Coroner identifies body found in Illinois River as Alabama A&M alum Jelani Day

Jelani Day
Jelani Day(Bloomington Police Department)
Published: Sep. 21, 2021 at 9:18 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 23, 2021 at 3:57 PM CDT
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LASALLE COUNTY, Ill. (WAFF) - Update: A son, brother, aspiring doctor and an Alabama A&M graduate: dead at age 25.

Two days ago WAFF reported Jelani Day was missing in Illinois. Today we got the news that he was confirmed dead. But his body was found nearly three weeks ago.

The LaSalle County Coroner’s Office has confirmed the male body found on Sept. 4 in the Illinois River as Jelani Day on Sept. 23.

According to a press release issued by LaSalle County Coroner’s Office, LaSalle County Sheriffs Office, Peru Police Department and the Bloomington Police Department, Day’s body was identified through forensic dental identification and DNA testing and comparison.

Read the full press release here:

According to our affiliates at NBC 5 News, Jelani Day’s family released a statement after he was identified as the body found earlier this month.

Read the full statement below:

There are no words to clearly communicate our devastation. We learned this morning from the LaSalle County Coroner the deceased man found in Peru, IL on Saturday, September 4 is Jelani. Our hearts are broken.

We ask that you continue to pray for our family during what will be very hard days ahead. Throughout these 30 days, our very first concern was finding Jelani, and now we need to find out #WhatHappenedToJelaniDay

At this moment there are more questions than answers surrounding Jelani’s disappearance and death, and that is where we will focus our energy. As of this moment, we do not know what happened to Jelani and we will not stop until we do.

This week we learned new evidence has been discovered and police are working on new leads related to Jelani’s disappearance. This case is not closed and the investigation is not over.

We STILL need people who have information to come forward. If you know anything about what happened to Jelani or had contact with Jelani in the days and weeks before his disappearance, please contact Bloomington Police Detective Paul Jones at (309)434-2548 or email him at

We have also hired JAB Professional Services to assist the police. Information regarding Jelani’s disappearance can be emailed/texted to 618-223-0044 (C) The family is offering a $25,000+ cash reward.

Thank you to every single person who has thought about, prayed for, talked about, and searched for Jelani. The love you’ve shown our family has sustained us and we will definitely need you even more in the days to come. We love each and every one of you for making Jelani’s story personal.

We will continue to share updates on Jelani’s case as information becomes available.

“He’s very personable. Jelani is just lively. He loved to have fun, he loved to talk. He loved to debate. Jelani has been articulate ever since he was a little bitty boy, which is one of the reasons why he chose to be a speech pathologist,” said Jelani’s mother Carmen Bolden Day.

Dr. Diana Billings was one of Jelani’s professors at Alabama A&M University.

“I actually had one of our seniors call me today and I could tell in her voice she was crying. And I said, ‘don’t tell me it’s that body. Don’t tell me it’s that body,” said Dr. Billings.

She wrote him a recommendation letter that helped him get into Illinois State.

“I got a call from Jelani this summer and he was so excited. He said, ‘Dr. Billings, I made it! I got into a graduate program and I wanted you to know.’ And I was very proud of Jelani. And I said, ‘you make us proud, Jelani, you can do anything you put your mind to.’ And that’s the last time I talked to him.”

And Esther Phillips Embden, a clinical director at Alabama A&M, describes him as a hard worker, who truly cared about what she was teaching.

“He had many brothers and sisters on Alabama A&Ms campus and he will be sorely missed,” said Esther Embden.

Students are also sharing how Jelani impacted them.

Dr. Billings read this statement from a former classmate:

He had a smile and a laugh that would make all of us smile and laugh. He treated everyone with respect and would always talk about how much he loved his mom and how beautiful she was. I am truly saddened. I am truly saddened. Our condolences just extend to his mother, Carmen Bolden Day and his family. I just cannot imagine.

Original: Meanwhile, an Alabama A&M graduate has not been seen for almost a month.

Day is a graduate of Alabama A&M and is studying to become a speech pathologist at Illinois...
Day is a graduate of Alabama A&M and is studying to become a speech pathologist at Illinois State.(Camren Bolden Day)

His mother is talking to WAFF and says she wants the same support for her son that the FBI put into finding Gabby Petito.

25-year-old Jelani Day was last seen on Aug. 24 leaving a store in Bloomington, Illinois. Day received his undergraduate degree from Alabama A&M.

Jelani Day last seen Aug. 24
Jelani Day last seen Aug. 24(Bloomington Police Department)

Now he’s working on his master’s in speech pathology at Illinois State in Bloomington.

His mother, Carmen Bolden Day says on Aug. 26 his car was found in a wooded area with the clothes he was last seen wearing, in it. And on August 28 his school ID was found next to an unidentified body, but his mother does not believe its Jelani.

However, authorities have asked her for a DNA sample but there’s even a delay at the forensics lab in Illinois.

His mother says people from all over, including here in Huntsville have made the trip to Illinois to help look for him.

“He enjoyed his time in Huntsville. He created an extended family in Huntsville. And a lot of them have reached out to us and I’m appreciative for all of that. I’m praying and believing that my son is alive,” Camren Bolden Day said.

You can contact the family’s private investigator at 618-223-0044, or email him at

Detective Paul Jones: is a $25,000 cash reward for his location.

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