A body found floating in the Illinois River has been identified as that of the missing graduate student Jelani Day, authorities disclosed on Thursday.
Day’s body was found in the river near his abandoned car on September 4, but it wasn’t until Thursday that a coroner confirmed it to be the 25-year-old master’s student, who was studying speech pathology at Illinois State University in Bloomington.
“Currently the cause of death is unknown, pending further investigation, and toxicology testing,” the LaSalle County Coroner’s office said in a statement.
Day was first reported missing on August 25 after he failed to appear for class in Bloomington for several days.
On a Facebook page monitored by Day’s family, his relatives said they’re anxiously awaiting more information.
“At this moment there are more questions than answers surrounding Jelani’s disappearance and death, and that is where we will focus our energy,” a post reads. “As of this moment, we do not know what happened to Jelani and we will not stop until we do.”
The disappearance of Day, who is Black, has been highlighted as an example of how missing person cases involving people of color do not capture the same media attention and police resources as those of missing white women, with many making the comparison to the recent case of 22-year-old Gabby Petito.
Jelani’s mother, Carmen Bolden Day, recently spoke out about the disparity on “Good Morning America.”
“I shouldn’t have to beg. I shouldn’t have to plead. I shouldn’t have to feel that there is a racial disparity. I shouldn’t have to feel anything like that. I want these people that have these resources to realize this could happen to them,” she said.
Day’s mother has also said it’s unlike her son to suddenly vanish and that she believes “there was someone involved” in his disappearance. Other members of his family have called for the FBI to get involved and put forth the same resources the agency used to locate Petito and investigate the circumstances surrounding her homicide.