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Jelani Day: 5 things you need to know about Illinois University graduate's death

From his disappearance to the role of Bloomington police in his search - here's what to know
UPDATED OCT 12, 2021
Jelani Day's body was identified a month after he went missing (Twitter)
Jelani Day's body was identified a month after he went missing (Twitter)

Update: In an unexpected twist to Jelani Day's brutal murder case, the mother of the slain student has now refuted the claim of vital organs missing from his body. Carmen Bolden-Day stated: “No organs were missing. I do not want to stray off from the facts. There were contradicting facts from the first preliminary autopsy compared to the second independent autopsy, but this is not a case of organ harvesting."

BLOOMINGTON, ILLINOIS: Jelani Day's tragic death has shaken all of America, and people on social media are rallying for justice in the case of the Illinois State University graduate. #JusticeforJelani started to trend heavily on Twitter in the early hours of October 11 days after the LaSalle County coroner's office revealed that his body which was found floating in the Illinois river on September 4 had the front and bottom teeth removed, no eyes just socket, no liver, no spleen, and his jaw sawed out. Whatever remained of his physical self had fish and turtle bite marks, maggot infestation, and all his organs almost liquefied. 

Jelani Day was remembered as a "bright light" by his family and friends during the memorial service held on October 9 which was attended by hundreds. Born Jelani Jesse Javontae Day, the 25-year-old aspiring doctor's memory was honored with his family and friends exchanging stories, a celebration choir singing gospel songs, and hundreds of balloons being released as a celebration of his life. However, the fact that there's no closure as to what happened to Jelani Day is worrisome and even though late, America has properly woken up to the case and is demanding answers just like his family and close ones. Here are five crucial things one should know about the Jelani Day case. 


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Five Crucial Things to Know about Jelani Day's death

Jelani Day went missing on August 24 under 'unexplained' circumstances

Jelani Day went missing after being spotted for the last time on a security camera at ISU's Bone Student Center. He was reported missing a day later by his family and his vehicle was found on August 26, concealed, in a wooded area in Peru, Illinois. The police began asking for assistance from central Illinois residents who might've seen him or his vehicle. ISU Police Chief Aaron Woodruff said they didn't have any evidence which indicated there was foul play involved and they were assisting Bloomingdale PD in the investigation.

“Jelani is such a sweet and respectful man,” said Communications Sciences and Disorders Director of Clinical Experiences Cara Boester. “The cohort and the entire CSD family are concerned and want to see him safe.” Day was a graduate student at ISU's pathology program. His family lives in Danville. A body was found floating in the Illinois river on September 4 but police couldn't confirm it belonged to Day. 

Jelani Day's body was identified a month after he went missing

The search for Jelani Day was officially over on September 24 as the coroner's office in LaSalle County confirmed the body belonged to the 25-year-old. The cause and circumstances under which died were being investigated. Media attention to the case heightened again after his mother Carmen Bolden Day asked authorities to show the same attention and urgency to her son's case as the one Gabby Petito's had received. 

Day's family waited in uncertainty and dread as they waited for an update from the coroner who in  turn was waiting from the state police crime lab. "I couldn't put myself in their shoes. It was just tough," said Bloomington Police public information officer John Fermon, according to WGLT. "I'd want to know the answers, good or bad, to start the grieving process, so I think it's good in that aspect." 

Jelani Day's mother raised questions on Bloomington PD

Carmen Bolden Day appeared on CNN where she hit back at the police department and their way of handling her son's case. "To them, Jelani didn't mean anything. There is no effort. There is no push. There is no nothing that was being done about my son," she said. She was not satisfied with the search operations and decided to lead one on her own. "Me and my kids, me and everybody that never knew Jelani -- my family, friends, strangers -- did all the leg work," Bolden Day said. "My son didn't get any type of help... He didn't deserve this," she added. 

She also accused the authorities of being very passive with information exchange saying she only found out about her son's clothes being found at the banks of the Illinois River a couple of days before Day's body was identified. She had to enquire about the body's DNA testing upon being informed that the coroner's office had received Day's dental records. "He said to me, 'Do you want to know if this is your son or not?'. They were so rude to me," she said. "My son wasn't involved in the streets," Bolden Day said. "He wasn't a gang banger... That could have been the narrative, then it would have been, well, let's forget about him. But he was a productive citizen. I raised a good young man. And somebody did this to him," she added.

Jelani Day's belongings like wallet and ID were found in different areas

There is a theory on Reddit about Jelani Day's death being an accident. However, there are too many signs that eliminate the accident angle, for example, his pile of clothes being found next to his car in a wooded area. His family suspects foul play being involved. Police started investigating to identify a man who was captured on a security camera knocking on a house not far away from the location where Day's remains were found. The video is of a day after Day went missing. 

The FBI is working on investigating who the unknown man could be. The family's attorney Hallie Bezner said while revealing that they suspect foul play, "The wallet was found in a different area. The lanyard, which had a school ID on it, was not found with the wallet -- it was found in a different area." "Jelani did not just disappear into thin air," Carmen Day said. "Somebody knows something; somebody's seen something, and I need somebody to say something," she added. 

Jelani Day's identification took 19 days, Gabby Petito was identified in 2 days

Along with Carmen Bolden Day, people on social media too raised questions about Day's identification which took over 19 days while Gabby Petito was identified two days after a body was discovered. Earlier it was speculated that DNA backlogs may have slowed down the identification process. However, state law enforcement officials clarified this wasn't true. Illinois State Police Chief Public Information Officer Beth Hundsdorfer issued a statement to 'The Pantagraph' that noted that confirmation of the body was "not related at all to any backlog." No reason was offered for what caused the delay.

Earlier, Illinois State Police Sergeant Joey Watson had said while explaining the process, “There are a number of mechanisms that laboratories use to ensure an agency's requests are considered and ISP strives to meet these needs through practices such as the use of overtime, outsourcing analysis to an external laboratory, and transferring cases to other ISP labs for assistance.”