A Boone County jury heard two different stories about how Menggi Ji died, during Tuesday’s opening statements in a high-profile Columbia murder trial.
Boone County Prosecutor Dan Knight says 26-year-old Joseph Elledge hated his wife, and insulted and threatened her. Elledge is charged with first degree murder for the October 2019 death of Ji. Her remains were found in March in a remote area of Rock Bridge state park, near Columbia.
Defense attorney Scott Rosenblum told the jury on Tuesday that Elledge confronted his wife because she allegedly was in an online relationship with a man from China. Rosenblum says the couple argued and pushed each other, and that Ji lost her balance and hit her head on the floor. Rosenblum says she was unconscious briefly, before getting up and going to bed.
Rosenblum says she later died of subdural hematoma, a buildup of blood on the brain. Rosenblum describes Ji’s death as an unintended accident.
Boone County Prosecutor Dan Knight disagrees, telling the jury that Elledge had threatened Ji before. Knight says Elledge was happy after she died, saying Elledge played video games in the days after her death and considered going to a Mizzou football tailgate party at Faurot Field in Columbia.
Rosenblum admits that Elledge lied to Columbia Police and to the news media, but notes prosecutors have not charged him with that.
They’ve charged him with first degree murder, which means premeditated murder. Rosenblum says Elledge panicked, after his wife died.
The jury is hearing from additional witnesses on this Wednesday morning. Judge Brouck Jacobs has set aside three weeks for the trial.