When 28-year-old Mengqi Ji Elledge disappeared nearly three weeks ago, her husband, Joseph Elledge, did not tell anyone about it for more than 24 hours.
It also took him a day and a half before he even filed a missing report to the local police, according to the Associated Press.
Days after authorities announced that foul play was suspected in his wife’s disappearance, the 23-year-old University of Missouri student was charged with abuse or neglect of a child.
Elledge, a senior mechanical engineering student, is currently being held on a $500,000 cash-only bond. His missing wife, who graduated from the same school, came to the U.S. from China to study. According to Columbia police, the couple has a 1-year-old daughter who is now under the care of a relative.
Based on court documents, Elledge allegedly abused the infant by striking her hard on her buttocks in February. The strikes were hard enough to inflict severe bruising on the baby’s skin. Back then, the girl’s mother had reportedly wanted to notify the police about the abuse. However, Elledge promised he would never do it again so she gave her another chance.
Investigators who later examined the mother’s iPad discovered pictures and videos of the bruising as she sent the images to another person. It was also found that someone had erased the full-sized photos but left the thumbnail files on the gadgets. According to the affidavit, Joseph Elledge had access to the iPad a week before officers were able to obtain it.
On Friday, Elledge admitted during questioning by officers that he did bruise the girl months earlier. While he initially claimed that he did not know how it happened, he later said he was trying to pacify the girl who was crying and would not stop.
According to Elledge, the bruising may have been caused by pinching the girl to distract her or by holding her too hard.
It was in the probable cause affidavit that took note of the fact that he did not report his wife missing for about 36 hours. During that time, he took a long drive through the remote areas of mid-Missouri.
Authorities announced on Friday that the investigation has led detectives to suspect foul play in the wife’s disappearance. Elledge has yet to be charged in relation to the case.
While it was not specified why Elledge was being implicated in his wife’s disappearance, he might have inadvertently spilled some hints that eventually led to that determination.
During an on-camera interview with KRCG-TV, Elledge revealed that he and his wife had been having problems.
Elledge noted that they “were growing kind of distant in the past few months.” He added that they had gone to Carthage, Missouri for an internship over the summer, saying that he was not sure how she liked the small-town life.
“I know she was talking to somebody else on the side,” he claimed. “I didn’t know that until she had left.”
Elledge claimed that he found that his wife was gone when he woke up on the morning of October 9. Except for her purse, her phone, iPad, passport and clothes were left behind.
“I don’t know where she could have gone,” Elledge told KRCG. “I know she was supposed to meet somebody in the morning. I didn’t know who else she was going to meet or what else she was going to do. It was really weird that she didn’t take her phone or anything else like that.”
Elledge said he thought she would return, adding “I think she is confused and scared.”
As investigations continue, Mengqi Elledge’s family traveled to Columbia and intends to stay there until some type of resolution has been reached.