25-year-old Jelani Day was reported missing on Aug. 25. Days later, police found his car abandoned and a body they cannot confirm is his.
Eileen O’Gorman Patch Staff
CHICAGO — Illinois State University graduate student Jelani Day has now been missing for nearly a month after he was last seen Aug. 24 and reported missing a day later. In the weeks that followed, his family has issued pleas for anyone with information to come forward, and police say they are waiting for DNA results to identify a body that was found near the Illinois River.
Bloomington police released a statement confirming they are looking into digital and physical clues, but they have not announced any major updates in Day’s case since the unidentified body was found near the Illinois River. Police have not confirmed the identity of the body found on Sept. 4, and the LaSalle County coroner said the death investigation is “separate” from the investigation into Day’s disappearance.
The 25-year-old, known to loved ones as “JJ,” was reported missing on Aug. 25 after his family in Danville had not heard from him and a faculty member said he wasn’t showing up for class. At the time, police said Day disappeared under “unexplained suspicious circumstances.” Two days later, his car was found in a wooded area near a YMCA in Peru, Illinois — about an hour away from Bloomington.
Police told reporters they found the clothes Day was wearing on the day of his disappearance in the back seat of his white Chrysler 300. Footage discovered from a cannabis shop near the ISU campus had shown Day wearing white shorts and a blue Detroit Lions shirt.
His family has criticized the investigation into Day’s disappearance recently on “Good Morning America,” saying the young Black man has not and would likely never receive the same amount of attention as missing persons like Gabby Petito, whose disappearance made national headlines.
Since then, Day’s case has gained attention from national news outlets and celebrities including singer Lizzo, who shared his story on her TikTok account Tuesday. Day’s sisters have spoken out through NBC interviews and asked the FBI to get involved.
“I just want my brother back. I need my brother back. All my siblings are part of me. So, not having Jelani here, It’s like I’m missing a part of myself,” Zena Day said in the interview.
While the body found near the Illinois River has yet to be identified, officials said they believe the body is separate from Day’s investigation. Bloomington police would not comment on the remains and asked the public not to jump to conclusions in a statement.
Now, police are asking the public for tips on Day’s whereabouts in the days leading up to his disappearance and beyond.
“What we want is any factual tip, even as simple as, ‘Hey, you know, we saw him walking last month on the quad’ or something. That would be a good tip,” said John Fermon, a public information officer for the Bloomington Police Department.
Day is a 25-year-old Black man and is about 6 feet, 2 inches tall. He has short black hair, brown eyes and some facial hair.
Members of the young man’s family have offered a $25,000 for his return. An online fundraiser has added $9,000 to that total.
Anyone who has contact with Day is asked to call the Bloomington Police Department at 309-820-8888. Anyone with information about Day or his disappearance can call Detective Paul Jones at 309-434-2548 or [email protected] .
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