Jury recommends 28 years for Missouri man in wife’s murder

Nov 12, 2021, 1:22 AM | Updated: 10:08 am
Boone County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Knight waits in the courtroom for the reading of the verdict ...

Boone County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Knight waits in the courtroom for the reading of the verdict in Joseph Elledge's trial Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021, in Columbia, Mo. Elledge, who admitted to burying his wife’s body and misleading authorities for more than a year about her whereabouts, was convicted of second-degree murder. The jury found Elledge guilty in the killing of 28-year-old Mengqi Ji, whom he married after she moved to the U.S. from China to study at the University of Missouri. (Alessia Tagliabue/Missourian via AP, Pool)

(Alessia Tagliabue/Missourian via AP, Pool)

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — A woman who moved to Missouri from China to further her education before she was killed by her husband should be remembered as a kind woman whose death was a “huge waste,” a prosecutor said Friday after her husband was convicted.

A jury recommended early Friday that Joseph Elledge be sentenced to up to 28 years in prison for killing Mengqi Ji, 28. The sentence came hours after the Boone County jury convicted Elledge of second-degree murder.

Sentencing was scheduled for Dec. 17. Circuit Judge J. Hasbrouck Jacobs cannot sentence him to more years than the jury recommendation.

After the sentencing phase concluded, Boone County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Knight said his investigation into the case led him to understand that Ji was “kind, giving and selfless,” unlike her husband.

“It’s such a huge waste, that a life like Mengqi would be snuffed out by such a selfish psychopath like the defendant,” Knight said.

Knight had urged the jury to find Elledge guilty of first-degree murder, which carries a mandatory life sentence, but he said he was satisfied with the second-degree verdict. A second-degree murder conviction requires Elledge to serve at least 85% of his sentence before being eligible for parole.

Elledge’s attorney, Scott Rosenblum, said Elledge and his family were aware during the trial that he was not going to be acquitted but had hoped the jury would convict him of manslaughter, KOMU-TV and KMIZ-TV reported.

“He knew that at the end of the day I wasn’t going be asking the jury to return a verdict of not guilty. He certainly wanted to avoid a conviction of murder in the first degree,” said Rosenblum, who added Elledge was grateful he will be eligible for parole.

Rosenblum said he and the family will meet in the next week to discuss whether to appeal the verdict.

Elledge had admitted during the trial to burying his wife’s body and misleading authorities for more than a year about Ji’s whereabouts. He reported her missing in October 2019, prompting months of extensive searches. Her remains were found in a park near Columbia, Missouri, in March.

An attorney for Ji’s family told the Columbia Daily Tribune before the trial started that they didn’t plan to provide a statement, but said on Wednesday they were pleased with the prosecutor’s efforts.

During closing arguments on Thursday, Knight told the jury that Elledge was a “stone cold killer” who was guilty of first-degree murder because he intentionally killed his wife.

Rosenblum argued that his client was awkward and made “unbelievably dumb” decisions after she died. But he said Elledge never intended to kill his wife and should never have been charged with murder.

During his trial, Elledge said Ji’s death was accidental. He said she fell and hit her head on Oct. 8, 2019, after he pushed her during an argument and he found her dead in bed the next morning. He said he panicked, put her body in the trunk of her car and did not report what happened while he tried to decide what to do.

He did not tell anyone, including Ji’s mother, about her disappearance.

On Oct. 10, with the couple’s young daughter in the car, Elledge drove to Rock Bridge State Park about 5 miles (8 kilometers) south of Columbia, where they lived. There, he dug a grave and buried Ji at a site a half-mile from where he proposed to her. He then returned home and reported her missing.

Prosecutors used social media posts, audio tapes and a journal Elledge kept to document the couple’s volatile relationship. The evidence showed them frequently yelling at each other and arguing, with Elledge often criticizing his wife for her appearance and for how she treated him.

Elledge said that in the days before her death, he discovered Ji had been exchanging sexually suggestive messages with a man from China via social media. He also testified that the couple’s relationship suffered because of tension caused by her parents who moved from China to live with them after their daughter was born on Oct. 3, 2018.

The couple met in 2015 at Nanova, a company that makes dental products, where Ji was Elledge’s supervisor. They began dating the following year and eventually traveled to China, where he asked Ji’s parents for permission to marry her. The couple married in 2017.

Ji earned a master’s degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering from the University of Missouri in December 2014. Elledge was a student at the university when his wife died.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Wild horses that were captured from U.S. rangeland stand in a holding pen, at the U.S. Burea...
Associated Press

Biggest US holding pen planned for wild horses faces suit

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Advocates for wild horses are accusing federal land managers of illegally approving plans for the largest U.S. holding facility for thousands of mustangs captured on public rangeland in 10 Western states. Friends of Animals said in a lawsuit filed Tuesday up to 4,000 horses would be held captive inhumanely for months […]
19 hours ago
FILE - The Spring Summer high fashion collection by Japanese designer Hanae Mori is modeled, Jan. 9...
Associated Press

Hanae Mori, designer for films, empress, dies, reports say

TOKYO (AP) — Designer Hanae Mori, known for her elegant signature butterfly motifs, numerous cinema fashions and the wedding gown of Japan’s empress, has died, local media reported Thursday. She was 96. Mori symbolized the rise of Japan as a modern, fashionable nation and the rise of the working woman. The reports said she died […]
19 hours ago
Former Vice President Mike Pence gestures during the "Politics and Eggs" breakfast gathering, Wedne...
Associated Press

Pence tells GOP to stop lashing out at FBI over Trump search

MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — Former Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday implored fellow Republicans to stop lashing out at the FBI over the search of Donald Trump’s Florida home and denounced calls by some of the former president’s allies to defund the FBI, saying that was “just as wrong” as a push by Democratic activists […]
19 hours ago
Associated Press

Police: Man who broke into Wisconsin home wanted a bath

CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. (AP) — A Minnesota man who allegedly broke into an occupied Wisconsin home last week and locked himself in a bathroom never had a chance to come clean. He was getting ready to take a bath when authorities arrived. Authorities say the 29-year-old St. Paul, Minnesota man was filling up the tub […]
19 hours ago
FILE - Allen Weisselberg, right, stands behind then President-elect Donald Trump during a news conf...
Associated Press

Trump Org. CFO to plead guilty, testify against company

NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump’s chief financial officer is expected to plead guilty to tax violations Thursday in a deal that would require him to testify about illicit business practices at the former president’s company, two people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press. Allen Weisselberg is charged with taking more than $1.7 […]
19 hours ago
FILE - This Aug. 8, 2022, still image taken from officer video provided by the Albuquerque Police D...
Associated Press

Suspect in New Mexico Muslim killings detained pending trial

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — An Afghan refugee charged in the shooting deaths of two Muslim men and suspected in the killing of two others was ordered held without bond pending trial as prosecutors argued Wednesday that he was a danger to his own family and the greater community. Prosecutors during a detention hearing pointed to […]
19 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.
...
Dr. Richard Carmona

Great news: Children under 5 can now get COVID-19 vaccine

After more than two years of battle with an invisible killer, we can now vaccinate the youngest among us against COVID-19. This is great news.
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Update your child’s vaccines before kindergarten

So, your little one starts kindergarten soon. How exciting! You still have a few months before the school year starts, so now’s the time to make sure students-to-be have the vaccines needed to stay safe as they head into a new chapter of life.
Jury recommends 28 years for Missouri man in wife’s murder