More questions than answers remain after the body of Illinois State University graduate student, Jelani Day, was found last month in the Illinois River. His family is now pleading for federal authorities to take over.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, family members told Dateline in August that not hearing from Day, 25, was “very unlike him.” After contact with him on August 23, the family didn’t hear from him again.
Day failed to show up for classes at ISU on August 24, where he was studying to become a doctor, and never returned for any subsequent classes. His family made several unsuccessful attempts to find him, police said. Their calls to Day went straight to voicemail each time.
“I call him my ‘bill collector child,’” Day’s mother, Carmen, told Dateline. “Because he just calls me and calls me, nonstop, several times a day. So to not hear from him in a week is very unlike him. Something’s not right.”
Authorities announced in September that a body was found along the south bank of the Illinois River. Weeks later, a LaSalle County coroner identified the body as Day.
So far, there has been no cause or manner of death announced, but police are treating the case as a “death investigation.” Day’s family and their attorney said it’s been weeks without answers.
“My brother went missing on August 24 and they found the body on September 4. So that’s not a long time,” Day’s brother, Steve Day, said, according to Insider. “The body they identified as my brother … it looks like it’s been in the water for years.”
According to Steve Day, his family no longer has confidence in local authorities and are hoping that the case will get turned over to federal investigators.
A LaSalle County coroner said that Day’s organs decomposed and were “completely liquified” because he was in the water for so long, the Day family attorney, Hallie M. Bezner, stated.
But the question still remains: How and why did Day die?
An independent pathology report commissioned by Day’s family contradicted the official autopsy report, Chicago Sun-Times reports.
The independent report indicated that Day’s jaw appeared to have been sawed off, although the official autopsy never mentioned that, according to Bezner. Day’s eyeballs, teeth, brain, and multiple major organs were missing. He also had numerous bites and marks, left behind by fish and turtles.
“You couldn’t identify whether it was male or female because there was no genitalia,” Steve Day added. “You couldn’t tell the skin color because it was so pale and worn down. The face itself is something you would see in a science lab.”
Steve Day said the coroner who identified Jelani “blew up” at their mother for calling and asking questions.
“He basically told her on the phone, ‘You’re pissing me off, do you want me to find out if this is your son or not?'” Steve said.
The family is now pushing for the FBI to take over the investigation and hope to get answers on what happened.
Becky Cramblit, public affairs officer for the FBI’s Springfield office, told Insider that the agency is already involved but will not be completely taking over the case.
Cramblit said the FBI generally takes over cases involving a crime that crossed state lines or a violent crime involving children.
Check back for updates.
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[Featured Photo: Jelani Day/Handout]