Missouri man who killed and buried his wife in state park sentenced to 28 years

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) – A judge on Friday sentenced a Missouri man to 28 years in prison – the maximum he can impose – for the 2019 murder of his wife, whose body he buried in a park in State and whose death he misled. authorities for over a year.

The sentence that Judge Brouck Jacobs handed down to Joseph Elledge, 26, was the one jurors recommended in November when they convicted Elledge of second degree murder in the murder of his wife, Mengqi Ji, 28.

Ji met Elledge after leaving China for the United States to study engineering at the University of Missouri.

Before Jacobs handed down his sentence, which could not exceed that recommended by the jury, Boone County District Attorney Dan Knight asked him to put Elledge behind bars for as long as he could, KOMU reported. TV.

“The accused deserves no break because he has shown no remorse,” Knight said. Knight also called Elledge “the biggest complainant in the history of Boone County Jail,” noting that he had filed 28 grievances about his temperature and the noise produced by his heating system, plumbing, faucets, his toilet and his television. Elledge called the rumors “cruel and unusual punishment.”

Elledge’s second degree murder conviction will require him to serve at least 85% of his sentence before being eligible for parole.

Elledge reported Ji’s disappearance in October 2019, which led to months of in-depth research. His remains were found last March in a park near Columbia, where the couple lived.

During the trial, Knight described Elledge as a “cold-blooded killer” and argued that he was guilty of first degree murder because he intentionally killed Ji. Prosecutors used social media posts, audiotapes and a diary maintained by Elledge to document the couple’s volatile relationship.

But Elledge said Ji’s death was accidental. He said Ji fell and hit her head on October 8, 2019, after pushing her during an argument, and found her dead in bed the next morning. He said he panicked, put his body in the trunk of his car and didn’t report what happened while he was trying to decide what to do.

On October 10, 2019, with the then-elderly couple’s daughter in the car, Elledge drove to Rock Bridge State Park, about five miles south of Columbia. There, he dug a grave and buried Ji not far from where he had proposed to her. He then returned home and reported her missing.

Elledge’s attorney, Scott Rosenblum, argued that his client was clumsy and made “unbelievably stupid” decisions after Ji’s death, but that he never intended to kill his wife and shouldn’t have been charged with murder. Rosenblum filed a motion for a new trial, but Jacobs denied it.

Elledge said he found out days before Ji’s death that she had exchanged sexually suggestive messages on social media with a Chinese man. He also said the couple’s relationship suffered because of the tensions caused by his parents, who left China to live with them after the birth of their daughter in October 2018.

But Knight said in an Associated Press interview Friday night that the defense “fabricated” the story that Ji’s death was accidental. Knight said Rosenblum said in a 2020 bond hearing that Ji “took off.”

He said he was unable to question Elledge or Rosenblum about the gap due to attorney-client privilege.

“I wish I had managed to convict him of first degree murder,” Knight said. ” This does not happen. The defense asked for an outright acquittal. We were much closer to getting what we wanted than defense.

The couple met in 2015 at Nanova, a company that makes dental products, where Ji was Elledge’s supervisor. They started dating the following year and eventually traveled to China, where Elledge asked Ji’s parents for permission to marry him. The couple married in 2017.

Ji received a master’s degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering from the University of Missouri in December 2014. Elledge was a college student when his wife passed away.

Family lawyer Amy Salladay said in a statement that Ji’s parents, Ke Ren and Xiaolin Ji, were grateful that Jacobs upheld the sentence recommended by jurors.

“Her husband was given a year for every year of his life,” Salladay said. “It doesn’t bring her back, it doesn’t make the nightmare of waking up every day and not being able to speak or seeing your child go, but it is justice in terms of what the US justice system can provide. “

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