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Remains Found In River Positively Identified As Missing Illinois State University Graduate Student Jelani Day
Police told Oxygen.com investigators are still trying to determine whether foul play was involved in the death of 25-year-old Jelani Day.
The body of a missing Illinois State University graduate student has been positively identified nearly a month after he disappeared under “suspicious circumstances.”
The LaSalle County Coroner positively identified a body found floating in the Illinois River earlier this month as that of 25-year-old Jelani Day, who vanished at the end of August, according to a joint release Thursday from the agencies involved in the search.
Day was last seen on Aug. 24 around 9:12 a.m. entering a marijuana dispensary called Beyond/Hello in Bloomington Illinois, according to a statement from the Bloomington Police.
His vehicle, a Chrysler 300, was located two days later “concealed in a wooded area” in Peru, Illinois but there was no sign of the missing 25-year-old.
The clothing he was seen wearing on the surveillance footage from the retail store, including a blue Detroit Lions baseball hat, black Jimi Hendrix T-shirt and white and silver shorts were found inside the vehicle.
After discovering the abandoned vehicle, the Peru Police Department established a command post and searched the surrounding area with the help of a K-9 unit, Illinois State Police, aerial drones and people on the ground, but were unable to find Day.
The Illinois Search and Rescue Council expanded their search to the LaSalle-Peru area on Sept. 4 and discovered a male floating near the south bank of the Illinois River about a quarter mile from a nearby bridge.
Authorities were able to positively identify the body through dental records and DNA testing.
Law enforcement said the cause of death remains unknown pending toxicology testing.
Officer John Fermon, a public information officer with the Bloomington Police, told Oxygen.com authorities are still trying to determine whether foul play may have been involved.
“At this time, it’s still under investigation, which includes determining if foul play is suspected,” he said.
Bloomington Police had initially described Day’s disappearance as occurring under “unexplained suspicious circumstances.”
Fermon said investigators are examining digital and physical evidence to determine what led to Day’s death.
He said the LaSalle County Sheriff’s Office is also “still soliciting tips” or other information that could assist the investigation.
Day’s mother, Carmen Bolden Day, told Newsy earlier this week that investigators had discovered her son’s wallet on a street and a witness had come forward who claimed to have seen someone drop the wallet.
She voiced frustrations at the time that she didn’t feel she was getting the help she needed from investigators to find her missing son.
“I am imploring, pleading and asking that the police still pay attention, still look for my son as vigilantly as they were prior to finding this unidentified body,” she said, just a few days before the formal identification was made.
According to Carmen Bolden Day, the last time she spoke with her son was on the evening of Aug. 23.
“He didn’t want nothing. We was just talking and he said again ‘Ok, mama, I’ll talk to you later, I just wanted to hear your voice,’” she said of what she considered a typical conversation between the two.
She described her son, who had dreamed of one day becoming a doctor, as “energetic” and “goal driven.”
Investigators are asking that anyone with information about the case contact the LaSalle County Sheriff’s Office at 815-433-2161.