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FBI offers $10,000 for information on death of Jelani Day, ISU student found in river days after he disappeared

The reward comes little more than a week after Day’s mother demanded that the FBI take over the investigation into her son’s death.

Jelani Day
Jelani Day
FBI

The FBI is offering a $10,000 reward for information about the death of Jelani Day, little more than a week after his mother demanded that the agency take over the investigation.

Day, a graduate student at Illinois State University, disappeared on Aug. 25 and his body was found days later in the Illinois River in downstate Peru, authorities have said. He was last seen in a store near Veterans Parkway and General Electric Road in Bloomington.

The FBI is issuing fliers with three photos of Day, a brief description of the case and the offer of $10,000. An agency representative said Peru remains the lead investigator in the case but the FBI is assisting.

On Dec. 3, a civil rights attorney joined Day’s mother to demand the FBI take charge, saying Day’s death should be as urgently probed as cases of suspected foul play involving white victims, such as Gabby Petito.

Crump, who is Black, gained prominence by representing the family of George Floyd and others who were the victims of police brutality and vigilante violence.

“We will make him a priority,” Crump said. “There is a killer out there on the loose of this young Black man and we need to find him.”

A coroner determined in October that Day died from drowning, but said it was unclear how the 25-year-old had gone into the Illinois River, 60 miles north of Bloomington. LaSalle County’s coroner said an autopsy on Day found no evidence of “manual strangulation, an assault or altercation, sharp, blunt or gunshot injury.”

Authorities have said his death remains under investigation.

But Day’s mother, Carmen Bolden Day, said law enforcement officials have all but told her they believe her son died by suicide, which she dismissed out of hand. She said her son was not depressed or overburdened, had no school-related financial troubles and was studying speech pathology at Illinois State with aspirations of becoming a doctor.

Jelani Day was last seen Aug. 24 in Bloomington, sister city to Normal, where Illinois State is located. Day’s family in Danville and a faculty member reported him missing after he failed to show up for class for several days.

Day’s car was found in a wooded area of Peru two days later and his body was discovered in the Illinois River on Sept. 4 in the LaSalle-Peru area. There was no reason for Day to be in LaSalle County, his mother said, and because he suffered no injury before he drowned, she questions how he got into the river.

The LaSalle County Sheriff’s Department announced last month that Day’s cellphone had been found and sent to the FBI for forensic testing.

The Associated Press contributed