Joseph Elledge, who prosecutors have repeatedly said in court is responsible for the disappearance of his wife, was charged Wednesday with first-degree murder.
Documents filed with the charges state that in the months before her disappearance, Mengqi Ji had asked a former boyfriend about finding a divorce attorney.
The documents also state that while Elledge discovered his wife was missing at 5 a.m. on Oct. 9, he did not tell anyone Mengqi Ji was gone until a friend of his wife's came to their home at 9 a.m. Oct. 10 to ask why Ji had missed her daily call to her mother in China the day before.
Elledge did not report his wife was missing to police until 3:35 p.m. Oct. 10, almost 36 hours after he found she was gone without taking her car, house keys or purse.
"Police have not been able to locate any signs of life for Mengqi since (Oct. 8) as determined by her lack of contact with her husband, abandonment of her one-year-old child, lack of online activity, lack of contact with her friends, lack of contact with her parents, and lack of financial activity," Columbia Police Department detective Alan Mitchell wrote in a probable cause statement.
Mitchell wrote that investigators believe Elledge lied about his activities in the hours after his wife disappeared. In his first interview with officers on Oct. 10, Elledge told investigators that on Oct. 9, he made two long drives, the second a trip to Rocheport. He said he returned home directly from Rocheport at about 10 p.m.
Evidence taken from his cell phone, however, showed that instead of driving east from Rocheport to Columbia, he drove west into Cooper County to a spot near where Highway 41 passes over the Lamine River.
He spent approximately 45 minutes in that location, detective Alan Mitchell of the Columbia Police Department wrote.
That is the area where police spent more than two weeks intensively searching for Ji's remains in November and December.
"Police used two cadaver K-9 units on the Lamine River in the area of Highway 41," Mitchell wrote. "Both dogs alerted to the presence of human decomposition in the river."
The complicated nature of the river means a comprehensive search has not been possible, Mitchell wrote.
When the charges were filed, Elledge was being held in the Boone County Jail on charges of child abuse and child endangerment, with a $500,000 cash-only bond. For the murder charge, Boone County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Knight asked for a cash bond of $5 million.
Elledge had been scheduled to go on trial Feb. 25 on the child abuse and endangerment charges. The trial was canceled Feb. 7 after Elledge asked for a change of venue. The jury is to be selected in Warren County when the trial takes place.
Knight, who is litigating the case personally, did not return a call to his office just minutes before closing on Wednesday. Throughout the child abuse case, he has identified Elledge as the prime suspect in her death.
The probable cause statement written by Mitchell provides a number of new details about how Elledge acted in the hours after he said his wife disappeared.
The narrative starts with the statement Elledge gave Oct. 10 at their Eastwood Drive home.
He told officers that he last saw his wife at 11:30 p.m. Oct. 8, when he went to bed. When he awoke at 5 a.m. Oct. 9 because their daughter was crying, she was gone. The pajamas she was wearing were there and her car and keys were there, he said.
At 10:30 a.m., he took his daughter on a drive to Jefferson City, a place he had never been, Elledge told officers. When he arrived, he turned around and drove back.
At 6:30 p.m., Elledge told officers, he drove to the area east of Ashland to visit the Mark Twain National Forest, which he believed would be an area he could take his daughter for a walk. Finding only farm fields, he drove back toward Columbia and on to Rocheport.
"On both trips that Joseph made, he stated he locked the door to the residence and did not leave a note for Mengji saying where he and the child had gone or when they would return," Mitchell wrote.
In a second interview, on Oct. 15, Elledge was asked where he thought Ji was.
"Joseph stated he did not want to think about it because he had class; he was in the last semester of school before graduation, and just wanted to focus on school and his child," Mitchell wrote.
A search warrant served at Elledge's home Oct. 25 found documents with a written statement that "closely matched the statement provided during his interview with police," he wrote. "There was also a document that outlined tips for interviews that included a reminder to refer to Mengqi in the present tense when speaking about her."
Mitchell noted that in an Oct. 15 interview with KRCG-TV, Elledge referred to his wife in the past tense.
The investigation also turned up other evidence of tension in the couple's relationship.
Ji's mother, Ke Ren, told investigators that Elledge "was a controlling husband who did not allow Mengqi to have a social life."
He became upset if she left the residence to meet with friends, she told officers.
Conversation recorded on Ji's cell phone between the two were hostile, with one including a statement from Elledge that "I'm ready to be done with you forever."