Investigators use an unlikely clue to carry younger mother’s killer to justice


On Oct. 15, 2019, Joseph Elledge walked into the Columbia, Missouri Police Department and not using a lawyer to inform detectives in regards to the mysterious disappearance of his 28-year-old spouse, Mengqi Ji — six days earlier.

JOE ELLEDGE (police interview): We did not have any massive fights … I believe the final massive struggle was truly the week earlier than. And it wasn’t actually an enormous struggle.

Mengqi Ji and Joe Elledge
For over a yr, Mengqi’s Ji’s husband, Joe Elledge, had been insisting that his spouse took solely her purse and disappeared someday within the early morning hours of Oct. 8, 2019.

Defense Attorney Matei Stroescu

The 23-year-old described his spouse as tense and withdrawn the evening earlier than she disappeared, so he gave her a therapeutic massage.

JOE ELLEDGE (police interview): I used to be going kinda sluggish. I used to be attempting to tug it out as a result of I wished to increase the period of time that we have been collectively doing one thing.

According to Joe, Mengqi ultimately went to sleep, saying she needed to be someplace within the morning.

JOE ELLEDGE: I requested her about thrice, “Who is she meeting?” And her reply was simply, quote, “Me.” … she would not inform me who she was assembly or the place she was going, what she was doing.

The subsequent morning, Joe says he wakened alone. His spouse was gone.

Dan Knight: He was claiming … she had simply disappeared — that she had left her little lady behind. Her cellphone was left behind … her automotive. Her automotive keys have been left behind.

From the start, then-Boone County prosecuting lawyer Dan Knight, had doubts about Joe’s story.

Dan Knight: We have been attempting our greatest to depart no stones unturned. But there have been plenty of stones.

Joe advised investigators that after his spouse disappeared, he discovered journal entries on her laptop the place she’d written about a web-based emotional affair she was having with a person dwelling in China.

JOE ELLEDGE (police interview): The final paragraph stated … “like It’s sad though that I have no interest in my husband.”

The day Joe spoke with detectives, he additionally did an unique interview with native CBS affiliate, KRCG, and implied that his spouse might have left him for an additional man.

Joe Elledge
Joe Elledge gave an interview to CBS affiliate KRCG. He stated he wanted his spouse to return house safely, and that he and his daughter beloved her. He additionally implied that Mengqi might have run off with one other man.


JOE ELLEDGE (KRCG interview): I hope that she’s with – at the least with any individual who – who cares for her, you recognize, sufficient to maintain her protected.

Joe and his household employed lawyer Scott Rosenblum, who factors on the market have been intimate texts between Mengqi Ji and the person she was speaking with.

Peter Van Sant: Sexual in nature?

Scott Rosenblum: Very sexual.

Texts like this one the place she wrote, “I want you so much right now.” 

Peter Van Sant: And did she ever specific love for him in any of those communications?

Scott Rosenblum: She did.

The query was, had Mengqi run off to be with that man who lived in China, the place she was born?

Amy Salladay is the Ji household’s lawyer.

Amy Salladay: Mengqi was born throughout China’s One-Child Policy. But Ke Ren, Mengqi’s mom, would say that “We only ever wanted one child. We wanted to give all of our love to this child.”

Yáo Li: Mengqi is just like the — the child all of the dad and mom would need.

Yáo Li is a Chinese immigrant, and an assistant prosecutor in Boone County, who helped Dan Knight talk with Mengqi’s dad and mom.

Yáo Li: They are actually, actually happy with her. … I understand how onerous it’s to get right into a prime college in Shanghai and Beijing … the competitors … is de facto intense. …  And she did that.

Dan Knight: Then she got here to the University of Missouri in 2012 the place she completed up her undergraduate research after which she additionally obtained her grasp’s diploma in mechanical and aerospace engineering.

Peter Van Sant: This was a superb girl. Correct?

Dan Knight: Absolutely.

One of her professors employed her proper out of college at his biomaterials firm, “Nanova,” the place Joe additionally labored.

Dan Knight: Joe … grew up in Kansas City. … he then got here to the University of Missouri, and he studied engineering, and he met Mengqi at Nanova Biomaterials. … My understanding is, is that she was his supervisor.

Joe proposed on a path in Rock Bridge Memorial State Park referred to as “The Devil’s Icebox.”  Two weeks later, they have been married.

Boone County DA’s Office

The two rapidly fell in love, and a yr and 7 months into their relationship, Joe proposed. He took a knee on a path in Rock Bridge Memorial State Park referred to as “The Devil’s Icebox.”  Two weeks later, they have been married.

Dan Knight: I imagine there was a rush to get married as a result of Mengqi’s visa was about able to expire.

Yáo Li: It’s a very international idea for American residents to grasp the stress {that a} immigrant is going through … She’s absolutely succesful to assist herself financially. But she can’t get this inexperienced card. … So, this actually adjustments the facility dynamics of a wedding.

Nearly 5 months into the wedding, Mengqi was provided an enormous job.

Yáo Li: And then she discovered that she’s pregnant.

Mengqi and Joe determined she ought to flip down the job to be a full-time mother – regardless that, on the time, she was the only earnings earner. Joe had give up working to complete faculty. In October 2018, the newborn was born.

Yáo Li: So that is the dynamic of this marriage. Mengqi was fully remoted from all of the assist system that she will have. … the little child’s the one factor she has.

Her one lifeline was a day by day name along with her mom in China. It was their ritual. So, when Mengqi did not name on Oct. 9, 2019, her dad and mom despatched a pal dwelling close by to verify on her.

JOE ELLEDGE (police interview): You know, I advised him every part that occurred. I advised him that she simply hasn’t been right here for a pair days.

And it was solely after that go to — the day after he stated his spouse vanished — {that a} seemingly unconcerned Joe Elledge lastly referred to as police to report her lacking.

JOE ELLEDGE (to 311): Hi. I have to file a lacking particular person’s report.

He did not dial 911 – Joe referred to as the non-emergency 311.

Peter Van Sant: Do you discover that suspicious?

Dan Knight: Absolutely. Absolutely. … it might be pure for him to have reported this instantly.

Instead, Joe would inform police that the day he wakened and located his spouse lacking, he went on two lengthy leisurely drives in her car-with their child within the backseat-looking for brand new mountaineering trails.

JOE ELLEDGE (police interview): There’s this, there’s simply this massive space that is all – that is all inexperienced on the Google Maps. And so, I wished to go and see if there have been strolling paths again there.

Naturally, that raised eyebrows.

Joe Elledge police interview
Joe voluntarily sat for an intensive interview with the Columbia Police Department. Investigators quickly turned suspicious of his story, particularly after Joe described going for lengthy, leisurely drives to search for new mountaineering paths as an alternative of looking for his lacking spouse.

Boone County Prosecutor’s Office

DET. JON VOSS: Did you lock your door while you left the condo?


DET. JON VOSS: If she comes house, how is she gonna get again in? You’ve bought her keys and her automotive. Her cellphone’s in the home. She cannot even name anyone.

JOE ELLEDGE: Yeah, I do not know.

Detectives, and Dan Knight, suspected foul play. But there was no bodily proof: no blood, no weapon, no witnesses, no physique. There was additionally no proof that Mengqi took off with that man in China.

Dan Knight: And then additionally — it turned — obvious early on that Mengqi wouldn’t have deserted her little one, her 1-year-old daughter. … She was an incredible mom.

During his interview with detectives, Joe gave them entry to his cellphone — and on it they discovered one thing beautiful: 10 hours of secretly recorded conversations together with his spouse, like this one:

JOE ELLEDGE (audio recording): I want to focus on our relationship. And I’m kinda prepared to debate the tip of it as properly.

Dan Knight: Joe advised Mengqi … that he wished to divorce her.

JOE ELLEDGE (audio recording): I do not like being married (laughs) to you. I do not like dwelling with you. … It’s been a horrible relationship. I’m keen – to finish it.

Dan Knight: He was asking her whether or not or not she was going to mainly cooperate … And if not … was going to – he was going to inform the decide … “that she had been abusive to him.”

JOE ELLEDGE (audio recording): Should I point out in court docket that you just’re abusive to me? Should I ask them to-deport you?”

But that was nothing, says Dan Knight, compared to the nearly four-and-a-half hours of secretly recorded audio they found on Mengqi’s phone.

Peter Van Sant: What was on those conversations of significance?

Dan Knight: Unvarnished Joe Elledge.

JOE ELLEDGE (audio recording): If you keep acting this way, I’ve told you before, ain’t gonna be pretty.


JOE ELLEDGE (audio recording): What are you trying to do? … Are you trying to make me go crazy so that you can call the police on me and take my f*****’ baby away from me?

Mengqi Ji
About a yr earlier than Mengqi Ji would disappear,  she secretly recorded her husband Joe, going ballistic, for practically an hour.


It was Oct. 29, 2018, a few yr earlier than Mengqi Ji would disappear, when she secretly recorded her husband Joe, going ballistic, for practically an hour.

JOE ELLEDGE (audio recording): Do you need me to f****** break s***? Do you need me to harm any individual?”

It all began weeks earlier, after Mengqi gave start and her dad and mom flew in from China to stick with them. It is Chinese customized for grandparents to remain and assist for 100 days — a customized that infuriated Joe.

JOE ELLEDGE (audio recording): I do not need your mother right here … Your mother is inflicting issues … Your mother ought to f****** go away.

Dan Knight: What actually infuriated Joe was that Mengqi was standing as much as him and saying that she wanted her mom.

MENGQI JI (audio recording): If I do not care for my very own physique, my very own well being, it isn’t accountable for me … or this household –

JOE ELLEDGE: Yeah, I agree.

MENGQI JI: She’s serving to me to do this. And I do know it.

JOE ELLEDGE: I do not like that girl. And I do not assume it’s best to both.

Yáo Li: The rigidity was simply to the breaking level, and there is yelling, there’s cussing.

And Yáo Li says Joe actually despised it when Mengqi and her mom Ke Ren spoke Chinese in his presence.

Yáo Li: That’s a stressor for him.  Because every part that he does not perceive, he would assume the worst.

Mengqi and her parents
Mengqi, left, and her dad and mom throughout their go to from China to assist care for his or her granddaughter.

Amy Salladay

When Mengqi’s father returned to China, Joe determined to take again management, says Amy Salladay.

Amy Salladay: Mengqi’s mom was making Chinese dumplings … She’s making them for his birthday … And he does not like how she’s utilizing, utilizing the reducing board.

Dan Knight: I referred to as it the “cutting board incident.”

Prosecutor Dan Knight says it is an incident that appears petty, however it led to an explosive argument.

JOE ELLEDGE (audio recording): Don’t do my reducing board like that. I’m telling you, reducing board does not like that.

Dan Knight: He was demanding that his mother-in-law go away the residence instantly and completely, by no means to return.

Peter Van Sant: Did Mengqi’s mom stand as much as him? … and will which have triggered this reducing board incident?

Dan Knight: Mengqi’s mom, like Mengqi, was a Confucianist. She wished concord greater than anything. There was no standing as much as Joe.

JOE ELLEDGE: There’s gonna be some f****** issues if she tries staying … I’m gonna make it f****** go away.

MENGQI JI: The drawback …

JOE ELLEDGE: Yeah, you possibly can guess your ass on that.

Dan Knight: It was a one-way road. It was Joe’s method or the freeway.

MENGQI JI: You will not be a God. You do not perceive –

JOE ELLEDGE: I’m a f****** God … I say mother don’t remain right here, she don’t remain right here.

Mengqi pleaded with Joe to let her mom keep. He responded with insults and profanity.

JOE ELLEDGE: What the f*** is the matter with you? F****** brainless.

Dan Knight: He advised her that she was incapable as a result of she was a girl.

JOE ELLEDGE: You assume you are so empowered due to this society … You’re nonetheless only a girl.

Dan Knight: It was a calculated effort on his half to gaslight her, to attempt to brainwash her, to carry her underneath his management.

Joe was additionally threatening, explaining how he “conquers nature”- a cryptic remark that Dan Knight believes was a metaphor for wanting to harm Mengqi.

JOE ELLEDGE: You know the way I conquer nature? I f*****’ kill it. I seize its head and break its f****** neck. That’s the way you conquer f****** nature.

Yáo Li: Mengqi ‘s … mom, in fact, was in shock. It’s simply actually troublesome for her to grasp why this younger man is so mad and so indignant at her, at every part.

Mengqi felt so helpless that she referred to as Joe’s mom Jean Geringer, who drove two hours to attempt to mediate.

MENGQI JI: I’ve no alternative, I needed to name you. I’m sorry … He’s gonna come again and simply, I do not know, unpredictable factor’s gonna occur.

Mengqi recorded that assembly as properly.

JEAN GERINGER: I’m not right here to decide on sides. I’m right here to attempt to be impartial and simply give recommendation and steering.

Even in his mother’s presence, Joe was not shy about expressing hateful, even violent ideas about his mother-in-law.

JOE ELLEDGE: Do I simply smack her? Do I simply beat her down?

MENGQI JI: You wished to.

JOE ELLEDGE: I’ve that craving … sure.

JEAN GERINGER: You cannot …

JOE ELLEDGE: I’m not going to although …

JEAN GERINGER: … you possibly can’t go there.

Dan Knight: The proof that we – that we had was that he was making his mother-in-law, Ke Ren, kneel to him and bow to him.

Joe would ultimately apologize to his mother-in-law, however he nonetheless pressured to her go away earlier than the 100 days have been up.

Yáo Li: She thought that apology was honest. Or in any other case, she would not have left after which believing that issues would possibly get higher.

Yáo Li translated Mengqi’s journals for the prosecutor’s workplace, and says issues did not get higher. But Mengqi could not stroll away.

Yáo Li: And even she is confused of, “Why I just cannot get out of this relationship” … That’s her fixed query to herself.

Dan Knight thinks Mengqi felt trapped by her immigration standing.

Dan Knight: In simply 5 months she was set to have one other interview the place she could be making use of to get her everlasting inexperienced card.

Somewhat over two weeks after Mengqi vanished, the Columbia Police Department introduced it was opening a felony investigation into her disappearance. That similar day, police confirmed up at Joe’s condo.

Amy Salladay: He’s together with his mom. … The detectives on the scene have been asking her, “Where is Mengqi, do you know where she is?”

Joe Elledge booking photo
The Columbia Police Department introduced that they have been opening a felony investigation into Mengqi’s disappearance. The similar day  — 16 days after his spouse vanished — officers arrested Joe Elledge on suspicion of bodily little one abuse. 

AP through Boone County Sheriff’s Department

Joe was arrested — not in connection together with his spouse’s disappearance, however on suspicion that he had bodily abused their daughter.

ARRESTING OFFICER: We have change into conscious that there was some bruising … So, are you aware what we’re speaking about?


Dan Knight: This is thru Ke Ren, her mom. … Mengqi had advised her that she’d noticed … bruising on the buttocks. And Ke Ren  recommended that Mengqi confront  Joe about this. … and that Joe then … admitted that he had accomplished this … to the little lady.

ARRESTING OFFICER: Tell me precisely what occurred.

JOE ELLEDGE: She was crying loads one evening… I believe I pinched her butt somewhat bit.

Scott Rosenblum: To me, that was — a ruse to get him incarcerated.

Joe’s protection lawyer, Scott Rosenblum.

Scott Rosenblum: He was a younger mum or dad. Maybe he made a mistake. But there was no different indication that he was abusive in direction of his daughter. None by any means.

Joe was held on a $500,000 bond, his mom took custody of his daughter, and Dan Knight set about proving his idea about what occurred to Mengqi.

Dan Knight: I believed from just about the very starting this ultimately was gonna wind up being a homicide case. Things simply needed to develop.

Peter Van Sant: So, you are tellin’ me that these timber that we’re standing amongst proper now helped remedy a … case?

Dan Knight: Absolutely.


Dan Knight: On October twenty fifth, 2019, police executed a search warrant over at Joe Elledge’s and Mengqi’s condo.

That was the identical day Joe Elledge was arrested on suspicion of kid abuse. Mengqi had been lacking for somewhat over two weeks.

Prosecutor Dan Knight
 “These officers, they were on the ball. … they were able to find some things that were … great evidence in this case,” stated Prosecutor Dan Knight.

CBS News

Dan Knight: These officers, they have been on the ball. … they have been capable of finding some issues that have been … nice proof on this case.

Dan Knight: Police collected … from his backpack … writings, totally different writings.

Notes Joe had apparently written to himself about how to reply to questions from reporters and investigators.

Dan Knight: One of these I labeled as being a script, “what to tell the police.”

Dan Knight: Another factor that he had written was that he was to talk about Mengqi within the current tense moderately than the previous tense.

JOE ELLEDGE: She’s a really devoted particular person. Ah, she’s a tough employee and I actually like that.

Peter Van Sant: Why would a person who was claiming his spouse had walked away, should remind himself to not talk about her up to now tense?

Dan Knight: Because he killed her.

Detectives regarded for potential proof in each nook of the condo, and on a hunch, additionally took a muddy pair of Joe’s boots into proof.

Peter Van Sant: Just in case, down the street, they is perhaps related?

Dan Knight: Something was amiss, sure. And … they sensed it. And they took ’em.

The seek for Mengqi turned a hunt for her stays, beginning by retracing the lengthy, leisurely drives that Joe stated he took – together with his child within the backseat – whereas solely he knew that spouse was “missing.”

JOE ELLEDGE: We simply went driving and it was a very nice day and so I simply wished to exit.

But each lead was simply one other useless finish. So, Dan Knight made a daring transfer.

Dan Knight: I made a decision to go forward and file fees. Murder within the first diploma and not using a physique.

Charges have been filed whereas Joe was nonetheless in jail on abuse fees.

With Joe behind bars, Knight stepped up the seek for Mengqi’s physique.

Dan Knight: These are the cell tower information that we had on this case.

Peter Van Sant: This is his cellular phone then? Joe’s cellphone?

Dan Knight: That’s right.

According to Joe’s cellular phone information, he had spent half-hour by the Lamine River, the day he claimed Mengqi disappeared – one thing he had not advised police.

Mengqi's mom at memorial
After months of looking for Mengqi, authorities nonetheless could not discover her. Mengqi’s mom attended a memorial vigil in her honor on the Lamine River. 

Amy Salladay

Convinced her physique was right here, authorities looked for months. There was even a memorial on the river, attended by Mengqi’s mom.

Yáo Li: By March of 2020, we had actually given up … we wanted to do one thing to have the ability to say goodbye.

Then, a yr later, with Joe Elledge nonetheless awaiting trial, a hiker was making his method by means of a wooded space within the very park the place Joe had proposed to Mengqi. A flash of colour within the filth caught his eye. It was a handbag.

Dan Knight: He had this strolling stick. And he type of flipped that purse round just a bit bit. … He observed that there have been these footwear … And then … He noticed somethin’ that regarded like was possibly a- cranium … and actually, it was a cranium, Mengqi’s cranium.

Peter Van Sant: She had lastly been discovered?

Dan Knight: That’s proper. That’s proper. it was a miracle.

Yáo Li: I believe that is – that is the worst second for a mum or dad.

Yáo Li: I had a video convention with Mengqi’s dad and mom, who have been each again in China.

Yáo Li: They did not say something. All you s — see is their tears.

Mengqi Ji
Mengqi Ji


They now knew their daughter was useless — however how and why have been nonetheless a thriller. Sadly, even the health worker’s workplace could not say what killed Mengqi.

Peter Van Sant: Was there injury to her bone construction that —

Dan Knight: Yes.

Peter Van Sant: Unnatural injury?

Dan Knight: Yes, there was. Four … ribs have been damaged right through.

Peter Van Sant: Do you imagine that these damaged ribs are proof of bodily abuse, of a bodily assault?

Dan Knight: Of a large, catastrophic blow to her again, all the best way, these by means of and thru breaks that she would have been in agonizing ache.

Dan Knight was constructing a idea of what occurred to Mengqi-and gadgets collected a few year-and-a-half earlier, have been about to change into key. For one factor, Joe’s cellular phone information put him close to Mengqi’s burial website the day he reported her lacking.

Peter Van Sant: What have been the climate situations like that day?

Dan Knight: Unfortunately for Joe however fortuitously for justice, it was raining.

Knight had these muddy boots — and a hunch was about to repay.

Dan Knight: As you possibly can see proper right here, there’s soil that’s caked onto these boots.

Mud and gravel on the soles of Joe’s boots have been despatched out for evaluation, together with foliage caught within the mud.

Dan Knight: We’ve bought 12 several types of vegetation in these boots.

Mud and gravel on the soles of Joe’s boots have been despatched out for evaluation, together with foliage caught within the mud.

District Attorney Dan Knight/Boon County DA’s Office

Dan Knight determined to ship Joe’s boots to a lab on the Missouri Botanical Garden, the place juniper tree needles have been fastidiously faraway from the soles for DNA testing.

Peter Van Sant: Plants have DNA identical to individuals?

Christine Edwards: Absolutely, yeah. Every organism, each dwelling organism within the planet has DNA.

Christine Edwards is a plant inhabitants geneticist who by no means dreamed she’d change into a CSI investigator in a homicide case.

Christine Edwards: They wished to see if there was a way that we may match the vegetation within the boots to the … website the place a girl’s stays have been discovered.

Christine Edwards: These are two samples that have been collected from … the left boot proper right here.

Christine Edwards: Once we knew that we may get usable DNA out of the – the forensic samples that we took from the boots, then we wanted to match them to the – the timber on the website.

Mengqi burial site
After fastidiously eradicating the needles caught to the underside of Joe Elledge’s boots and extracting their DNA,  Alex Linan, was assigned to climb a number of juniper timber surrounding Mengji’s grave. He meticulously numbered every tree after which scaled them one after the other, selecting contemporary needles from the very best branches.

CBS News

Edwards’ colleague was tasked with accumulating pattern needles from the juniper timber surrounding Mengqi’s gravesite.

Peter Van Sant: How do you do it? Pick it up off the bottom or go as much as the timber?

Alex Linan: So, now we have to go all the best way as much as the timber. And this concerned a ladder and a ten, 15-foot-long pole pruner in order that we may guarantee that the needles that we have been getting got here from the precise tree that it was. So, we could not simply get it from the bottom. It needed to be from the tree.

Each pattern was saved and numbered, and again on the lab, they have been in comparison with the needles discovered on Joe’s boots.

CBS News

Each pattern was saved and numbered, and again on the lab, they have been in comparison with the needles discovered on Joe’s boots.

Christine Edwards (pointing to a monitor): These two traces listed here are the genotype of one of many samples from the boot. … And this one is from the tree that’s overhanging the gravesite. And as you possibly can see, the traces match up.

Peter Van Sant: And that second for you while you realized you had a match?

Christine Edwards: Yeah, It … was actually thrilling. … “We got him.” … He was there.

Peter Van Sant: No doubt he was there.

Christine Edwards: No doubt in my thoughts. He was there.

Peter Van Sant: Scientifically confirmed?

Alex Linan: Yes.

Peter Van Sant: Just like a fingerprint, identical to DNA, blood DNA that’s offered in trial, that is simply as dependable.

Alex Linan: Exactly. Exactly the identical know-how.

Peter Van Sant: So, what you are telling me is, these timber which are throughout us right here performed a job in fixing a homicide? 

Alex Linan: Absolutely. Yes. 

Dan Knight says it is solely the second homicide case he is aware of of the place tree DNA has been used as proof.

Dan Knight: The partitions have been closing in on Joe. So, I anticipated at trial for there to be one other protection, in addition to … “Oh, Mengqi must’ve just run off and gone to China.”

And Dan Knight was proper.


On Nov. 1, 2021, Joe Elledge went on trial for the homicide of his spouse, Mengqi Ji.

SCOTT ROSENBLUM (opening assertion): The query is … what occurred in that condo?

And Joe’s lawyer Scott Rosenblum pivoted to a brand new rationalization about what occurred to Mengqi. Joe did not imply to kill his spouse.

SCOTT ROSENBLUM (opening assertion): What occurred was a tragic accident.

Defense attorney Scott Rosenblum
Faced with the truth that Joe was now positioned on the scene of Mengqi’s  burial website, Joe Elledge’s protection lawyer, Scott Rosenblum offered a brand new story at trial. He argued that Joe did actually kill his spouse, however it was a tragic accident. 

Don Shrubshell/Columbia Daily Tribune through AP, Pool

Thanks to a juniper tree and its DNA, Joe may not declare that Mengqi had run away. He now needed to admit that he buried his spouse in a shallow grave.

SCOTT ROSENBLUM (opening assertion): He had no intent, not — actually not homicide. That’s not even shut.

Joe did have one thing to do with Mengqi’s demise, stated Rosenblum, however it was not homicide. He took jurors again to Oct. 8, 2019, the day Mengqi died.

SCOTT ROSENBLUM (opening assertion): And as they go into the night hours … he asks her if he – if she desires a therapeutic massage. Joe proceeds and … Tries to provoke intercourse. She rebuffs him. She says no.

Joe now admits he knew about his spouse’s on-line affair with that man in China, Rosenblum stated. And on this evening, he confronted her.

SCOTT ROSENBLUM (opening assertion): He’s upset, he is harm, and he desires to take his daughter for a stroll. … She lunges in direction of him and pushes him … and he pushes her … Pushes her into the countertop.

Joe claims that is when Mengqi broke her ribs. The protection referred to as Dr. Keith Norton, the pathologist who performed Mengqi’s post-mortem, and he stated it was potential.

DR. KEITH NORTON: Yes, however it must be a really forcible push.

Peter Van Sant: Does Joe keep that she initiated this bodily encounter?

Scott Rosenblum: 100%.

Peter Van Sant: She got here after him?

Scott Rosenblum: Well, I imply … she wished to stop him from leaving with their daughter.

Peter Van Sant: He claimed in his new story that she attacked him … Do you purchase any of that?

Dan Knight: Of course not.

Mengqi Ji and Joe Elledge
Joe Elledge and Menqi Ji.

District Attorney Dan Knight/Boone County DA’s Office

Peter Van Sant: Look on the dimension distinction right here.

Dan Knight: Of course not. He’s twice as massive as her. 

SCOTT ROSENBLUM (opening assertion): And once more, she lunges at him and … he pushes her away … and she or he falls this time on her again and he hears the thud of her head hitting the bottom.

Joe claims Mengqi was knocked practically unconscious after which bought up and went to mattress. In the morning, when the newborn began crying, Mengqi did not get up.

SCOTT ROSENBLUM (opening assertion): He’s type of violently shaking her. Are you all proper? Are you — all proper? And it’s abundantly clear at that cut-off date that his spouse is useless.

Peter Van Sant: Why did Joe lie?

Scott Rosenblum: He … he was scared. … He made a alternative, an erratic, irrational alternative.

Peter Van Sant: Is that somebody who’s in a panic state, or is {that a} killer who’s attempting to – to cowl up his crime?

Scott Rosenblum: I imagine … it was, uh, proof of maximum panic.

Dan Knight (at burial website): That story was very intelligent, however it … wasn’t what occurred.

Prosecutor Dan Knight says all of the proof he wants that Joe’s story is made up are these 4 damaged ribs.

Mengqi Ji's broken ribs
Mengqi was discovered with 4 damaged ribs, an harm that Prosecutor Dan Knight believes exhibits that she was killed in a violent confrontation

District Attorney Dan Knight/Boone County DA’s Office

Peter Van Sant: You know the way painful it’s to interrupt a single rib … She would’ve needed to have been to a hospital, proper?

Dan Knight: Oh, positive. There’s little question about it.

Knight says he retains going again to Joe’s story about giving Mengqi a therapeutic massage that evening and believes that is when he killed her.

Dan Knight: I do not know if he put his fingers round her neck and he strangled the life out of her. I do not know if he, possibly, pressured her face right into a pillow. … But I do know one factor for positive. That homicide was horrific.

A premeditated homicide says Knight, fueled by months of rising anger.

Dan Knight: He hated Mengqi with every part he had.

JOE ELLEDGE (audio):  I’ll discover a happier life. F*** this s***. I ain’t – I ain’t joyful right here.

Joe took the stand in his personal protection, and insisted that he beloved his spouse, regardless that there was rigidity within the marriage.

Joe Elledge trial
Joe Elledge spent two days on the witness stand. 

Don Shrubshell/Columbia Daily Tribune through AP, Pool

SCOTT ROSENBLUM: You would have these arguments, you each felt you have been misunderstand (sic), then there’d be a reconciliation and you’ll love one another.

JOE ELLEDGE: That’s proper.

The protection tried to get jurors to narrate to the sometimes-stormy nature of Joe and Mengqi’s marriage; moments of arguing widespread with many {couples}. Joe claimed his spouse was accountable for a lot of the stress.

JOE ELLEDGE (on the stand): Uh, she would increase her voice – uh, yelled … And, uh, she would not – hearken to me very properly.

Amy Salladay: They wished to color her because the aggressor … they wished individuals to really feel prefer it was her fault.

Amy Salladay and Yáo Li have been within the courtroom, recurrently texting updates to Mengqi’s mom – who was unable to journey.

Yáo Li: She did not imagine a little bit of it. And – um – that was very emotional for her.

When Dan Knight lastly had his likelihood to query Joe Elledge, he point-blank requested Joe how he killed the mom of his little one.

Prosecutor Dan Knight
Prosecutor Dan Knight performed these secret audio recordings between Joe and Mengqi exhibiting them arguing, together with Joe telling Mengqi she was “brainless.”  Knight advised Peter Van Sant that the recordings helped set up motive. 

Don Shrubshell/Columbia Daily Tribune through AP, Pool

DAN KNIGHT: Did you possibly rise up on prime of her and soar on prime of her again?


DAN KNIGHT: Did you suffocate her?


After practically two weeks of testimony detailing the audio recordings, digital proof, cell tower information, and the tree DNA linking Joe to Mengqi’s burial website, each side delivered their closing arguments. Rosenblum requested for manslaughter, “Return the right verdict,” and Dan Knight requested for first-degree homicide.

DAN KNIGHT: She deserves justice women and gents! Mengqi deserves justice!

Amy Salladay: We have been all nervous. And we hoped that the jury would see the case the best way that we noticed it.


Amy Salladay: We’ve all come to know Mengqi … and so I believe all of us felt that connection to her. And we hoped that justice could be served.

It was 7 p.m. on Nov. 11, 2021, and after deliberating for practically seven hours, the jury had its verdict.

Joe Elledge trial
After a 10-day trial, each side delivered closing arguments. Defense lawyer Scott Rosenblum reiterated that it was all a tragic accident and argued for manslaughter.  Dan Knight argued that Mengqi’s demise was premediated and requested for first-degree homicide.  Neither aspect bought what they wished. The jury discovered Joe Elledge responsible of second-degree homicide, that means that they did not see Mengqi’s homicide as premediated. 

Alessia Tagliabue/Missourian through AP, Pool

JUDGE: Mr. Elledge would you please stand to obtain the decision. … We the jury discover the defendant Joseph Duane Elledge responsible of homicide within the second diploma.

Guilty of second-degree homicide. The jury believed that Joe killed Mengqi, however not with premeditation. Yáo Li says Mengqi’s dad and mom have been very happy.

Yáo Li: They weren’t nervous a few conviction in any respect. … They imagine this can be a honest system.

But the day wasn’t over but. The jury would now hear testimony within the “penalty phase.”

Dan Knight: I needed to flip round in a short time late that evening and begin presenting proof.

Dan Knight wished life in jail. The protection requested for 10 years.

The state referred to as a number of of Mengqi’s mates, who spoke in regards to the influence of her demise.

QINYI WANG | Friend: I really feel very unhappy. And I really feel indignant.

FRIEND: That harm us, that make us big ache and large sorrow.

The protection referred to as just one witness to plead for mercy — Joe’s mom Jean Geringer.

JEAN GERINGER: It’s very disturbing. It’s heartbreaking as a result of it is so out of his character.

It was midnight when the jury bought the case once more. Somewhat over an hour later —

JUDGE: We the jury … declare the punishment for a time period of 28 years.

Dan Knight believes the jury gave Joe one yr for yearly of Mengqi’s brief life. Yáo Li knowledgeable Mengqi’s dad and mom.

Yáo Li: I do not assume … the numbers matter to them. I believe the reality issues essentially the most … that is what is irritating … I do not assume they may ever, ever know the entire reality of what truly occurred.

All they will hope for now’s to have the ability to increase their granddaughter in China, says household lawyer Amy Salida.

Amy Salladay: Her future is — is undetermined at this level.

Mengqi’s daughter now lives with Joe’s mom, however Mengqi’s dad and mom are in search of shared custody of the now 4-year-old.  

Amy Salladay: I hope that she will be raised to know her mom’s Chinese tradition and to know her mom’s household.

Scott Rosenblum says that whereas the newborn will at all times know her Chinese grandparents, she is in good fingers with Joe’s mom.

Scott Rosenblum: Jean and her husband are nice dad and mom. … She makes it her enterprise to incorporate — the maternal grandparents within the child’s life.

Dan Knight wouldn’t focus on the custody case however did say this in regards to the trauma already suffered by Mengqi’s daughter.

Dan Knight: Number one: she was within the condo on the time that Joe killed Mengqi, her mom. … considered one of today, she’s gonna discover out about that. … Second factor is when Joe drove round, the following day … Mengqi was within the trunk and … their little lady was strapped right into a automotive seat. … But the factor that she’s additionally gonna discover out about is that Joe … would’ve been simply tremendous along with her going the remainder of her life pondering that her mom deserted her.

Mengqi Ji
Mengqi Ji’s legacy of accomplishment, dedication and love lives on in her child lady, and within the hearts of these whose lives she touched.


Amy Salladay: I need her daughter to know that she was an incredible mom. She was devoted. She beloved her with all of her coronary heart. … I need her to be remembered for her smile and the way pleasant and outgoing she was.

Mengqi Ji’s legacy of accomplishment, dedication and love lives on in her child lady, and within the hearts of these whose lives she touched.

Yáo Li: Everybody sees the goodness in her. That’s why all people’s so related along with her.

A call within the custody case is anticipated by the tip of this month.  

If you or somebody you recognize is a sufferer of home abuse, name 1-800-799-SAFE or go to  

On June 4, 2022, Dan Knight who labored so onerous to get justice for Mengqi, died unexpectedly. 

Boone County DA’s Office

Prosecutor Daniel Knight died on June 4, 2022. 

Produced by Judy Rybak and Emily Wichick. Ryan N. Smith is the event producer. Shaheen Tokhi is the affiliate producer. Michael Loftus is the printed affiliate. Michael McHugh is producer/editor. Doreen Schechter, Michelle Harris and Phil Tangel are the editors. Peter Schweitzer is the senior producer. Nancy Kramer is the manager story editor. Judy Tygard is the manager producer.  


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