The past month has been absolutely devastating for the family and friends of Jelani Day.
The Illinois State University grad student was reported missing by his family on August 25 and the search didn’t end until Bloomington, Illinois authorities confirmed on September 23 that they identified his body. Now Day’s family continues to search for answers about who or what cut his life short.
According to People, Bloomington authorities have not yet determined the cause or manner of death. “From a police standpoint, it was unusual from the get-go. That is why we had a detective assigned the next day,” Bloomington Police Officer John Fermon said.
Jelani’s body was recovered from a river about 60 miles from his campus in nearby Peru, IL. Shortly after his disappearance was reported, the 25-year-old’s car was recovered in a wooded area of Peru with the clothing day was last seen wearing.
Officer Fermon said everything they know about this tragic case offered more questions than answers.
“Usually when we have missing persons or runaways there is usually a story behind why they ran away,” he said. “They might have had marital issues or they just wanted to get away. He was close with his family. He was attending ISU. There wasn’t an underlying explanation as to why he went missing. Usually there is an underlying reason why they go missing and there wasn’t for Jelani. He just went missing and that is why we are trying to determine the circumstances around him going missing.”
Unfortunately, Fermon said the investigation might “take months or weeks to figure out the circumstances or we may never find out, sometimes you just never know.” Officials are still asking for anyone with more information about Day to come forward and contact Bloomington Police Department Detective Paul Jones at 309-434-2548 or at Pjones@cityblm.org.
His mother, Carmen Bolden Day, questions how motivated they are to find her answers. She told CNN in a heartbreaking interview yesterday that officials from local police and the coroner’s office were dismissive, rude, and complacent. While the country was compelled to sympathy for Gabby Petito, who was reported missing on September 11 and recently found dead after the FBI assisted in the search, Carmen says she had to rely on loved ones and social media to put in the work to find Jelani.
“To them, Jelani didn’t mean anything. There’s no effort, there’s no push, there’s no nothing that was being done about my son. I did all that legwork, me and my kids,” Bolden Day said while fighting through tears. “My son didn’t get any type of help… He didn’t deserve this.”
Jelani’s mother said when local police briefed her on their most recent reports, they were already creating the narrative that these suspicious circumstances point to the aspiring doctor causing his own death. She didn’t have answers for why they would assert that her son might have driven himself to Peru, left his vehicle, walked to the river, and then stripped his clothes off before voluntarily entering the water. Even the implied theory of an accidental drowning rings hollow to Bolden Day, who says her son is a capable swimmer. Based on how Jelani and his family have been treated in the past month, Bloomington police need to be scrutinized as closely as this case.
We hope Jelani Day’s family can find comfort and healing as they continue to demand answers.