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Husband of missing Columbia woman not yet served with warrant

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

After first-degree murder charges were filed nearly a week ago, Joseph Elledge has not been served with a warrant and his arraignment has not been set.

Boone County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Knight filed charges alleging that Elledge strangled his wife and put her body in a river, but without investigators finding her body or physical evidence of strangulation.

The Boone County Prosecuting Attorney's Office also filed a brief on Thursday arguing it had enough evidence for the first-degree murder charge. The brief was written by Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Roger Johnson.

Columbia Criminal Defense Attorney David Tyson Smith said filing such a motion is unusual.

"They are doing that because they don't have a lot, this is really paper-thin,"
Smith said. "It's like they are basically saying 'the probable cause may not be enough, so let me tell you why I think it is.'"

Smith said a judge might not have signed the murder warrant because of shaky evidence or just because of workload.

"Maybe he has an issue with it and feels like he can't sign it based on the probable cause statement," Smith said. "I mean this is very thin, the evidence is very thin, the probable cause statement is brief, there's not a lot of meat here."

Missouri court rules have no exact stipulation on how quickly someone should be arraigned after being charged.

Arraignment shall be conducted in open court and shall consist of reading the indictment or information to the defendant or stating to him the substance of the charge and calling on him to plead thereto. He shall be given a copy of the indictment or information before he is called upon to plead.

24.01. Misdemeanors or Felonies - Arraignment

Smith said arraignments usually happen within 24 hours of charges being filed, but said they may not be rushing to get a plea because Elledge is already in custody. He was arrested last fall on charges of child abuse and endangerment as authorities investigated the disappearance of his wife, Mengqi Ji.

Ji has not been found.

"He needs to be arraigned," Smith said. "His attorney should go in there and figure out what's going on and get him in front of a judge immediately. It's odd they are waiting so long."

Smith said it's no coincidence that the murder charges were filed just a day before a hearing to set the trial date in Elledge's child abuse case.

"The state wants him, and they want him badly," Smith said. "They are doing everything they possibly can to get him."

Smith thinks filing these murder charges could be a part of the prosecution's strategy to gather more evidence.

"I think that any time you are charged with first-degree murder and the death penalty is there, that alone makes you want to cut a deal," Smith said. "I think that charge alone might make someone want to talk and say 'hey look, I'll talk if you reduce the charge down.'"

No judge has been assigned to the murder case against Elledge, according to online court records.

The prosecutor's office and Elledge's lawyer, John O'Connor, declined to comment for this story.

Boone / Columbia / Columbia Video / Court and Trials / Elledge case / Homicide / News / Top Stories / Video

Connor Hirsch

Connor Hirsch reports for the weekday early evening shows, as well as Saturday nights.

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