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Coroner Says Missing Grad Student Jelani Day Drowned, But It's Unknown How He Ended Up In The River

Jelani Day's cause of death was ruled drowning by a medical examiner, but the circumstances that led to his death are still unknown and his family still suspects foul play.

By Constance Johnson
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Jelani Day, the missing Illinois State University graduate student whose body was found in the Illinois River last month, died from drowning, according to a coroner’s report released on Monday.

While the cause of death is now known, the circumstances leading to it remain a mystery.

LaSalle County Coroner Richard Ploch noted in a statement that how “Mr. Day went into the Illinois River is currently unknown.”

He also wrote “There was no evidence of any (pre-death) injury, such as manual strangulation, an assault or altercation, sharp, blunt or gunshot injury, infection, tumor, natural disease, congenital abnormality, or significant drug intoxication.”

Family, friends, and classmates are still searching for answers and doubt that Day died from drowning.

Day‘s mother and the Rev. Jesse Jackson spoke before the Illinois State Black Student Union at a meeting on Monday night.

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“No, Jelani didn’t hurt himself. No, Jelani didn’t drown himself,” Carmen Bolden Day said, according to local news station WMBD.  “No Jelani didn’t do this to himself. Somebody did this to Jelani.”

“I did not send Jelani here so I’d have to be here in front of you all today and I can’t have my son no more” Day said, according to news outlet WLS. “Jelani was on this campus for a week and a half.”

She told the station that her son was a strong swimmer and was even a member of his high school swim team.

Jackson encouraged the students to keep pushing for answers.

“We know there’s a tape of him sitting on the campus, he goes into the restaurant and the tape stops,” Jackson said, according to WMBD. Then we find out two weeks later, face down in the river.”

Students shouted, “We want answers” and “Justice for Jelani,” during the meeting, according to the station.

“The persons that killed Jelani Day are alive tonight, walking the streets among us” Jackson said, according to WMBD. “Whoever killed him, let the record show it.”

Day and Jackson plan to join members of the Black Student Union in a rally and march on Tuesday at the police department in Peru, Illinois, where Day’s car was found.

“I need justice for Jelani. Because, like Reverend Jackson said, somebody who did this, they know, and they are walking around,” Day said, according to WLS.

She also said her son’s telephone is still missing, and she wants Apple to release any records that could help investigators, according to the station.

Day, 25, was reported missing by family a short time after he disappeared on Aug. 24. His car was found two days later in the town of Peru. One week later, his body was discovered in the Illinois river.

Investigators have previously pointed to the “unusual” circumstances involving Day’s disappearance and the discovery of his body, according to WMAQ.

Police have said that Day’s disappearance involved “unexplained suspicious circumstances,” the station reported.

“It’s a suspicious or unusual circumstances while he was missing, and then [the car’s location was] also, you know, pretty suspicious or unusual and I’ve been a police officer 10 years,” Bloomington Police public information officer John Fermon told WMAQ. “That’s very unusual to just find a car like that.”

Multiple law enforcement agencies are investigating the case including the Peru, LaSalle, and Bloomington Police Departments and the Illinois State Police.

Others, including Day’s mother and Jackson, are pushing for the FBI and other federal agencies to lead the investigation.

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