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A lawyer representing the family of a missing grad student who was found dead in the Illinois River claims foul play was involved.
Jelani Day, 25, was reported missing in late August after family members hadn’t heard from him in several days, according to a press release from the Bloomington Police Department.
Hallie Benzer, an attorney representing Jelani Day’s family, says she hopes the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit will soon determine a suspect.
“I have no doubt in my mind that Jelani did not end up in that river willingly,” Benzer told Newsy. “I speak for the family when I say we are confident that someone did something to Jelani. We don’t know who that person is, we don’t know what they did, but we feel very strongly, and the evidence points to someone else being involved in this.”
It took the LaSalle County Coroner’s Office nearly three weeks to identify the body in the river, stating the cause of death was “unknown, pending further investigation and toxicology testing,” according to the release.
Security footage captured Jelani’s last known whereabouts on the morning of Aug. 24, as previously reported. He was seen on camera at the Bone Student Center at Illinois State University, then on surveillance video entering the Beyond / Hello marijuana dispensary in Bloomington.
On Aug. 26, authorities found Jelani’s car “concealed in [a] wooded area” in Peru, about 60 miles south of his last known whereabouts, according to the missing person report. The license plates had been removed, but authorities found the clothes he was last seen wearing in the vehicle.
His body was recovered about one mile south.
“Jelani had never been to Peru, Illinois in his entire life,” said Benzer.”We had no indication he had any reason to be there.”
Benzer said she’d visited the area where authorities found Jelani’s car, claiming, “No one who is not from Peru would know that area is there. Jelani did not put his car there. There’s no way.”
According to the lawyer, the license plates, car keys, and Jelani’s phone have not been found.
“I can share with you that Jelani’s wallet was found not in the same location as his car, not in the same location as his body,” Benzer continued. She also confirmed that Jelani’s school lanyard was found at a separate location several miles away. “It doesn’t add up. It doesn’t make sense.”
Jelani Day’s mother, Carmen Bolden Day, has maintained that she doesn’t feel like she’s getting the assistance she hopes for from authorities.
“All I know is that law enforcement, the local law enforcement, is not doing their job,” Jelani’s mother told Newsy. “And if they can’t do their job, get somebody in who can. Get the help you need. Put aside your ego, get me the help. Because it’s not about them, it’s not about me. It’s about my son.”
Jelani was an aspiring doctor on the fast track to success and part of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity.
“His goal was to be Dr. Jelani Day,” Carmen Bolden Day told Newsy.
Police are currently examining a home security video from Aug. 25 after the homeowner contacted Peru Police to report an unknown man who fit Jelani’s description knocking on his door, according to ABC 7.
“Until this subject is identified and question[ed], it is unknown if it has anything to do with Mr. Day’s case,” said Bob Pyszka, Chief of Peru Police.
Relatives, however, said they were frustrated that police took so long for authorities to share the video with them, according to ABC-7. They claim the man in the video is not Jelani Day.
Anyone with information related to Jelani Day is asked to call 1-800-CALL-FBI.