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Body Found Floating in Illinois River Identified As Missing Grad Student Jelani Day

A body found floating in the Illinois River earlier this month has been identified as that of an Illinois State University grad student who vanished on August 24.

Jelani “J.J.” Day, 25, was last seen that day on security footage at a cannabis store in Bloomington at about 9:12 a.m. His white, 2010 Chrysler 300 was found in a wooded area near the Illinois Valley YMCA and McKinley Park in Peru two days later, as CrimeOnline previously reported.

The LaSalle County coroner on Thursday identified the body found on September 4 as Day, using forensic dental identification and DNA testing, Bloomington police said.

“Currently the cause of death is unknown, pending further investigation, and toxicology testing,” police said.

The body was found in the river  about a 1/4 mile from the state Route 351 bridge over the river in Peru — which is about a hour north of Bloomington, where Day had just begun his second graduate semester at ISU. He was studying speech pathology and planned to become a doctor “so that his mom would never have to work again,” his mother, Carmen Bolden Day, told the Chicago Tribune.

Bolden Day said J.J. had two brothers and two sisters and was the youngest son. During the search for him, she said media attention for the case was hard to come by, even though she knew he “would never do anything that would separate him from his loved ones like this.”

Natalie Wilson, who co-founded national nonprofit Black & Missing with her sister-in-law 13 years ago, pointed to the disproportionate coverage of the disappearance of Gabby Petito, the young white woman who vanished while on a cross-country trip with her boyfriend..

“Gabby Petito’s was a horrible death,” Wilson told Oprah Daily. “For her family, through the media and social media, resources were mobilized to help find her. Let’s push the same levers to help other countless missing victims garner the same level of awareness.”

Authorities are still investigating Day’s disappearance, searching for what took him from Bloomington to Peru on a day when he had clinicals and appointments with clients scheduled. Anyone with information is asked to contact the LaSalle County sheriff’s office at 815-433-2161.

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[Featured image: Jelani Day/Facebook]