The LaSalle County Coroner's Office has identified a body found earlier this month as Jelani Day, ABC 7 reports.
Back on September 4th, officials discovered a male body in the Illinois River and using DNA testing, the LaSalle County coroner positively identified the body as Day.
In an official statement, the family expressed their heartbreak over the unimaginable tragedy.
“There are no words to clearly communicate our devastation,” the statement read. “We learned this morning from the LaSalle County Coroner the deceased man found in Peru, IL on Saturday, September 4 is Jelani. Our hearts are broken. We ask that you continue to pray for our family during what will be very hard days ahead. Throughout these 30 days, our very first concern was finding Jelani, and now we need to find out #WhatHappenedToJelaniDay.”
“At this moment there are more questions than answers surrounding Jelani's disappearance and death, and that is where we will focus our energy,” the statement continued. “As of this moment, we do not know what happened to Jelani and we will not stop until we do.”
As EBONY previously reported, Day went missing on Aug. 24 and his car was found two days later in a wooded area approximately 60 miles from where he was last seen. After being absent from class for several days, he was reported missing by his family and a professor on Aug. 25. The morning prior, Day was seen on surveillance video entering a dispensary in Bloomington. According to the police, his car was found in Peru, Illinois. Police said the clothes he was wearing in the surveillance video were found in his white Chrysler 300.
John Fermon, the public information officer of the Bloomington Police Department, said during a virtual news conference on Thursday the cause of Day’s death is still unknown, WGLT reports. He did not disclose whether the police had any potential suspects in the case.
“We can all agree that it was very suspicious, just unlike him,” Fermon said. “It was one of those things. Was it foul play or not?”
Fermon added that the LaSalle County Sheriff’s Office hasn’t determined whether it is a homicide investigation at this point.
According to Fermon, the FBI is among the agencies investigating the incident. Fermon also acknowledged that Day's family and many people in the community pushed for more information on the case.
“Jelani was such a great person and had so many great friends that people were reaching out wanting to help,” he said.
Although he did not reveal the particulars of the case, Fermon did confirm that the police received a tip that led them to the Illinois River where Day’s body was discovered.
Fermon hopes that the family can find closure after several weeks of searching and unanswered questions.
“I couldn’t put myself in their shoes. It was just tough,” he said. “I’d want to know the answers, good or bad, to start the grieving process, so I think it’s good in that aspect.”
IIllinois State University president Terri Goss Kinzy expressed her sadness over Day’s tragic passing and offered her condolences to the family on behalf of the university. Day was a graduate of Alabama A&M University. He was pursuing a master’s degree in speech pathology at ISU.
"His family and friends are foremost in our thoughts during this difficult time and we extend our deepest condolences," Kinzy said. "Let us remember to take care of one another, check in on one another, and convey our feelings of love or loss to those close to us."
Student Counseling Services will be holding supportive space on Friday, September 23rd 8-4pm at the Multicultural Center and 4-9pm at both the Brown Ballroom in the Bone Student Center. 🙏🏾 pic.twitter.com/e5xIm76BQ0— Multicultural Center at ISU (@ISU_MC) September 24, 2021
Plans to celebrate Jelani’s life at ISU are forthcoming Kinzy said.