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The mother of Jelani Day and several others, including Rev. Jesse Jackson, are calling on the FBI and other federal agencies this week to lead the investigation into who may have killed the 25-year-old Illinois graduate student.
The Bloomington Police Department is currently heading the probe but a petition started by Day’s former fraternity, the Nu Epsilon chapter of Omega Psi Pi, is pushing for federal law enforcement to take over the case. The fraternity also included a letter detailing their concerns about how local authorities have handled the investigation so far.
"The Bloomington Police Department is currently leading the investigation, but our extreme concern is that this agency has shown the inability to handle a case of this nature," the fraternity wrote in the letter. "Jelani is loved and represents the absolute best of our beloved fraternity; therefore, bringing those responsible for this heinous act to justice is not a request but a demand."
Day's mother, Carmen Bolden Day, shared the petition and the letter on her Facebook page. Using the alias Larae Sunshine Bolden, she urged others to sign the petition
“We need answers!! We demand answers…” she wrote.
More than 28,600 people had signed the petition as of Tuesday; the stated goal is to collect 35,000 signatures.
Day, a graduate student at Illinois State University, was last seen in August at a store in Bloomington, two miles from his school. His body was later found floating in the Illinois River, as was previously reported by Oxygen.com. Day's cause of death has not been stated by authorities who have said that the investigation is ongoing.
His family has also hired a private forensic pathologist to conduct a second autopsy.
Funeral services were held for Day on Tuesday in Danville with dozens of people attending the service, including civil rights leader Jackson and members of his civil rights-focused Rainbow Push Coalition, according to CNN.
“I just saw one of the best things that God blessed me with go in the ground, and I will never get to talk to him or see him again…I don’t even have words to tell you what it’s like,” his mother said after the service. “I don’t know why I’m burying Jelani. I don’t know what happened to Jelani, so I don’t have closure.”
Jackson joined those calling for a federal investigation after the funeral.
"Jelani was brutally murdered in Peru, Illinois and found faced down in the Illinois River," Jackson said in a statement. "We are requesting a thorough investigation because local officials have been very difficult to deal with. They have not been forthcoming. We are requesting that the FBI and the Department of Justice conduct a thorough investigation because it smells like another Emmett Till case all over again."
Till was just 14-years-old in 1955 when he was lynched by a white mob in Mississippi after being falsely accused of whistling at a white woman.
According to NBC News. multiple law enforcement agencies are working on the investigation, including the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit, the Peru Police Department, the LaSalle County Sheriff’s Office, the Lasalle Police Department and the Illinois State Police.
The Bloomington Police Department did not return a telephone call from Oxygen.com on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the case has become the subject of conspiracy theories; Bolden Day had to refute claims that some of her son's organs were missing from his body when it was found.
"No organs were missing. I do not want to stray off from the facts," she said in a statement. "There were contradicting facts from the first preliminary autopsy compared to the second independent autopsy, but this is not a case of organ harvesting, however, my son did not put himself in a river."
LaSalle County Coroner Richard Ploch said that the misinformation stemmed from the state in which his body was found.
"Some [organs] were severely decomposed due to the body being in the water," Ploch told Chicago Patch, also stressing that no organs were missing.
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