COLUMBIA, Mo. – True-crime TV series 48 Hours will explore a high-profile, mid-Missouri murder case resolved in court earlier this year.
Mengqi Ji, a 28-year-old woman, went missing in Oct. 2019 while studying at the University of Missouri. In March 2021, a hiker at Rock Bridge Memorial State Park found her body after the police had looked for it for months.
Jurors convicted Ji’s husband, Joseph Elledge of second-degree murder in her death in November 2021. Earlier this year, a judge sentenced Elledge to 28 years in prison over Ji’s death and 10 years in prison over a separate child abuse case involving their daughter.
48 Hours will review the case in an upcoming episode titled “The Tree That Helped Solve a Murder.” Correspondent Peter Van Sant will provide an in-depth report on the case, including how Elledge’s boots and DNA from tree needles proved to be a critical piece of evidence to convict him.
“I’ve never heard of anything like this before in my entire career at 48 HOURS,” said Van Sant in email sent to FOX 2.
The episode will air at 9 or 10 p.m. Saturday on your local CBS Network affiliate and will be available for streaming on Paramount+.
How Ji died remains a mystery, but prosecutors have suggested Elledge strangled or suffocated her before taking her body to the area where her remains were found. Before his conviction, Elledge’s lawyers argued that Ji’s death was accidental.
Boone County Chief Prosecutor Dan Knight charged Elledge even before his wife’s body was found. According to the Associated Press, Knight called Elledge a “jealous, controlling, manipulative psychopath” in previous court hearings. He said that Elledge killed Ji to keep them from getting a divorce and to stop her from running away to China with their daughter.
According to a probable cause statement, Elledge played video games and contacted his mother and a friend during what he later said were the first hours that Ji was missing on Oct. 9, 2019, but did not tell them she was missing. A friend came to check on Ji the next day at the request of her mother, which prompted Elledge to report her disappearance.
Elledge, who had been married to Ji since 2017, told investigators that the couple’s relationship had been strained for several months and she had rebuffed his efforts to get closer.
Ji came to the U.S. from China and earned 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.