Man found dead Sept. 4 in Peru was Jelani Day, coroner says

Forensic dental identification, DNA testing helped ID man found in the Illinois River near Peru

Jelani Day was identified Thursday as the man found dead Sept. 4 in the Illinois River near the Route 251 bridge in Peru.

The La Salle County Coroner’s Office said Thursday the 25-year-old Illinois State University graduate student who was reported missing Aug. 25 was identified through forensic dental identification and DNA testing and comparison.

The cause of death is unknown, pending further investigation, and toxicology testing, the coroner’s office said.

Day’s vehicle was found Aug. 26 concealed in a wooded area near the Illinois Valley YMCA in Peru. Peru police told WHOI, an ABC affiliate, sometime Sept. 2, his wallet also was found in La Salle a few blocks in a straight line, east of the car. Peru police also said Sept. 4 an ISU lanyard was found along the Illinois River.

Day was reported missing Aug. 25. Family reported they had last spoken with him in the evening hours of Aug. 23. He was seen at the Illinois State University campus Aug. 24, and his last known location was at Beyond Hello in Bloomington at 9:21 a.m.

Based on findings by the Peru Police Department when recovering the vehicle, a command post was established and an K-9 search was conducted by the Illinois State Police, drone aerial searches by Peru and Utica fire departments as well as a ground search by teams from Peru, Utica and Oglesby.

On Sept. 4, an additional search was conducted in the La Salle-Peru area by members of the Illinois Search and Rescue Council along with other search agencies. During the search a man’s body was recovered floating near the south bank of the Illinois River about 1/4 mile east of the Route 251 bridge, Peru police said.

The Bloomington Police Department, Illinois State University Police Department, Peru Police Department, Illinois Emergency Management Agency, La Salle County Sheriff’s and Coroner’s Office, La Salle County State’s Attorney Office, La Salle Police Department, the FBI - Springfield Division and the Illinois State Police are all involved in the investigation.

Anyone with any information on this case should contact the La Salle County Sheriff’s Office at 815-433-2161.

Derek Barichello

Derek Barichello

Derek is a Streator High and University of Illinois graduate. He worked at the Albany-Herald in Albany, Ga., and for Sauk Valley Media in Sterling, before returning to his hometown paper. He's now news editor for both the NewsTribune and The Times.