A Missing Persons report was filed after Jelani Day didn't show up to class at Illinois State University for multiple days. Day was a Master's student at ISU studying speech pathology, with aspirations to become a speech pathologist.
A body was found a few weeks after, on Sept. 4. The LaSalle County coroner identified the body as Day through forensic dental identification and DNA testing. Authorities have yet to report the cause of death, pending further investigation.
Day had been in Chicago to visit family just before he went missing. Day's mother has been vocal about the disappointing search effort for her son, especially in the context of Gabby Petito's viral disappearance, which has sparked a conversation about the disparity in the attention giving in Missing Persons cases when the person is white, compared to those involving Black or brown people.
"To them, Jelani didn't mean anything," Carmen Bolden Day told CNN on Friday. "There is no effort. There is no push. There is no nothing that was being done about my son."
Day's family is not only distraught but in disbelief. They are asking for help to piece the events before his death together, as they cannot believe he would vanish on his own, said Day's cousin Eriel Davis to ABC7 Chicago.
"He's just always alive for the party. There's never a dull moment with Jelani. He was always outgoing and always making everything fun, he had a really great spirit," Davis said. "None of this makes sense. We're all trying to piece it together, which is why we need the help with the FBI. Jelani would never just disappear on his own. He loved his dad to the core. He was a bone marrow match for his dad. His dad has cancer and Jelani would always come here and visit him, sit with him, pray with him, talk with him. Jelani was just an awesome man. He was excited about being able to help his dad."
His mother agreed that the disappearance didn't make sense, adding on that Day would never abandon his family, "His dad actually has cancer and Jelani is the bone marrow match for his dad, and he would never abandon his father like that," she said Wednesday when speaking with ABC7 Eyewitness News. "He would come here in Chicago and visit him at Northwestern hospital, sit with him, you know, encourage him, pray with him."
The family is still requesting that anyone who may have any information come forward. If you know anything about what happened to Jelani or had contact with Jelani in the days and weeks before his disappearance, please contact Bloomington Police Detective Paul Jones at (309)434-2548 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Via 1] [Via 2]