The body of missing Illinois State University grad student Jelani Day has been identified after a male body was found floating in the Illinois River near Peru three weeks ago, according to the LaSalle County Coroner’s office in Ottawa on Thursday, which states the identification was aided by forensic dental and DNA comparison and testing.
The body had been located, approximately a quarter-mile east of the Illinois Rt. 251 Bridge. His car also had been discovered on August 26 with no license plates in a wooded area south of the Illinois Valley YMCA and north of the intersection of 12th Street and Westclox Avenue.
However, the Bloomington, Illinois police department states the cause of Day’s death is still under investigation. Day, age 25, was from Danville. The LaSalle County Coroner’s office said the cause of death is not immediately known, pending further investigation and toxicology tests.
His family in Danville and an ISU faculty member reported him missing on August 25th after he did not show up for class for several days. Day was last seen on the ISU campus the preceding morning. He had earned a speech pathology degree from Alabama A and M University.
On a social media page, his family issued this statement.
"At this moment there are more questions than answers surrounding Jelani’s disappearance and death, and that is where we will focus our energy. As of this moment, we do not know what happened to Jelani and we will not stop until we do.
We STILL need people who have information to 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.
Thank you to every single person who has thought about, prayed for, talked about and searched for Jelani. The love you’ve shown our family has sustained us and we will definitely need you even more in the days to come. We love each and every one of you for making Jelani’s story personal."
The family says it has hired a private firm to assist authorities. Included in the investigation are the Bloomington Police Department, Illinois State University Police Department, Peru Police Department, Illinois Emergency Management Agency, LaSalle County Sheriff’s and Coroner’s Office, LaSalle County State’s Attorney Office, LaSalle Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation -Springfield Division, and the Illinois State Police.
LaSalle County Coroner Rich Ploch had first said his office could not identify the body on Sept 4th after area first responders conducted another search, because of the condition of the body and that identification could take weeks or months due to that body condition.
A press release Thursday from the LaSalle County Coroner’s office said “based on findings when recovering Day's vehicle, a command post had been established and extensive K9 search had been conducted by the Illinois State Police, drone aerial searches by Peru Fire and Utica Fire. In addition. On Sept. 4th, a ground search by members of the Illinois Search and Rescue Council and other area agencies was done when the body was recovered.