Man Accused of Killing Wife Wrote Note to Himself to Remember to Reference Her in Present Tense

A Missouri man charged Wednesday with murder in his wife’s presumed death created a note reminding himself to speak about the still-missing woman “in the present tense” after she vanished in October.

The note is revealed in a probable cause statement obtained by PEOPLE that lays out the case against Joseph Elledge, 23, who did not report his wife, Mengqi Ji Elledge, 28, for more than 36 hours after she went missing from their Columbia home, according to police.

Prosecutors allege she was murdered on October 8, the date that her husband reported he last saw her as she went to bed.

In the hours that followed, according to the statement, Joseph’s cell phone data shows he traveled a route that “took him to an area that included a secluded river access point after dark,” and spent about 45 minutes near the Lamine River.

His cell phone data also yielded recorded conversations between the couple in which Joseph is allegedly “openly hostile and at times threatening” to his wife, according to the statement, and included a June 2019 recording in which Joseph told her, “I’m ready to be done talking to you forever.”

During another phone recording from August 2019, Joseph told his wife he wanted a divorce but was “concerned about spending a lot of money” to obtain it, the affidavit states.

“We’re going to prove he killed his wife in this trial,” Boone County prosecutor Dan Knight said earlier this month at a court hearing on unrelated charges filed against Joseph, reports the Columbia Missourian.

Police earlier said “foul play” was suspected in the wife’s disappearance, but until Wednesday Joseph had only been charged with abuse or neglect of a child. That charge stemmed from the investigation into the wife’s disappearance, after a woman alerted police on Oct. 18 that Megqi had called her in February 2019, claiming to have photos that showed a female child’s bruised buttocks, according to that probable cause document, reports TV station KRCG.

Joseph allegedly promised the child’s mother — who was not initially named — not to strike the child again, according to the document. But the mother nonetheless forwarded a photograph of the child’s bruising to a third party, and police who recovered the mother’s iPad located additional images and videos of the injury.

Interviewed by police soon after his wife’s disappearance, Joseph allegedly acknowledged that he’d caused the child’s bruises, and said the child had been crying and would not stop, according to the document. He was arrested the same day on the abuse accusations and booked on a $500,000 bond. His attorney, John O’Connor, entered a plea of not guilty to those charges at Joseph’s arraignment last October.

Mengqi is a Chinese national who relocated to Columbia to complete her master’s degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of Missouri, where Joseph was also a student.

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Since his arrest on the child abuse and neglect charges, Joseph has been in Boone County jail on a $500,000 bond. 

Husband Spoke to Media After Wife’s Disappearance

In an interview with KRCG 10 days prior to that arrest, Joseph said he and Mengqi “were growing kind of distant in the past few months.” He also said: “I know she was talking to somebody else on the side. I didn’t know that until she had left.”

“I don’t know where she could have gone,” he told the outlet. “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.”

At the time, he expressed hope for her return, telling KRCG: “I think she is confused and scared.”

Joseph’s attorney declined to comment on the charge. He has not yet entered a plea to the murder charge or been arraigned in that case.

The search for the missing woman continues.

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