Graduate Student Jelani Day Confirmed Dead One Month After Being Reported Missing

·3 min read

The Day family is mourning the death of 25-year-old Jelani Day.

On Thursday, Sept. 23, the LaSalle County Coroner confirmed that a body found in the Illinois River on Sept. 4 belongs to the 25-year-old speech pathology student whose August disappearance was met with renewed interest in light of mainstream media's coverage of the Gabby Petito case.

According to the press release, the coroner was able to match the remains to Jelani through dental records and DNA testing.

A cause of death has not yet been determined.

According to NBC News, Jelani was last seen on the Illinois State University campus on Aug. 24. Additionally, the Bloomington Police Department shared that security cameras recorded him visiting a cannabis dispensary earlier that morning.

Then, two days later, investigators located his white Chrysler in Peru, Illinois, about an hour north of Bloomington. NBC News reports that Jelani's clothes were left in the vehicle.

Police later conducted an extensive search of the area, using dogs, drones and officers to comb for any lead to Jelani's whereabouts.

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However, the Day family believed that authorities weren't doing enough to find the 25-year-old, who was getting his master's degree with the hope of becoming a speech pathologist. D'Andre Day told NBC News, "Police can do a lot more."

Jelani's mother, Carmen Day, said that she began to suspect something was amiss when she hadn't heard from her son in several days. She told NBC's Dateline, "I call him my ‘bill collector child.' Because he just calls me and calls me, nonstop, several times a day. So to not hear from him in a week is very unlike him. Something's not right."

Jelani Day
Jelani Day

Day's family has criticized authorities' handling of the case, citing the FBI involvement and nationwide attention surrounding Petito's case. The 22-year-old YouTuber, who was white, was found dead on Sunday, Sept. 19 in the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming. Her fiancé, Brian Laundrie, is a person of interest in the case.

D'Andre told NBC News, "The same manpower they gave her, I want the same manpower for my brother."

"I understand what [Petito's] family is going through because we are going through that right now. Jelani just didn't disappear. Somebody knows what happened. Somebody needs to report what happened," D'Andre continued. "We need everybody involved, the same way they were involved with Gabby."

After learning of Jelani's death, the family issued a statement to NBC Chicago, saying, "There are no words to clearly communicate our devastation."

"Throughout these 30 days, our very first concern was finding Jelani, and now we need to find out #WhatHappenedToJelaniDay," they continued in part. "At this moment there are more questions than answers surrounding Jelani's disappearance and death, and that is where we will focus our energy. As of this moment, we do not know what happened to Jelani and we will not stop until we do."

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