Jelani Day’s family says next step is finding answers

Family says investigation continues, police continue to follow leads as they seek answers

After Jelani Day was identified as the body found dead Sept. 4 in the Illinois River near the Route 251 bridge in Peru, his family released a statement encouraging residents help them find answers.

“We ask that you continue to pray for our family during what will be very hard days ahead,” the statement said. “Throughout these 30 days, our very first concern was finding Jelani, and now we need to find out #WhatHappenedToJelaniDay.”

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.

Bloomington Police Public Information Officer John Fermon said Thursday authorities in Bloomington and in La Salle County are continuing their investigation and the two agencies are assisting each other, noting there are results of tests pending.

“Just because a body has been identified and located, we’re not done,” he 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.

“At this moment there are more questions than answers surrounding Jelani’s disappearance and death, and that is where we will focus our energy,” Day’s family said. “As of this moment, we do not know what happened to Jelani and we will not stop until we do.”

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.

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.

“This week we learned new evidence has been discovered and police are working new leads related to Jelani’s disappearance,” Day’s family said. “This is case is not closed and the investigation is not over.”

Anyone with any information on this case can contact the La Salle County Sheriff’s Office at 815-433-2161 or Bloomington Police Detective Paul Jones at 309-434-2548 or email him at

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.