Jelani Day was 25 year old man who went missing in August 2021. His body was found in the months after and an investigation into his death is ongoing.
Jelani was originally from Danville, Illinois. He ran track at Alabama A&M and was attending Illinois State at the time of his disappearance. He was studying to get his master’s degree in speech pathology. He also belonged to the fraternity Omega Psi Phi.
Jelani last spoke to his family on August 23, 2021. He was last seen alive on CCTV footage the following day, August 24. In the footage, Jelani can be seen entering the Beyond/Hello cannabis dispensary at 1515 N. Veterans Parkway, Bloomington, Illinois.
Jelani was seen at the dispensary at around 9:15 a.m. Authorities later release a security camera image of Day at 7:20 a.m. at ISU’s Bone Student Center.
When he didn’t attend classes for a few days at Illinois State University, where he was studying to become a speech pathologist, his parents became worried. He was reported missing on Aug. 25.
Jelani’s vehicle was also unable to be located at this time.
On Aug. 26, police discovered Jelani’s vehicle, a white 2010 Chrysler 300, abandoned in a wooded area 60 miles north of Bloomington in the town Peru. The car’s license plates had been removed and the keys were missing. “To me, it’s unusual, the way his vehicle was, you know, it was off of a parking lot inside, it wasn’t like deep into a woods, but it was off a parking lot,” Bloomington Police public information officer John Fermon said.
Jelani’s friends and family started searching for him straight away. His classmates distributed fliers and his mother announced a $25,000 reward for information in his case.
On September 4, a body was found floating in the Illinois River. The coroner announced at the time that the body was male, but that official identification could take weeks, due to the decomposition of the remains.
On September 21, the Danville Mayor pleaded for information in Jelani’s case. “We always say here, see something, hear something, know something, say something. Someone out there has seen, heard or knows something,” Mayor Rickey Williams said. “Please, please bring this young man home if he’s still alive; and if for some reason he’s not, please let his family know that so that they might have some peace.”
On September 23, the LaSalle County coroner confirmed that the body found in the Illinois River was that of Jelani Day.
A cause of death had not been determined by this point, and the results were pending more investigation and toxicology.
In October, information about Jelani’s autopsy was released. This information comes from the Chicago Sun Times article “Some things no mother should have to endure”.
The corpse had no eyeballs, only sockets. The river’s water had run her course, soaking the body through and
The body was missing its front top and bottom teeth, Day and Bezner said, citing a second autopsy performed by a private forensic pathologist at the request of the family. His jawbone had been “sawed out.”
The family’s private forensic pathologist could find no brain, according to Day and her attorney. No organs. Neither liver. Nor spleen.
Bezner said the LaSalle County coroner had explained that, according to their pathology report, the organs were “completely liquefied.”
The body had suffered innumerable fish and turtle bites and was maggot-infested, said Bezner, citing information both she and Day said they received from the LaSalle County Coroner’s Office, which has not yet released its autopsy report to the family, according to Day and Bezner.
The genitalia were unidentifiable, according to the private forensic pathologist’s report, but determined to be “flayed,” according to the county coroner’s forensic pathologist, Bezner said.
Bezner said she continues to investigate, to seek plausible, perhaps scientific explanations, for the severely decomposed state of Jelani’s body while keeping an open mind, though no question rings more loudly than this one:
What on earth happened to Jelani?
“I’m really trying to ask questions and not go down the path of a lot of conspiracy because I think it’s easy to go that way,” Bezner said.
Finally, 23 days after it was pulled from the river, four days after the authorities identified him, Jelani Day’s body was released.
Two days later, on a cool autumn Wednesday, on Sept. 29, a grief-stricken mother and her family gathered at the funeral home, where Jelani lay, to pray.
The mother wanted to lay her eyes on her baby boy. But Bezner advised her against it.
“He was in such bad shape,” she explained. “It’s just a heartbreaking story, for sure.”
You can read other articles about Jelani’s autopsy here:
On October 11, Jelani’s family released a statement to say that he was NOT missing any organs during the autopsy. We have been working to get a copy of the autopsy report and will post it here if we obtain one.
On October 25, the LaSalle County Coroner released Jelani’s confirmed cause of death – drowning.
Jelani’s family do not seem to agree with the coroner’s findings.
His mother disagrees with the coroner’s report.“That is a narrative that my son did something to himself. He did not,” she said at a general assembly meeting of Illinois State’s Black Student Union.
Carmen said she believes someone is responsible for her son’s death.”Somebody did this to him, and they are going to be held responsible for doing what they did to my son,” she said.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson Jr., who was invited to speak about Jelani recently, said he also disputes the coroner’s findings.”I don’t believe it. That’s a suicide line. We don’t believe it,” Jackson said. “The Department of Justice and the attorney general needs to be a part of this.”
Portions of Jelani’s official autopsy have been released. We are working to obtain the whole document.