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Body found in Illinois River is identified as missing ISU student Jelani Day

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A body found floating in the Illinois River in LaSalle County has been identified as that of missing Illinois State University graduate student Jelani Day, according to the Bloomington Police Department.

Day, 25, was last seen the morning of Aug. 24 walking into Bloomington cannabis dispensary Beyond/Hello, according to Bloomington police. He was reported missing the following day, and his car was found Aug. 26 concealed in a wooded area in Peru, in LaSalle County.

After finding his car, authorities searched the area for Day with dogs and drones. On Sept. 4, a body was discovered floating near the south bank of the Illinois River, just east of the Illinois Route 251 bridge, Bloomington police said.

The body was identified using forensic dental identification and DNA testing and comparison, Bloomington police said.

Day’s cause of death is unknown, police said. They are awaiting further investigation and toxicology testing.

Day was in his second semester at ISU. He had attended Alabama A&M, where he ran track and was in the Omega Psi Phi fraternity, then decided to go to graduate school to study speech pathology and become a doctor, “so that his mom would never have to work again,” his mother, Carmen Bolden Day, previously told the Chicago Tribune.

He was supposed to be at school the day he disappeared, with clinicals and appointments scheduled with clients, she has said.

While he was missing, Bolden Day said she hadn’t been able to get enough media attention on the case.

Natalie Wilson, co-founder of the national nonprofit Black & Missing, which has been “sounding the alarm about missing people of color for over a decade,” said the call to give missing people of color equal coverage is not an attempt to “dishonor” other missing people. It’s a push to “be fair” and for the media to “share that spotlight with other missing people.”

Day had two brothers and two sisters, and was the youngest son. His mother has said he loved to eat, especially chicken.

“His family is very important to him,” Bolden Day said during the search for her son. “My son would never do anything that would separate him from his loved ones like this.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact the LaSalle County sheriff’s office at 815-433-2161.

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