A HUSBAND strangled his wife because he did not want to pay for a costly divorce, prosecutors allege.
Joseph Elledge pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the presumed death of his Chinese wife, 28-year-old Mengqui Ji Elledge.
Her body has not yet been found after she disappeared in October 2019.
But Elledge has been charged with his wife’s death in February in Columbia, Missouri.
Prosecutors say Elledge strangled or suffocated his wife because he did not want to pay for a divorce and wanted to prevent his wife from fleeing to China with their daughter.
Police believe he could have killed her, ABC17 News reports, while giving his wife a massage on the evening of October. 8.
According to a police statement, Joseph Elledge told police that Mengqi Ji was on her stomach, and he was on top of her back while giving the massage.
This would have put his wife in a compromising position without many options for defending herself, according to the probable cause statement.
‘THREATENING CELL PHONE MESSAGES’
Authorities also stated intentional strangulation and suffocation are “relatively bloodless, silent” acts of crime.
No blood was found in their apartment, vehicle or in Menqi Ji’s vehicle.
Elledge had told Columbia police he woke up the next morning, and Mengqi Ji was gone, according to the statement.
But police said when they searched the couple’s phone records and found conversations that suggested the two were having marital issues.
Elledge made threatening comments to Mengqi Ji in those conversations and threatened to keep their child if Mengqi Ji was deported to China, court documents say.
In one message he allegedly said: “You’re still just a woman and there’s nature in that.
“There’s nature in your brain … You’re poking the bull. Don’t poke the bull.”
Law enforcement officials have repeatedly searched an area in the Lamine River, where police believe her body was dumped.
Elledge and Ji married in 2017 and attended the University of Missouri.
On Tuesday, Columbia police spokesman Jeff Pitts said crews are waiting for more heavy equipment from the Columbia’s Public Works department to help with the searching in areas of the river that may have missed.
Elledge was also charged with domestic assault and child abuse charges related to his young daughter.
He pleaded not guilty to those charges in March.
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