After weeks of searching, authorities have identified a body as missing Illinois State University student Jelani Day. His family launched an extensive campaign using the hashtag #FindJelaniDay and reported him missing on Aug. 25 after he didn’t show up to classes for several days. ABC7 Chicago reported the body was found near the south bank of the Illinois River after an extensive search.
Day’s car was located in Peru, Ill. on Aug. 26, however, authorities did not find a body at the time. On Sept. 4, authorities searched the area again and discovered male remains floating in the river. The LaSalle County coroner positively identified the body as Day using DNA testing on Thursday (Sept. 23). An official statement was released by the LaSalle County Coroner’s Office on the sensitive matter.
“On Thursday, September 23, 2021, the LaSalle County Coroner identified the male body found as Jelani Day, 25, of Bloomington, Illinois through forensic dental identification and DNA testing and comparison,” it reads. “Currently, the cause of death is unknown, pending further investigation, and toxicology testing. Included in the investigation are the Bloomington Police Department, Illinois State University Police Department, Peru Police Department, Illinois Emergency Management Agency, LaSalle County Sheriff’s and Coroner’s Office, LaSalle County State’s Attorney Office, LaSalle Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation – Springfield Division, and the Illinois State Police.”
Day’s family also issued an official statement.
“There are no words to clearly communicate our devastation. We learned this morning from the LaSalle County Coroner the deceased man found in Peru, IL on Saturday, September 4 is Jelani. Our hearts are broken. We ask that you continue to pray for our family during what will be very hard days ahead. Throughout these 30 days, our very first concern was finding Jelani, and now we need to find out #WhatHappenedToJelaniDay,” the statement reads.
“Thank you to every single person who has thought about, prayed for, talked about, and searched for Jelani. The love you’ve shown our family has sustained us and we will definitely need you even more in the days to come. We love each and every one of you for making Jelani’s story personal. We will continue to share updates on Jelani’s case as information becomes available.”
Day had visited his family in Chicago days before he went missing. He was enrolled in a graduate program at ISU and studying speech pathology to become a doctor. The digital movement to find Day was amplified after Gabby Petito, a young white woman went missing, starting a media frenzy around the same time. Day’s mother, Carmen Bolden Day, spoke out against the differences in how both situations were treated differently.
“Not that Gabby isn’t important, because she is,” Day said to CNN. “I listened to their interview and if I’m not mistaken, her mother said she hadn’t spoken to her over two weeks before they reported her missing and the FBI became involved and they Gabby within three days. I hadn’t spoken to Jelani in just one day before I reported him missing. I didn’t get that involvement. I didn’t get that attention.”
Authorities are continuing their investigation into Jelani Day’s death.