Missing Persons Case Spirals into Custody Battle
On October 8, 2019, Mengqi Ji Elledge went missing. The 28-year-old Chinese woman was married to, and had a child with, Joseph Elledge, who was recently arrested for child abuse and neglect, and is now the primary suspect in her disappearance.
While Elledge is held in the Boone County Jail on a $500,000 bond and investigators search for evidence of foul play, the parents of Mengqi Ji and Joseph Elledge fight for custody of their granddaughter, Anna.
As evidenced by a demonstration outside of the courtroom, the public seems to favor the parents of Mengqi Ji, who are represented by our very own Amy Davis Salladay.
Before diving into the case, know that our team at Columbia Family Law Group, LLCis here for you for all child custody concerns. If you or your child is the victim of domestic violence, call us at (573) 662-4514 ASAP.
Joseph Elledge’s Arrest
Joseph Elledge reported his wife’s disappearance on October 9 at 5:45 p.m. Mengqi Ji was last seen at their residence in the 2600 block of Eastwood Drive on Tuesday, October 8 at approximately 11:30 p.m. According to Joseph, he woke up on the morning of October 9, and his wife was nowhere to be found.
Elledge became a suspect when police discovered he “took a long drive through unfamiliar remote areas of Mid-Missouri,” during the time he said his wife went missing. While investigators had probable cause, Elledge was not brought into custody for murder charges. Columbia Spokesperson Steve Sapp said:
“during the course of the missing person investigation, evidence of child abuse and neglect was discovered.”
On October 18, members of local law enforcement spoke to a woman who had received a call from Mengqi Ji Elledge in February 2019. The anonymous source said Mengqi had taken photos of her daughter’s bruised buttocks. During a law enforcement interview with Joseph Elledge on Oct. 25, he admitted to bruising the child, claiming he may have “pinched her or held her too hard.” Police, however, determined the purple, blue, and yellow injury to be more consistent with a strike. Elledge was charged with felony child abuse that same day and arrested on a $500,000 bond. His bond reduction hearing was denied by criminal prosecutors, who marked him as both a flight risk and the prime suspect in Mengqi Ji’s disappearance.
Who Will Care for Anna?
Shortly after Joseph Elledge was arrested on October 25, his mother filed for guardianship of his daughter. Mengqi Ji’s parents intervened in the case on November 1, requesting guardianship of the child themselves. On November 5, a judge entered a no contact order between Joseph Elledge and his infant daughter and granted equal custody to both sets of grandparents. On November 6, Elledge’s mother took the stand during her son’s bond hearing.
A Temporary Arrangement
On behalf of Mengqi Ji’s family, Attorney Salladay stated:
“[After] two days of hearings with multiple procedural issues involved, the parties agreed to a very limited, short term arrangement where they share custody of the child with Jean Elledge. [Mengqi Ji’s parents] do not believe that it is in the child’s best interests to continue this arrangement indefinitely or on a permanent basis. They continue to be concerned about Jean Elledge’s knowledge regarding Mengqi and that she has not been fully forthcoming with information she has related to Mengqi’s disappearance.”
Mengqi’s parents were “confused by Jean Elledge’s actions,” after discovering their daughter’s disappearance through a family friend. They tried to reach Joseph and Jean Elledge when their daughter failed to answer her phone on October 8 but ultimately discovered their daughter was missing via another source. Police were also unable to reach Jean Elledge until October 11; 2 days after Joseph Elledge reported Mengqi’s disappearance. A statement from local law enforcement also noted that Jean and Joseph Elledge were attempting to leave Columbia with Joseph and Mengqi’s child on the day of his arrest. Soon after, Jean filed for custody without informing Mengqi’s parents.
With the help of Amy Salladay, Mengqi’s parents want to prevent Anna from going through any more trauma, citing that it’s “what their daughter would have wanted.”
An Ongoing Investigation
Anyone who sees or hears from Mengqi Ji Elledge or has any information regarding her disappearance should call 911 immediately or contact the Columbia Police Department at (573) 874-7652.