The Columbia Police Department restarted their search for the remains of a Missouri Chinese woman, who has been missing since last year, after stopping in June.
Mengqi Ji Elledge, 28, was reported missing on Oct. 10, 2019, by her husband Joseph Elledge. Prosecutors named him the prime suspect, according to AP News.
Authorities combed the Lamine River after cadaver-sniffing dogs caught a scent in the area.
The police built a temporary levee on the river to help with their operation but stopped in June, as they continued to monitor water levels and changes, according to Assistant Police Chief Jeremiah Hunter in a press release on Wednesday.
Parts of the levee are set to be removed while investigators continue to search for any evidence of Ji.
Authorities suspected foul play when Elledge, a 23-year-old senior mechanical engineering student at the University of Missouri, failed to report she was missing for 36 hours, NextShark reported.
He was charged with two counts of child endangerment and one count of child abuse to their 1-year-old daughter. A grand jury also indicted Elledge of first-degree murder in February, but he pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors speculated he strangled his wife “to avoid a costly divorce” and to prevent her from taking their daughter with her to China. During the 24-hour window, Elledge allegedly spent time in remote areas of the Lamine River after dark.
Although Ji’s family appreciated all the effort put into the search, they said they will never be satisfied until their daughter’s remains are found and returned to them.
“This is not a missing person case, but the murder of our only child who herself was also a mother,” Ji’s family said in a statement. “We will never give up looking for Mengqi. We continue to hope for answers so that she can have a proper burial and we can have a funeral.”
Elledge and Ji both attended the University of Missouri and married in 2017.
On Friday, the state filed motions to endorse 23 witnesses in the murder case and 17 in the child abuse case against Elledge, the Columbia Missourian reported.
According to Boone County Chief Prosecutor Dan Knight, the trial could take up to a month COVID-19-related delays and translating witness testimony from Chinese. There is no trial date yet, but a bond hearing was set for Nov. 30.
Featured Image via Screenshot @KRCG13 (left), Boone County Sheriff’s Department (right)