An Illinois company that specializes in using sonar to search for objects lost in water failed Friday in efforts to locate the body of Mengqi Ji Elledge.
Team Watters Sonar and Recovery Inc. spent two hours surveying the area of the Lamine River that has been the focus in the search for Elledge, missing for two months. Co-owner Dennis Watters said Friday’s search was full of wood and debris but no sign of Elledge.
“This river has so much debris in the bottom of it that finding somebody in there with sonar is gonna be really tough,” he said.
The short search with sonar gave the team a clear picture that was not possible before, he said.
“We used two kinds of sonar today. (It) chirps a sound out, records it, and it comes back and develops an image, very defined image,” Watters said. “Lots of wood and lots of fish.
Watters said that if her body had been placed in that area of the river, the current could change the location based on how long she has been missing.
“The other issue is the amount of lapse time. It’s not likely that the person would still be right here if they were put in right here. ... We think it would be further down, if not in the Missouri (River) by now,” Watters said.
The sonar equipment was out of the water by noon Friday, concluding another week of searching at the location where Missouri 41 crosses the river north of I-70.
“They’re gonna consult with the sheriff and see if they want to do this whole creek or what’s next here,” Watters said. “But there’s so much wood underwater that … finding someone or something with sonar would be the luckiest shot you ever took. There’s so much wood out there.”
In an email after Watters had spoken with reporters, Steve Sapp, director of community relations for the city of Columbia, said the search will continue and Friday’s information is not an end to the search in that area of the river.
“There are still reasons to believe that additional investigations of this area is still needed,” Sapp said. “Investigators continue to evaluate all of the information gathered from multiple resources to determine the next steps in this investigation.”
Elledge was reported missing Oct. 9. Authorities have said that her husband, Joseph Elledge, is a suspect in her disappearance. He is held in Boone County Jail on child abuse charges.
Joseph Elledge told authorities that he drove around rural areas outside Columbia before reporting his wife missing.