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Supporters gather outside Boone County Courthouse in custody battle over missing woman’s daughter

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COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

A group supporting the family of a missing woman as they seek custody of her daughter gathered Monday outside the Boone County Courthouse while a judge heard arguments inside.

Roughly 116 people also signed a letter sent to Boone County judge Stephanie Morrell telling her to award custody of Anna Elledge to Mengqi Ji Elledge's parents.

Elledge's parents last week filed to intervene in the custody suit.

Mengqi Elledge has been missing since Oct. 8. Her husband, Joseph Elledge, is being held in the Boone County Jail on suspicion of child abuse.

Her parents, Ke Ren and Xiaolin Ji, filed for guardianship after Anna's paternal grandmother, Jean Elledge, filed for guardianship last week, according to the family's attorney.

After the hearing Monday, Amy Salladay, Ke Ren and Xiaolin Ji's attorney, said there was no resolution on Anna's guardianship.

"This family remains committed to finding out what happened to their daughter," Salladay said. "They're hopeful that more information is going to come forward and they just want resolution."

"If this is granted, we will be providing clothing, food, even child care, anything that is needed the community will be able to provide for Anna," Lei Francisco, a supporter of Mengqi Elledge's family's bid to get custody, said outside the courthouse.

Mengqi Elledge's parents were not contacted by Joseph Elledge, Jean Elledge or the Columbia Police Department to inform them of Mengqi’s disappearance, according to a news release from the family's attorney. A family friend alerted the couple to Mengqi’s disappearance, the attorney said.

Joseph Elledge gave consent for his mother, Jean Elledge, to become Anna's new legal guardian last week, according to court documents.

Joseph Elledge was charged with child abuse after investigators found evidence during their missing person's investigation.

“My clients must be allowed to intervene in the guardianship case for their granddaughter,” Salladay said outside the hearing. “Because of the suspicious circumstances of their daughter’s disappearance and the uncertainty of who all was involved my clients need the court to hear from Ke Ren and Xiaolin Ji to protect the best interests of their granddaughter.”

According to court documents, officers located pictures on Mengqi Elledge's personal tablet of bruising on the child that she had sent via email.

Joseph Elledge told police he might have pinched the child, which caused bruising, according to court documents. Court documents say the injury isn't consistent with the type of bruise that would come from a pinch or tight holding, but appears to be a bruise that would come from a strike.

Joseph is being held in the Boone County Jail on a $500,000 bond.

*Editor's note: A previous version of this article referred to the attorney as Kim Salladay.

Boone / Court and Trials / Crime / Missing Person / News

Madison Fleck

Madison Fleck is the content editor for ABC 17 News.

Brittany Wiley

Brittany Wiley joined ABC 17 News in December 2018 as a full-time reporter. She anchors weekend morning broadcasts and reports in the early evening during the week.

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