PERU — Authorities on Thursday confirmed that a body found in the Illinois River three weeks ago is that of missing Illinois State University graduate student Jelani Day. The case of the 25-year-old who disappeared from Bloomington has brought national attention.
In a Facebook post, Day’s mother Carmen Bolden Day said, “There are no words to clearly communicate our devastation. ... Our hearts are broken.”
Jelani Day was last seen the morning of Aug. 24 walking into the Beyond/Hello store in Bloomington. His family in Danville and a faculty member at ISU reported him missing Aug. 25. His family had last spoken to him on Aug. 23 and the faculty member noted he had not been in class for several days.
In the days after the disappearance, ISU students and others organized searches and handed out fliers. National media also reported on the case.
A body was recovered from near the south bank of the Illinois River, east of the Illinois Route 251 bridge in Peru, but the identity was not released until Thursday.
A joint statement from Peru and Bloomington police and the LaSalle County sheriff's and coroner's offices on Thursday said Jelani Day was identified through forensic dental information and DNA testing and comparison. The cause of death has not been determined pending further investigation and toxicology testing, the statement said.
John Fermon, spokesman for the Bloomington Police Department, said in a news conference their investigation with the LaSalle County Sheriff’s Office is not complete, and the department is still working to determine if foul play was involved.
“Over time, that’s where we’ll get that answer,” he said.
In her Facebook post, Bolden Day asked the community to continue to pray for her family as they focus on finding out what happened to her son.
“At this moment there are more questions than answers surrounding Jelani’s disappearance and death, and that is where we will focus our energy,” the post read. “As of this moment, we do not know what happened to Jelani and we will not stop until we do.”
Contact Kelsey Watznauer at (309) 820-3254. Follow her on Twitter: @kwatznauer.