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Missing ISU graduate student Jelani Day drowned: coroner

The LaSalle County coroner said “there was no evidence of antemortem injury, such as manual strangulation, an assault or altercation, sharp, blunt or gunshot injury, infection, tumor, natural disease, congenital abnormality, or significant drug intoxication.”

A sign on a lawn in Danville calls for justice in the mysterious death of Jelani Day.
John W. Fountain/Sun-Times file photo

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — An Illinois State University graduate student who disappeared before being found dead died from drowning, a coroner said Monday.

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

“The cause of death of this positively identified 25-year-old male, Jelani Jesse Javonte Day, is drowning,” LaSalle County Coroner Richard Ploch wrote as the cause of death opinion that’s part of the forensic autopsy report for the case, The Pantagraph reported.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson has said Day’s case looks similar to other racially motivated killings.

Ploch said “there was no evidence of antemortem injury, such as manual strangulation, an assault or altercation, sharp, blunt or gunshot injury, infection, tumor, natural disease, congenital abnormality, or significant drug intoxication.”

It’s not clear how Day went into the Illinois River, Ploch said.

Day’s family will be joined by Jackson and the Rainbow PUSH Coalition on Tuesday for a march from the Peru Police Department to near the location where his car was found on Aug. 26 in Peru, about 60 miles (96 kilometers) north of Bloomington.

A multi-jurisdictional task force including the Illinois State Police, the Bloomington and Peru police departments, LaSalle County Sheriff’s Office, and the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit continue to investigate Day’s death.