‘I need answers’ Jelani Day’s mother says

Day’s family doesn’t believe he harmed himself

Carmen Day, (center) mother of Jelani Day, speaks to a crowd of people at the Illinois Valley YMCA in Peru on Tuesday Oct. 26, 2021.

Jelani Day’s family is certain no matter what the La Salle County Coroner’s Office reports, the 25-year-old did not take his own life.

Jelani’s mother, Carmen Bolden Day, said too many items in the case don’t add up.

“See it with your own eyes,” she said repeatedly, joined by chants of others, including the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, a Civil Rights group led by the Rev. Jesse Jackson that marched and rallied beside her Tuesday.

“You will see the location of where the car was, and how they said where the body was found, where they said the clothes were found, where they said the wallet was found, where they said the lanyard was found, none of these are in the proper distance. None of these are anything Jelani would have purposely drove his car, took off his license plates, not have his phone, throw away his key, take off his clothes and go into a river.

“Jelani wouldn’t have done that. At all.”

Day’s mother said her son, an Illinois State University graduate student, was a young man with a lot to live for and the family will continue to fight against anyone who claims his death was a suicide. The La Salle County Coroner’s Office said Day’s cause of death was drowning with no signs of struggle, after the release of a forensic autopsy. Day’s body was found Sept. 4 in the Illinois River near the Route 251 bridge.

She said her son was an avid swimmer and said “he loved life.” He didn’t show any signs of depression.

“He’s strong willed,” she said. “He was strong minded, Jelani ended up here against his will. He ended up in that river against his will and he was drowned against his will. That’s all equivalent to a murder.”

She and the rest of her family is asking the FBI, the Illinois Attorney General and the Department of Justice to get involved in the case so they can have answers: The family does not believe in the ability of the authorities involved thus far to investigate the case.

Day attended school with the intention of becoming a speech pathologist. He was a member of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity, a Christian and was determined to build a future for himself.

“We need to talk because these aren’t unreasonable requests,” Day’s mother told those in attendance Tuesday. “I need answers. I don’t want this to stop because like I said before, this could have been your son, your brother, your cousin or your nephew. He could’ve been one of yours, but he was mine, so I need answers.”

Day’s family asked that anyone with information related to the case report it by calling 815-433-2161.