Body found in Illinois River is Jelani Day, coroner confirms


BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (NewsNation Now) — A county coroner has confirmed that a male body found in the Illinois River earlier this month is Jelani Day, a missing Illinois State University graduate student.

Day’s mother, Carmen Bolden Day, talked exclusively with NewsNation anchor Rudabeh Shahbazi moments after the news broke.

“I always knew that there was a chance, but I was trusting God that he was going to come back home to me,” Bolden Day said.

Day, 25, was last seen Aug. 24. His family in Danville and a university faculty member reported him missing after he did not show up for class for several days.

“We talked daily and if I didn’t talk to him, one of his siblings talked to him,” Bolden Day said.

Day’s car was found Aug. 26 in a wooded area in Peru, about 60 miles north of Bloomington. His body was found in the Illinois River near the city on Sept. 4.

His mother says he didn’t know anybody in Peru and that he wasn’t depressed.

“I need answers,” Bolden Day said. “I need to know why, I need to know who, I need anybody who knows anything to come forward.”

She said Day aspired to be a speech pathologist.

“Growing up Jelani had a friend that had a speech impediment and Paul couldn’t take care of himself and people used to make fun of him, bully him, and Jelani protected Paul,” Bolden Day said. “Jelani used to speak for Paul.”

LaSalle County 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. 

“Now, I can’t talk to him no more,” Bolden Day said. “I need answers. I want my baby to have answers.”

The Associated Press and NewsNation affiliate WGN contributed to this report.

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