Jelani Day's mother said it’s not like him to disappear without telling someone about his whereabouts.
Jelani "JJ" Day attended from Illinois State University. A graduate student hoping to become a doctor and was working toward his master’s degree in speech pathology when he suddenly vanished, his family said.
Day, 25-years- old, disappeared on Aug. 24 and hasn't been seen since or heard from since.
Two days later, Day's car was found in wooded area miles from where he was last seen, but an investigation into what happened remains ongoing.
So where is Jelani Day?
Day's mother, Carmen Bolden Day, said it’s not like him to leave without telling someone about his whereabouts. His relatives and a professor reported him missing on Aug. 25 after he did not show up for a course several days in a row. Something his professor stresses is out of the ordinary for his star student.
“I need him to come home so that he could continue his journey of becoming Dr. Jelani Day,” Bolden said at the time.
The morning prior, Day was caught on surveillance video going into a dispensary in Bloomington. Two days later, police found his car in the woods 60 miles away in Peru, Illinois. Police said the articles of clothing he was last witnessed wearing in the surveillance video were discovered in his white Chrysler 300. Authorities claim Day disappeared under "unexplained suspicious circumstances."
Bolden, Day's mother, says she doesn’t believe her son ran away and deems someone may have hurt her son.
"He wasn’t depressed. He didn’t have any kind of pressures that would make him want to escape from life," she said. "So I do feel as if there was someone involved."
On Sept. 4, a search team discovered a body in the Illinois River near Peru. The coroner told Day's family it could take several weeks or months to identify the body due to the condition it was found.
"We’ve given them DNA so they can identify the body," Bolden said. "However what I was told that the crime lab does not have the solution that they need to process the DNA. I’m supposed to find out today if they’re going to be able to get the solution because it’s on back order.
The LaSalle County coroner's office stated while the body was determined to be a male's body, it remained unidentified as of Wednesday. The office said its investigation into the identity is "separate" from the investigation into Day's disappearance, though they did not elaborate.
While police proceed to investigate, Bolden feels the case has come to a halt with no sense of importance to recover her son.
Day's family has criticized the investigation into the grad student's disappearance, saying the young Black man has not received the recognition of other missing persons like that of Gabby Petito, whose disappearance and subsequent death made national headlines and generated a multi-state search from various law enforcement departments.
On Monday, police investigating Day's disappearance asked the public for tips once again as they search for the young man continues nearly a month after he has vanished.
Bloomington police said they need tips from the public to aid the ongoing search for Day.
"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.
Relatives of Day’s, who resides in Danville, has offered $25,000 for the man’s return. An online GoFundMe campaign has added $9,000 to that total. Illinois State University President Terri Goss Kinzy referred to Day in a speech Tuesday.
“In consultation with Jelani’s family, we will continue to provide support to them and as a community, I ask that we all provide support to each other," she said.
Houston musician Lizzo also distributed a TikTok Tuesday on Day's disappearance, calling awareness to the investigation. Family members have also asked for FBI help in the case.
A spokesperson for the FBI's Springfield office said they have been in communication with Bloomington police "for several weeks," but refused to comment more on their involvement.
Day graduated from Alabama A&M University with a degree in speech-language pathology. Bolden said her son was excited to start this career path after seeing a friends struggle. Day is reported to be a Black male, 25 years old, standing 6 feet, 2 inches tall, and weighing 180 pounds. He has short black hair, brown eyes, and some facial hair. Day is known to operate a white, 2010 Chrysler 300 (Illinois registration #CH74067), police said.
Anyone who has contact with Day is asked to contact the Bloomington Police Department at (309) 820-8888. If anyone has information about Day or his disappearance, they are being asked to contact Detective Paul Jones at (309) 434-2548 or Pjones@cityblm.org.
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