Jelani Day's Remains Buried in Illinois Following His Mysterious Disappearance and Death

Jelani Day
Jelani Day.Facebook

The Rev. Jesse Jackson compared the strange case of Jelani Day to Emmett Till, a Black teen lynched in Mississippi.

The remains of 25-year-old graduate student Jelani Day were buried Tuesday at a service attended by family, friends and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who compared Day's death to the 1955 lynching of Black teen Emmett Till, who was murdered after being falsely accused of grabbing a white woman.

Police have been investigating the disappearance of Day, who was pursuing a master's degree in speech pathology at Illinois State University, since Aug. 25, when he was reporting missing. Nearly a month later, his badly decomposed body was formally identified as belonging to Day.

The bloated remains had been pulled from the Illinois River 10 days after he vanished. They were floating some 60 miles from where he lived in Bloomington.

Jackson demanded that the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice "conduct a thorough investigation because it smells like another Emmett Till case all over again." The longtime civil rights leader said he and the Day family will continue to press for answers.

"We're not going to stop until it's over," Jackson said. 

The young man's mother, Carmen Bolden Day, said burying her son's remains brought her no peace.

"I just saw one of the best things that God blessed me with, go into the ground, and I’ll never get to talk to him or see him again. I do not even have words to tell you how it is,“ she said after the funeral, CNN reported.

“I do not know why I bury Jelani. I do not know what happened to Jelani, so I have no closure,” she said. 

Day was not the type of young man to go off the radar, his family said. He did not ignore calls and texts from family and friends. He was a responsible, dedicated graduate student. He had graduated from Alabama A&M University with a bachelor's degree in speech pathology. 

He wanted to be a doctor. 

Yet in August, Day did exactly what he'd never done before. He went off the radar. He didn't report to class. He didn't answer his phone. His family and a professor reported him missing on Aug. 25. Ten days later, search teams found his body in the Illinois River near Peru, some 60 miles north of where he went to college. 

It took nearly a month for the LaSalle County coroner's office to positively identify the extremely decomposed body as belonging to Day. 

The case took on national media attention after Day's grief-stricken mother, Carmen Bolden Day, said "Missing White Woman Syndrome" caused the disappearance of Gabby Petito. a 22-year-old blonde who vanished on a road trip with her fiancé, receiving far more attention than her missing Black son.

Gruesome, false rumors ran amok on social media  Day's internal organs were missing, as was his brain and his eyes. His mother, steeped in pain and loss, took to Facebook to plead for calm and for authorities to work harder.

“Some things need and have to be clarified," she wrote. "No organs were missing. I do not want to stray off from the facts. There were contradicting facts from the first preliminary autopsy compared to the second independent autopsy ... My son did not put himself in a river. My son was murdered and my goal and purpose are to find out what happened and hold those responsible accountable!!!”

Day's relatives commissioned an independent autopsy following the initial coroner's examination. The full results of both have not been publicly released. The medical examiner also said there were no missing organs while noting the remains had been substantially degraded.

His family believes Day was killed. Investigators say the case is suspicious. Two days after Day was last seen, his car was discovered near a YMCA, close to a wooded area in Peru. And from there, things have gone cold, authorities said.

"We're empathetic with Jelani's family. If I was in her shoes I would probably feel the way she does," Bloomington Police Department spokesman John Fermon told Inside Edition Digital this week, referring to Day's mother. "If it was my son, I'd want answers yesterday," he said.

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