CHICAGO (AP) — The mother of an Illinois State University graduate student who vanished in August and was later found dead in the Illinois River has hired a prominent civil rights attorney to investigate his death.[1]

A coroner determined in October that Jelani Day died from drowning, but said it was unclear how the 25-year-old had gone into the Illinois River. LaSalle County's coroner said an autopsy on Day found no evidence of “manual strangulation, an assault or altercation, sharp, blunt or gunshot injury."[2]

In a news release Thursday announcing her hiring of attorney Ben Crump, Carmen Bolden Day said she believes her son was “murdered” and she wants to know who is responsible and why it happened.[3]

Authorities have said his death remains under investigation.

Carmen Bolden was scheduled to join Crump and the Rev. Jesse Jackson at a Friday news conference in Chicago to discuss Crump's hiring and his efforts to investigate her son's death.

“Ben feels Jelani is also his brother, and he wants to help find more answers and so do I,” Carmen Bolden Day said in the news release sent by Jackson's publicist.

She has said her son wanted to become a doctor and was pursuing a master’s degree in speech pathology at Illinois State. He was last seen on the Normal, Illinois, campus on Aug. 24.[4] Day's family in Danville and a faculty member reported him missing after he failed to show up for class for several days.

Day's car was found in Peru, Illinois, two days later about 60 miles (96 kilometers) north of Bloomington, and his body was discovered in the Illinois River on Sept. 4 in the LaSalle-Peru area.[1:1]

The LaSalle County Sheriff’s Department announced last month that Day's cell phone had been found and sent to the FBI for forensic testing.

Crump has gained national prominence representing the families of George Floyd, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Breonna Taylor, among others.

Notes & References

  1. Chicago Journal. “Police: Body in River Was Missing Illinois State Student.” Chicago Journal. Chicago Journal, September 24, 2021. ↩︎ ↩︎

  2. “Missing ISU Graduate Student Jelani Day Drowned: Coroner.” AP NEWS. Associated Press, October 26, 2021. ↩︎

  3. Morrison, Aaron. “Florida Law School Creates Ben Crump Social Justice Center.” AP NEWS. Associated Press, December 3, 2021. ↩︎

  4. Chicago Journal. “Search for Missing Man Includes Body Found in Illinois River.” Chicago Journal. Chicago Journal, September 6, 2021. ↩︎