A graduate student from Illinois who went missing nearly a month ago was found dead earlier this month before being positively identified on Thursday.
Neither Day’s cause of death nor any indication of foul play was immediately announced.
He was found in Bloomington, which is about two miles south of the city of Normal, where Day was a student at Illinois State University. Day’s body was reportedly found floating near the banks of the Illinois River.
It took the LaSalle County Coroner conducting forensic dental identification and DNA testing and comparison to make a positive identification.
The disappearance of Day, who is Black, came during the mainstream media’s infatuation with Gabby Petito, a missing white woman who received a disproportionate amount of local and national news coverage.
Day’s mother said earlier this week before the discovery of her son was announced that she wanted the police and media to care about him as if he was a white woman.
Petito’s disappearance — her body was found on Sunday — and subsequent death led to renewed discussions on the missing Black and other people of color who often go unnoticed. Day’s family wanted to ensure the public didn’t forget about him.
“I feel like since [Petito’s] body has been found, and as I said, it’s unidentified, I don’t truly believe it is my son,” Bolden Day said at the time before she knew LaSalle County had his body in custody. “It appears that help has like ceased. I’m imploring, pleading and asking that the police still pay attention and look for my son.”
Bolden Day asked why her Black son wasn’t getting the same concern and attention generated by a missing white woman.
“I was very frustrated with the fact that Jelani hadn’t been getting the coverage,” she said. “Jelani has been missing for 24 days.”
Feeling like the effort to find her son had “slacked down,” Bolden Day said she knew of Petito’s case and wondered again why her son wasn’t seen as worthy of deserving the same attention.
“Her face is plastered everywhere, and the FBI is involved,” she continued. “And I do not understand why Jelani doesn’t get that same coverage; Jelani doesn’t get that same attention.”
It was unclear whether the local authorities had seen any of the scant media coverage about Day or the role local law enforcement played in notifying the public about discovering the then-anonymous body of Day.
However, since Day’s mother was so heavily involved in trying to find her son, it would appear that there was no outreach following the discovery of the body that turned out to be Day.