Nov 08, 2019 1:00 AM

Prosecutor: Husband 'prime suspect' in wife's disappearance

Posted Nov 08, 2019 1:00 AM

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — A prosecutor said a University of Missouri student is the "prime suspect" in the disappearance of his Chinese wife, and he played audio in court of the young husband saying he wanted a divorce "the sooner the better."

Joseph Elledge is a "jealous, controlling, manipulative psychopath," Boone County Chief Prosecutor Dan Knight said during a hearing Wednesday in which he argued that Elledge should remain in jail on his current $500,000 bond on a child abuse charge, the Columbia Missourian reported. The judge didn't rule on the bond matter at the hearing.

Elledge hasn't been charged in the disappearance of his 28-year-old wife of two years, Mengqi Ji Elledge, who was reported missing four weeks ago and with whom he shares a 1-year-old daughter. But Knight described him as the prime suspect in her disappearance and he played four audio recordings of the couple arguing.

In the recordings, Joseph Elledge can be heard saying "I don't like being with you," ''I'm eager to end it" and "I will bury the earth under you." Mengqi Ji Elledge can also be heard arguing with her husband, who raised his voice several times. At one point, he told her, "I know you want me to hit you," and, "This, it's not abusive."

Joseph Elledge took a long drive through unfamiliar remote areas of central Missouri before reporting his wife missing, a Columbia police detective wrote in the probable cause affidavit filed in the child abuse case. The abuse allegedly occurred in February and the girl's mother wanted to notify the police at the time, but she gave Elledge another chance after he promised he would never do it again, the detective wrote. She sent another person a photo of the bruising, however, and officers examining the mother's iPad found photos and videos of the bruising.

The defense, meanwhile, argued that Joseph Elledge's bond should be reduced, saying that Mengqi Ji Elledge had exchanged sexually explicit messages with another person. Little else was said during the hearing about the messages. A police detective clarified that officers hadn't yet gone through Mengqi Ji's phone, which police found along with her wallet, laptop and passport in the couple's apartment after her disappearance.

Joseph Elledge no longer has custody of his daughter. During Wednesday's hearing, his mother, Jean Elledge, testified that the dispute over custody of the child resulted in an arrangement granting equal custody to her maternal and paternal grandparents. Both sets of grandparents agreed on a no-contact order between Joseph Elledge and the child.

Police said Mengqi Ji Elledge's family has flown to Columbia so they can be present as the investigation unfolds. Mengqi Elledge received a master's degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering from the University of Missouri in December 2014. She previously attended the East China University of Science and Technology in Shanghai.

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Nov 08, 2019 1:00 AM
Removing King's name in Kansas City opens wounds, discussion

photo courtesy Save the Paseo


Associated Press

KANSAS CITY — Kansas City leaders and residents on Wednesday began what is likely to be a challenging conversation about how to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and recover from wounds inflicted during a nearly yearlong debate over naming a street for the civil rights icon in the majority white city.

On Tuesday, Kansas City voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure to rename a 10-mile boulevard from King's name back to The Paseo, which it has been called since it was completed in 1899. The vote came less than a year after the city council approved renaming the boulevard for King, after years of advocacy from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and mostly black civic leaders.

Representatives from both sides of the issue vowed Wednesday to find another way to honor King and perhaps show other cities how to peacefully unify around the issue. Diane Euston, a spokeswoman for the "Save the Paseo" group that led the successful petition drive, said the group has been brainstorming for months about ways to honor King if the ballot measure passed, and in a meeting last week with Mayor

Quinton Lucas, who strongly supported the King name, members made it clear they intend to be part of that conversation.

"I believe we are going to take positive strides," she said. "We can in the long run be an example across the nation about what unity is going to look like, what consensus looks like. The people have spoken, and people need to continue to speak in a positive manner in order to show Kansas City is an example of the democratic process while continuing to ensure we honor Martin Luther King."

Save the Paseo members, many of whom are black, said throughout the campaign that the effort to replace King's name was not about race. They contended the council didn't follow proper city process when it voted in January to rename the boulevard for King and didn't properly engage residents affected by the change. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference and other mostly black leaders accused Paseo supporters of being motivated by racism.

Kansas City is 60.3% white and 28.7% black, according to the U.S. Census. Whether the SCLC will join in the new discussions remains unclear. Its representatives didn't return messages Wednesday seeking reaction to the vote. Lucas, who is black and was on the city council when the name was changed, acknowledged that city leaders and the SCLC could have handled the renaming decision better and will learn from Tuesday's vote. He expects the community outreach and conversation to take some time but said that effort is important. "I think in terms of the next steps, most everybody I talked to remains committed to honoring Dr. King and his service to the country," Lucas said.

"We have a positive opportunity coming out of this. Every now and then we might need a painful start, but people want to make sure we get it right, that we get the collaboration right." Alissia Canady, a former city councilwoman who was one of the few black leaders in the city to object to renaming The Paseo, said she also sees the controversy as an opportunity to honor King but also address other issues such as crime and economic inequity. "We need to have a citywide conversation and be intentional about manifesting King's dreams, rather than just building another statue or duplicating what others have done," she said. "It's a huge opportunity for us to be innovative."

The next steps are crucial for Kansas City, both to heal from the campaign and to protect its national reputation, said Derek Alderman, a geography professor at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville who has studied the naming of streets for King for decades. Kansas City is one of the largest cities in the U.S. without a street named for King, in a country where, as of 2017, 955 U.S. cities had streets named for him. "It's a good sign that people are wanting to come forward and work with the city, but they need to understand it's going to require sacrifice," Alderman said. "It's not as easy as 'let's find a convenient street to name for Dr. King.'

They'll have to change the identity of a street they've known for a long time, with business and property owners to bear some costs, along with hard discussions of racism and exclusion. I'm not saying it should be divisive, but it needs to be accompanied with really genuine, hard conversations." U.S Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a former Kansas City mayor who unsuccessfully tried early on to negotiate a compromise on the naming issue, said he's concerned how Kansas City's image will suffer when pictures of city workers taking the King signs down are transmitted nationwide. That will occur at some point after the election board certifies Tuesday's results.

Cleaver said he chooses to believe most of the people who supported The Paseo name were not motivated by racial bias, but that message will be hard to communicate to others. When he called U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi Wednesday, the first thing Thompson said to Cleaver was "What in the world are you guys up in Kansas City doing?" Both men are black. "When you have to try and explain it, it's already a problem," Cleaver said. "You're trying to undo the beliefs that people have developed based on what they've seen and heard. It can take a long time to fix that damage."

Canady said Kansas City leaders can't be concerned about the optics of how the decision would look to others because they need residents' confidence to address larger problems and repair the relationships with those who believed their voices were not heard in the street naming debate. "This is a huge opportunity for Kansas City to be spotlighted for how it unified and engaged people in the civic process in a way we haven't seen in years," she said. "Hopefully as we go forward we can start with a clean state and consider all the possibilities."