A 23-year-old father has been charged with child abuse or neglect in Missouri while his wife is missing. Joseph Duane Elledge was arrested on October 15 and charged in Boone County Circuit Court in Columbia and booked with a $500,000 bond, reports KRCG. His wife, Mengqi Ji Elledge, 28, has been missing for three weeks in what police describe as a “suspicious disappearance.” Columbia Police suspect foul play and a criminal investigation is ongoing.
According to The Kansas City Star, Joseph Elledge told police that he last saw Mengqi Ji on October 8 when she went to bed around 11:30 pm at their apartment. He told police that when he woke up around 5 am she was gone. Around 5:45 pm, he reported her missing to the police.
According to court documents, Joseph allegedly took a “long drive through unfamiliar remote areas” before he reported her missing. Her purse was gone but her phone, Ipad, passport, and clothes remained. Additionally, he allegedly told no one she was missing for 24 hours and waited 36 hours before telling the police.
Police looked into the alleged child abuse claims against Joseph while they were investigating the disappearance of Mengqi. According to court documents, Mengqi told a woman that she found bruising on her child. Mengqi confronted Joseph but he denied he struck the child. However, he allegedly later admitted to it and promised Mengqi he will never do it again.
The woman gave police a picture of the bruising that Mengqi gave her. Police found more pictures of the bruising in Mengqi’s laptop.
When police questioned Joseph about the bruising he allegedly told police that he might have pinched the child or held her too tight. Police, however, said that the bruising is more consistent with a strike.
Joseph Elledge pleaded “not guilty” to the child abuse charge.
Mengqi Ji came to the United States from China to study at the University of Missouri, the same school as her husband. She graduated with a master’s degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering in 2014, reports the AP.
According to a warrant complaint, Joseph Elledge is “believed to be a flight risk because when police arrived at his house to serve a search warrant today, [Elledge] was packing items from his house in preparation to leave for an unknown amount of time with [redacted].”
According to the AP, Mengqi Ji’s family arrived from China to Missouri. They plan on staying until there is “some type of resolution.”