged with two counts of child endangerment and one count of child abuse. He was originally charged with one count of each. However, last month a grand jury indicted him on an extra child endangerment count, saying Joseph Elledge put a child at risk by separating the child from Mengqi Ji Elledge.
The charge was the first against Joseph Elledge connected with his wife's disappearance.
Police and dive teams have been searching for Mengqi Ji Elledge's body for weeks, including extensive exploration of a stretch of the Lamine River in Cooper County. A Columbia Police Department spokesman said last week that the search continues.
The court has set a Feb. 25 trial date.