KEY POINTS

  • A 26-year-old Missouri man was convicted of second-degree murder in the 2019 killing of his 28-year-old wife
  • The man reported his wife missing in October 2019, resulting in months of extensive searches
  • The body of the wife was found in March 2021 in a park near Columbia, Missouri, where the couple lived

A 26-year-old Missouri man was given the maximum sentence for second-degree murder Friday for killing his wife, burying her body in a state park and misleading police about her death for more than a year.

Joseph Elledge was sentenced to 28 years in prison after being convicted of second-degree murder in November last year in the 2019 killing of his 28-year-old wife Mengqi Ji, the Associated Press reported. 

Elledge reported his wife missing in October 2019, resulting in months of extensive searches. Her remains were eventually found in March 2021 in a park near Columbia, Missouri, where the couple lived.

During the trial, Boone County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Knight described Elledge as a “stone cold killer” and said he intentionally killed Ji. Social media posts, audiotapes and a journal Elledge kept documented the couple's volatile relationship, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors called on the jury to put Elledge behind bars for as long as they could, KOMU-TV reported. “The defendant deserves no break because he displayed no remorse,” Knight stated.

Elledge insisted during the trial that Ji’s death was accidental. He claimed that his wife fell and hit her head on Oct. 8, 2019, after he pushed her during an argument and that he found her dead in bed the next morning.

Elledge said he panicked, put her body in the trunk of her car and didn’t report what happened while he tried to decide what to do.

On Oct. 10, 2019, Elledge drove to Rock Bridge State Park with the couple’s then-year-old daughter. After arriving at the park, he dug a grave and buried his wife's remains not far from where he had proposed to her. He then returned home and reported her missing.

Elledge claimed that in the days before Ji’s death, he discovered that she had been exchanging sexually suggestive messages on social media with a man from China.

He also testified that their relationship suffered because of tension caused by Ji's parents, who moved from China to live with them after their daughter was born in October 2018.

Scott Rosenblum, Elledge’s attorney,  insisted that his client never intended to kill his wife and should not have been charged with murder.

However, Knight told the Associated Press that Elledge’s lawyer allegedly “fabricated” the story that Ji’s death was accidental.

The prosecuting attorney revealed that Rosenblum said in a 2020 bond hearing that Ji “took off” but that he wasn’t able to question Elledge or his lawyer about the discrepancy because of attorney-client privilege.

Elledge will be required to serve at least 85% of his sentence before he will be eligible for parole.

Elledge and Ji met in 2015 after the latter moved to the U.S. from China to study engineering at the University of Missouri. They began dating the following year and married in 2017.

gavel-1017953_1920 Representation. A gavel. Photo: Pixabay