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Jelani Day’s Death Ruled as Drowning, But It Remains ‘Unknown’ How He Ended Up At the River; Family Reluctant to Accept Results: ‘Somebody Did This To Him’

Jelani Day’s cause of death has been revealed, however, closure is a long way off for many who continue to question how the Illinois State University graduate student ended up in the Illinois River.

The 25-year-old’s cause of death has been officially ruled a drowning by LaSalle County Coroner Richard Ploch. Day’s body was found floating in the river on Sept. 4, with his remains being identified in late September.

Carmen Day (r) with her son Jelani Day. (Family photo)

In his medical assessment, the coroner noted that although that piece of the puzzle has been solved, how and why Jelani’s body ended up in the river remains “unknown.”

“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,” Ploch said, according to NPR.

Ploch has stated the examination was suboptimal based on factors such as the decomposition to Day’s body and river predation activity. 

Day was last seen on Aug. 24; police have stated that he went missing under “unexplained suspicious circumstances.”

His car was found abandoned on Aug. 26, in Peru, Illinois, with the clothes he was last seen wearing inside, and the body that would later be identified as his was discovered nine days later during a police search. Initial reports of Day’s body being discovered with vital organs removed were denied by Day’s mother, Carmen Bolden Day.

Bolden Day, who has described her son as an avid swimmer, has made it clear that she does not accept the county coroner’s findings and remains committed to getting to the bottom of his death by enlisting the FBI’s help with his case.

“That is a narrative that my son did something to himself. He did not,” she said, adding “Somebody did this to him, and they are going to be held responsible for doing what they did to my son.”

Also among those continuing to raise questions about Day’s case is his older brother, Seve Day, who feels that something isn’t quite right with the entire investigation.

Jelani Day’s mother maintains that her son didn’t die by suicide./ Photo Credit: Justice For Jelani Day Facebook Page

“My brother went missing on August 24 and they found the body on September 4. So that’s not a long time,” Seve Day told Insider. “The body they identified as my brother … it looks like it’s been in the water for years.”

He also told the website that the family believes officials “are not being straightforward” with them, they believe there are facts “that they are trying to cover up,” and that the case isn’t being handled with a sense of urgency due to Jelani Day being a Black man, especially when compared with massive amounts of press coverage for the recent Gabby Petito case.

The Day family has hired two separate private forensic pathologists to provide separate autopsies, however, no findings have been released at the time of this writing.

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