The grandparents of a missing woman's child are poised for a custody battle.

Mengqi Ji Elledge's parents, Ke Ren and Xiaolin Ji, have filed for custody in her child's guardianship case. The paternal grandmother, Jean Elledge, filed a petition for custody Tuesday, according to court records.

Mengqi Ji Elledge went missing Oct. 9, and her husband, Joseph Elledge, is the subject of an active investigation into her disappearance. He was also charged with child abuse and neglect and is being held in the Boone County Jail on a $500,000 bond, according to previous Missourian reporting.

A probable cause statement from the Columbia Police Department said that Joseph Elledge was found trying to leave Columbia with Jean Elledge and his daughter, according to previous Missourian reporting.

Amy Salladay, the attorney representing Ke Ren and Xiaolin Ji, said that her clients must have the opportunity to intervene in Jean Elledge's custody petition, according to a Friday news release from Salladay. She cited "uncertainty in who all was involved" in Mengqi Ji Elledge's disappearance.

The police department and the Elledge family did not contact Ke Ren and Xiaolin Ji to inform them of their daughter's disappearance, according to the release.

The couple said in a translated statement Sunday that Jean Elledge also filed her motion to gain custody of their granddaughter without notifying them. They said they were "baffled and confused" by the decision, and that they are the best guardians for their granddaughter.

"She should not go through any more trauma," they said in the statement.

Steven Sapp, spokesperson for the City of Columbia, said that more context was needed. 

"Mengqi's parents, through Mengqi's friends, were aware she had not been seen or in contact with family or friends before her husband reported Mingqi missing to Columbia Police," said Sapp in an email obtained by the Columbia Missourian. "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."

Neither Salladay, nor Garrett Taylor, the attorney representing Jean Elledge, could be reached for comment Saturday.

The case will be the subject of a closed hearing 2 p.m. Monday.

Supervising editor is Claire Colby.

  • I'm a state government 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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