A Boone County judge heard more than five hours of testimony on the second day of a custody hearing for the 1-year-old child of a missing Columbia woman.

Mengqi Ji and Joseph Elledge’s child is the center of the custody dispute between Joseph Elledge’s mother, Jean Elledge, and Mengqi Ji Elledge’s parents, Ke Ren and Xiaolin Ji, who traveled from China when news of their daughter’s disappearance reached them.

In Tuesday’s hearing, Boone County Associate Circuit Judge Leslie Schneider ordered a no-contact order between Joseph Elledge and his daughter.

Amy Salladay, attorney for Mengqi Ji Elledge’s parents, said her clients felt relieved by that decision. Salladay said the parents also had the opportunity to speak with detectives from the Columbia Police Department during the hearing.

“There is still a lot of investigating to do and work to be done,” Salladay said.

Mengqi Ji Elledge was reported missing Oct. 9. Her husband, Joseph Elledge, 24, was arrested Oct. 25 and charged with child abuse and neglect in connection with a February incident in which bruise marks were discovered on the child’s buttocks. He is also under investigation in connection to the disappearance of his wife.

In a letter sent to the news media last weekend, the parents expressed how they were not informed by the Elledge family or the Police Department when their daughter was reported missing.

They were also “baffled and confused” by Jean Elledge’s motion to gain custody of the child.

Columbia police did not say in an email sent Tuesday afternoon whether the department attempted to contact Mengqi Ji’s parents about their daughter’s disappearance.

“Mengqi’s friends made the parents aware when police were contacted as they were the best medium of communicators due to language differences and their relationship to Mengqi’s parents,” according to an email sent by Columbia Police spokesperson Jeff Pitts.

Mengqi Ji’s parents want to find out what happened, Salladay said.

“They want answers. They also want the very, very best for their granddaughter, and so they were able to talk about that (in court Tuesday) and what they think is in her best interest,” Salladay said.

“I think that the next several weeks will be interesting in terms of what happens,” Salladay said.

She would not say who has custody of the child.

Joseph Elledge is being held in the Boone County Jail on a $500,000 cash bond. He is scheduled for a bond hearing at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Supervising editors are Katherine Reed and Kaleigh Feldkamp.

  • Investigative and courthouse reporter. I am a senior pre-law student studying data journalism at The University of Missouri's School of Journalism. Reach me at huntergilbert@mail.missouri.edu or @ByHunterGilbert on Twitter

  • I'm a Public Safety & Health beat reporter at the Columbia Missourian, with past lives as a data scientist, academic researcher and defense contractor. You can reach me at spencernorris@mail.missouri.edu.

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