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Authorities return to search for Mengqi Ji Elledge

Law enforcement agencies returned to the De Bourgmont Lamine River Access on Tuesday, to search for the missing Columbia mother.

The Columbia Police Department along with the Columbia Fire Department and a team of divers took a CFD boat east from the access point on the Lamine River.

A CPD detective said this is not the first time they have been back to the Lamine River in search for Mengqi Ji Elledge since the start of the new year.

"CPD will continue its efforts to locate Mengqi Ji Elledge in the area of the Lamine River," said Jeff Pitts, the CPD public information officer in an email to ABC 17 News on Tuesday. "There are no specific times or dates when operations may take place and some operations may occur on private property."

While CPD in earlier months had been communicating with media about which days they would be searching the Lamine River, they have not provided specific dates recently.

CFD assistant fire chief Brad Frazier said in an email to ABC 17 News, CFD had a boat along with other water rescue equipment and a team trained in water rescue recovery on the water. 

"It's not unusual for us to be asked to assist a neighboring municipality or department in water rescues where our training and equipment may be of use," Frazier said.

Earlier in the search Pitts said several logistical issues such as equipment access, water temperature, low visibility and the build-up of debris in the river continue to impact the search.

"In addition to those factors, rainfall alters the depth and flow rate of the river impacting the search team’s ability to effectively and safely search the area," Pitts said. "All of these factors are taken into consideration in determining the next steps in the search."

Boone County prosecutor Dan Knight said Mengqi Ji's husband Joseph Elledge is the prime suspect in her disappearance and possible murder.

Boone County grand jury indicted Joseph Elledge in December on one count of abuse or neglect of a child and two counts of first-degree endangering the welfare of a child.

The indictment for one of the first-degree charges of child endangerment said Joseph Elledge "created a substantial risk to the life and body and health of the child, separating them from Mengqi Ji."

Elledge, the husband of missing Columbia mother Mengqi Ji, pleaded not guilty to the three felony charges on Dec. 23.

Amy Salladay is representing the parents of Mengqi Ji in an ongoing custody case surrounding Joseph and Mengqi's child.

"Mengqi Ji's parents' top priority is the health, safety and welfare of their granddaughter," Salladay said. "They pray every day to know what happened to their daughter Mengqi Ji, to be able to bring her home, and to have a proper funeral for her."

On Dec. 19, the parents of Mengqi Ji Elledge, Ke Ren and Xiaolin Ji, asked a judge to give them control of her property and finances. They have filed a petition for a limited conservatorship, meaning they could manage her bank accounts, vehicle, credit cards and debts.

Mengqi Ji Elledge's parents want to deem their daughter as a partially disabled person due to her disappearance.

"Mengqi Ji has not been missing long enough to file a petition to establish her death so at this point a limited conservatorship is needed to manage her assets," said Salladay.

A jury trial for Joseph Elledge is scheduled for Feb. 25, at 9 a.m.

"Investigators continue to evaluate leads to determine when and by what means a search of the area may entail," Pitts said.

Stay with ABC 17 News as information continues to break on this case.

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Zach Boetto

Zach Boetto anchors the weekend morning and weekday 9 a.m. & noon newscasts for ABC 17. You can find up-to-the-minute information on Zach’s social media, @ABC17Zach on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.


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