A Missouri man pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder Tuesday in the presumed death of his Chinese wife, who hasn't been seen since last year.

COLUMBIA — A Missouri man pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder Tuesday in the presumed death of his Chinese wife, who hasn't been seen since last year. 

Joseph Elledge was charged in February with murder in the death of Mengqi Ji Elledge, 28, of Columbia, although her body has not been found.

During a court appearance via video, Elledge also waived his formal arraignment. His attorney sought a continuance in the case and a status update hearing was set for June 26, KRCG-TV reported.

Elledge also pleaded not guilty in March to domestic assault and child abuse charges related to the couple's young daughter. 

Prosecutors allege Elledge strangled or suffocated his wife because he wanted to avoid a costly divorce and to prevent her from fleeing to China with their daughter. Law enforcement officials have repeatedly searched an area in the Lamine River, where police believe her body was dumped.

Elledge and Ji married in 2017 and attended the University of Missouri.

On Tuesday, Columbia police spokesman Jeff Pitts said crews are waiting for more heavy equipment from the Columbia's Public Works department to help with the searching in areas of the river that may have missed.