Body found in Illinois River is Jelani Day, coroner confirms

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LASALLE COUNTY, Ill. (WMBD) — The LaSalle County Coroner has confirmed the male body found in the Illinois River on Sept. 4 is missing Illinois State University (ISU) graduate student Jelani Day.

Coroner Richard Ploch said forensic dental identification and DNA testing and comparison helped confirm the identity of the body.

At this time, the cause of death is unknown, and an investigation is ongoing. Toxicology is still testing.

Jelani Day, 25, was last seen Aug. 24. at the Illinois State University campus. His family in Danville and a faculty member reported him missing after he did not show up for class for several days.

His last known location was at Beyond Hello in Bloomington at 9:21 a.m. Aug. 24.

Day’s car was recovered in Peru, IL on Aug. 27 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.

On Sept. 4, 2021, an additional search was conducted in the LaSalle Peru area where a body was recovered floating near the south bank of the Illinois River about a quarter-mile east of the Illinois Rt. 251 Bridge. At that time, authorities could not confirm the identity of the body due to its condition.

A Facebook page run and moderated by the family sent out a statement Thursday.

“There are no words to clearly communicate our devastation. We learned this morning from the LaSalle County Coroner the deceased man found in Peru, IL on Saturday, Sept. 4 is Jelani. Our hearts are broken.”

Family of Jelani Day

During a press conference, Bloomington Police Department Spokesperson John Fermon said they are still working to figure out some of the details regarding Day’s death.

“We haven’t said if there’s foul play or anything like that. People are on edge. It impacts everyone,” Fermon said.

Fermon also addressed concerns about the media attention Day received in comparison to missing YouTuber Gabby Petito.

“I’m happy this got out there… We’ll take the criticism. Part of our job isn’t to release all the details… Hopefully, this rolls over to other missing persons,” he said.

Fermon said he could not imagine how Day’s family felt and asked the community, especially on social media to remain respectful to the family.

“If anybody takes anything away from this, it’s that put yourself in their shoes just imagine how you would feel. No matter if you’re kid is 6,15,25 or 45 no parent should really have to go through that,” Day said.

In a letter, ISU President Dr. Terri Goss Kinzy expressed her thoughts on the tragic news.

“I am deeply saddened to share with you that today the LaSalle County Coroner’s Office confirmed the remains found in early September have been identified as Jelani Day. Together, we mourn his loss. His family and friends are foremost in our thoughts during this difficult time, and we extend our deepest condolences.”

Dr. Terri Goss Kinzy, ISU PRESIDENT

Goss said details regarding how the community will come together to celebrate Day’s life and honor his memory “will be forthcoming.”

Several agencies are involved in the investigation, including:

  • 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
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation Springfield Division, and the
  • Illinois State Police

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

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