The Disappearance of Mengqi Ji

CBS news

When a young mother goes missing in Columbia, Missouri, investigators use DNA from a tree to unravel the mystery of what happened to her.

December 2014: Mengqi received his master’s degree

Menchi Ji


After immigrating from China for higher education, Menchi Ji He holds a master’s degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering from the University of Missouri. Her future husband, Joe Elledge, was also studying engineering there at the time.

September 8, 2017: Joe Elledge and Mengqi Ji’s Whirlwind Romance

Boone County Attorney’s Office

Mengqi Ji and Joe Elledge met in September 2015. Both worked as engineers at a company called Nanova. Mengqi was Joe’s supervisor. Their first date was in January 2016 with her. Joe proposed to him on September 8, 2017, during his Rockbridge hike at his Memorial State Park.

September 22, 2017: Joe and Menchie get married

Attorney Matei Stroescu

After a brief engagement, Joe and Mengqi got married on September 22, 2017.

February 2018: Find out that Mengqi is pregnant

Amy Saladay

Mengqi was overjoyed to find out she was pregnant, but problems started soon after her daughter was born. The couple found themselves arguing constantly.

Meng-chi’s parents, pictured with their daughter, came from China to help take care of their granddaughter, but their presence only increased tension between Joe and Meng-chi.

October 9, 2019: Mengqi disappears

District Attorney Dan Knight/Boone County DA’s Office

Joe says he approached Mengqi on the night of October 8, gave him a massage and established an intimate relationship. However, according to Joe, Mengqi rejected his offer, claiming he had plans the next day and went to bed around 11pm. Joe wakes up in the morning with car keys, cell phone, wallet and, most importantly, the couple’s one-year-old daughter.

2019.10.10 Mother’s instinct

Boone County Attorney’s Office

Mengqi talked to her mother in China every day, so worried that her mother was absent for even a day, she asked a friend to check on her. At that time, Joe admitted that his wife had gone missing and eventually reported her disappearance to the police.

But Joe didn’t call 911. He called 311 non-emergency. This is body camera footage from a police visit to their home.

October 15, 2019: Husband’s plea


Joe Elledge did an interview To KRCG of CBS series. He said his wife needed to get home safely and that he and his daughter loved her. But I hope it’s enough to at least keep her safe with someone who cares about her.

October 15, 2019: Joe’s police interview

Boone County Attorney’s Office

That same day, Joe also voluntarily sat down for an extensive interview with Colombian police. Investigators immediately became suspicious of his story, especially after Joe explained that he was going on a long, leisurely drive to find his trail, not his missing wife. became.

October 15, 2019: Police discover secret recordings

District Attorney Dan Knight/Boone County DA’s Office

The same day Joe was questioned at the police station, investigators asked him to look at his cell phone. On top of that, they uncovered ten hours of secretly recorded discussions between Joe and Mengqi, with both Joe’s and Mengqi’s cell phones pictured here.

Joe got defensive on some of these recordings. In one recording he said, “What are you trying to do? Are you serious? Are you trying to take the baby away? Are you trying to drive me crazy so I can call the police and arrest you?” n) Is the baby away from me?”

broken marriage revealed

Recording: Boone County DA Office/Transcript: 48 hours

Officers were then able to recover nearly four and a half hours of additional recordings from Mengqi’s phone. A transcript of one of these recordings can be viewed here.

“What were those important conversations about?” Peter Van Sant asked then-prosecutor Dan Knight. “Naive Joe Elledge,” he replied.

In those recordings, Joe told Mengqi:

October 25, 2019: Joe Elledge arrested

Via AP Boone County Sheriff’s Office

Colombian police have announced they are opening a criminal investigation into Mengqi’s disappearance.

Officers arrested Joe Elledge the same day, but had no connection to his wife’s disappearance. Instead, he was arrested on suspicion of physical child abuse. The officer knew his daughter had bruises. Joe admitted that one day he pinched the baby when it was crying. His bail was set at his $500,000.

October 29, 2019: Find Lamine


After analyzing cell phone base station data, investigators discovered that Joe visited the Lamine River, about 40 minutes away from the couple’s home, on the day his wife said he went missing.

Since Joe had not told the police about this, the officers suspected that the river was involved in her disappearance.

A highway patrol conducted a surface survey on the Lamine River in hopes of finding clues. It was the first of many searches involving diving teams and corpse dogs, but nothing was found.

October 30, 2019: Custody lawsuit started

Amy Saladay

Joe Elledge’s mother has applied for guardianship of his young daughter. A few days later, Mengqi’s parents applied for guardianship of their granddaughter. It depicts Mengqi’s mother and daughter.

Ultimately, the baby ended up living with Joe’s mother until the custody case was resolved.

To this day, their custody battle continues unresolved, partly due to the delays caused by COVID-19. A ruling on the detention case is expected by the end of December 2022.

February 19, 2020: Joe Elledge charged with murder

CBS news

Despite failing to find Mengqi, then-Boone County Prosecutor Dan Knight decided to file charges against Joe Elledge with first-degree murder in his wife’s death. After reviewing an audio recording found on Mengqi’s phone, Knight is convinced that Joe had something to do with his wife’s disappearance. Knight and his team began preparing for the trial.

February 22, 2020: In memory of Mengqi

Amy Saladay

After months of searching for Ms. Mengqi, authorities were still unable to find her. Mengqi’s mother attended her memorial service at the Lamine River.

March 25, 2021: Mengqi found

CBS news

Seventeen months after Mengqi’s disappearance, hikers stumbled upon Mengqi’s skeletal remains at Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, the same park where Joe proposed to her. It depicts Mengqi’s monument.

broken ribs

District Attorney Dan Knight/Boone County DA’s Office

Mengqi was found with four broken ribs. Prosecutor Dan Knight believes she was killed in a violent clash.

August 2021: The Power of Plant DNA

District Attorney Dan Knight/Boone County DA’s Office

Officers were collecting muddy boots from Joe and Menchie’s apartment when Joe was arrested. Christine Edwards, a plant population geneticist at the Missouri Botanical Garden, and her team compare plant DNA recovered from a muddy boot with plant samples recovered from a tree near where Menchie’s remains were found. I was asked to

The tree that solved the murder case

CBS news

Prosecutors said DNA from a tree hanging at Mengqi’s burial ground matched a sample of the boot, ultimately linking Joe to that exact location. Christine Edwards told Peter Van Sant, “After finding a match, I was convinced he had buried his wife.”

Alex Lynan, pictured with correspondent Peter Van Sant, is an assistant scientist at the Missouri Botanical Garden.

November 2, 2021: A New Story

via Don Shrubshell/Columbia Daily Tribune, AP, Poole

Faced with the fact that Joe Elledge was placed at the scene of Mengqi’s burial site, Joe’s attorney, Scott Rosenblum, presented a new story at the trial. He claimed that Joe actually killed his wife, but it was a tragic accident.

Rosenblum said the couple got into an argument and started pushing each other. He claimed that when Joe pushed his wife, she fell backwards and Joe heard a thud. and Mengqi went to bed.

The next morning, Rosenblum said Joe woke up at 5 a.m. to hear the baby crying and found his wife dead. In a panic, Joe decided not to call 911 and later buried his wife. He spoke of his client’s lies to the police.

Establishing motivation

via Don Shrubshell/Columbia Daily Tribune, AP, Poole

After the opening statements, prosecutor Dan Knight played a secret audio recording between Joe and Menchie that they discussed, including Joe telling Menchie that he had “no brains.” showed that there is Knight told Peter Van Sant that the recording helped establish the motive. Knight believes that when Joe lost control over Menchie, he wanted her to go.

November 9-10, 2021: Joe Elledge Testifies

via Don Shrubshell/Columbia Daily Tribune, AP, Poole

Joe Elledge spent two days on the witness stand. Dan Knight interrogated Joe for nearly three hours to determine the cause of death.

Knight asked, “You killed Mengqi on that bed, didn’t you?” “No,” Joe replied. Knight also asked if he stood on her back and jumped on her or choked her, Joe answered no to those questions.

Joe repeated that Menchie’s death was an accident.

November 11, 2021: Guilty Man

Alessia Tagliabue/Missourian via AP, pool

After 10 days of trial, both sides made closing arguments. Defense attorney Scott Rosenblum reiterated that it was all a tragic accident and claimed manslaughter. demanded homicide.

Neither side got what they wanted. A jury found Joe Elledge guilty of second-degree murder. A jury later sentenced him to 28 years in prison. Prosecutor Dan Knight believes the sentence could mean one year in prison for every year of Menchie’s life.

sudden loss

Boone County DA Office

On June 4, 2022, Dan Knight, who worked hard to get justice for Mengqi, passed away suddenly.

In memory of Meng Qi


Mengqi’s friends and family remember her as artistic, smart and kind, and say that everyone who knew her will miss her. In her short life of 28 years, she was a bright light with a kind soul and a love of Chinese culture and her family. The Disappearance of Mengqi Ji

Exit mobile version