Illinois State University graduate student Jelani Day was working towards earning his master’s degree in speech pathology when he suddenly disappeared. The 25-year-old disappeared on August 24. He was reported missing the following day by his family and school officials after he failed to show up for a class for days.
Since August 24, his family and friends have not seen him. About two days after his disappearance, his car was found in wooded area miles from where he was last seen. “I need him to come home so that he could continue his journey of becoming Dr. Jelani Day,” said Day’s mother, Carmen Bolden Day.
She said her son is not one who would disappear without informing anyone about where he was. She said she feels someone may have hurt her son. “He wasn’t depressed. He didn’t have any kind of pressures that would make him want to escape from life,” she said. “So I do feel as if there was someone involved.”
Authorities said that the morning before Day’s disappearance, surveillance video captured him entering a dispensary in Bloomington. The police found his car in the woods 60 miles away in Peru, Illinois, two days later. His clothes captured by the surveillance video were found in his white Chrysler 300, the police said, adding that Day disappeared under “unexplained suspicious circumstances.”
On September 4, a search team found a body in the Illinois River near Peru. But the identification of the body could take several weeks or months due to the body’s condition, the coroner told Day’s family, NBC Chicago reported.
“We’ve given them DNA so they can identify the body,” Day’s mother Bolden said
The LaSalle County Coroner on Thursday evening confirmed the male body found in the Illinois River on Sept. 4 is missing graduate student Day.
Day’s mother had asked the police and media to care about her son as they did for other missing persons like Gabby Petito, whose disappearance and subsequent death made headlines in the U.S. Day’s family members also called for help from the FBI in the case.
Bloomington police investigating Day’s disappearance asked the public for tips. “What we want is any factual tip, even as simple as. ‘Hey, you know, we saw him walking last month on the quad’ or something. That would be a good tip,” John Fermon, a public information officer for the Bloomington Police Department, said.
Celebrities like singer Lizzo had been sharing Day’s story on social media to help find him. Day’s mother also offered a $25,000 cash reward to who finds her son. There is also a GoFundMe to support as well.
Police in the city of Peru confirmed on Wednesday that they found Day’s wallet around September 2 on a street in LaSalle, about 94 miles southwest of Chicago, as well as an item belonging to another ISU student, Daily News reported.
Day, a Black male, stands 6 feet, and 2 inches tall, graduated from Alabama A&M University with a degree in speech language pathology.
The cause of his death is currently unknown, pending further investigation and toxicology testing, officials said Thursday after confirming the identity of the body found.
This story has been updated to reflect the fact that Day’s body has been found.