The historically Black fraternity to which Jelani Day belonged is calling on federal law enforcement officials to either join or take over the existing investigation into the graduate student’s death in Illinois.
Members of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. and the Nu Epsilon chapter at Alabama A&M University, a historically Black college where Day attended, launched an online petition to amplify their demands and said they won’t rest “Until the person responsible for killing Jelani is prosecuted and convicted.”
As of Thursday afternoon, the petition had garnered more than 26,000 signatures out of its goal of 35,000.
The petition was updated on Thursday to say the brothers of the Nu Epsilon chapter emailed “a formal letter to state and federal officials in Illinois to formally request that their officials take over the investigation into the killing of our dear brother Jelani Day.”
A previous version of the petition that was launched last month said the Bloomington Police Department “has shown the inability to handle a case of this nature.”
Day’s mother on Thursday encouraged people to keep signing the petition and to share it widely.
“We need answers!!” Carmen Bolden Day wrote in a Facebook post. “We DEMAND answers….”
Day’s family has also requested federal intervention and said this week that they had ordered a third autopsy to be conducted on his body, which has been the subject of conflicting reports over the state of his vital organs.
It had previously been reported that Hallie M. Bezner, an attorney for Day’s mother, said the “family’s private forensic pathologist” didn’t find a brain, liver or spleen, among other organs, in Day’s body during a second autopsy. Day’s jaw was reportedly “sawed out.”
But Day’s siblings contradicted their mother one day after she claimed in a different Facebook post that “no organs were missing” from her son’s body. Bolden Day referenced “contradicting facts from the first preliminary autopsy compared to the second independent autopsy” and stated that she was not aware of this being “a case of organ harvesting.”
Day’s siblings said they “ARE NOT taking organ harvesting off the table but still our mothers [sic] wishes are not to make organ harvesting the main focus.”
LaSalle County Coroner Richard Ploch said on Tuesday that Day’s cause of death had still not yet been determined. Ploch, who denied organs were missing, shifted the burden to police and called on them “to help with the big piece on how he came to be in the water,” according to NBC Chicago.
Like their mother, the children said local authorities have failed the family and called for federal law enforcement officials to get involved.
“Due to the distrust this is why we suspect foul play of the La Salle county coroner, La Salle sheriff office, La Salle PD, Peru PD and Bloomington PD,” the statement said. “For these reasons this is why we want/need the FBI Involved as well.”
According to LaSalle County Coroner Rich Ploch, Day’s toxicology report was released Thursday and found evidence of nicotine and cannabis in his system, both of which are fully legal for adults in Illinois.
Day, a 25-year-old Illinois State University graduate student, wasn’t found off the south bank of the Illinois River until 10 days after he was first reported missing on Aug. 25, and nine days after his car was found in a wooded area in the town of Peru.
It wasn’t until weeks later, and nearly a month since he was reported missing, that Day’s body could actually be identified by the LaSalle County Coroner’s Office. Day’s mother had been all but begging the media to pay her son’s story the same attention that it had paid to Gabby Petito, and she’d been concerned that the authorities had been dragging their feet investigating her son’s disappearance.
Even after Day’s body had been identified, Bolden was not immediately allowed to view the body.
Bolden Day recalled being on the phone with Bezner on Sept. 22 when the unidentified coroner called her on the other line to give her the “good news” that her son’s body was soon to be identified.
After she naturally had more questions concerning the coroner’s office’s process and why it took so long for her son to be identified, the coroner reportedly got frustrated and was egregiously rude in asking her, “Do you want us to identify your son or not?”
Bezner said she was on the line at the time and she rightfully told the coroner he had “no f**king right” to speak to Bolden Day that way.
A day later, the coroner’s office announced Day had finally been identified, but Bolden Day said she was informed she would still have to wait to view the body, which was waterlogged to the point where it was missing Day’s eyeballs.
Bezner said the LaSalle County coroner had explained that the organs were missing because they “completely liquefied.”
On Sept. 29, Day’s family gathered at the funeral home where Bolden Day was finally able to view her son’s body, but her attorney advised against it since he was in such “bad shape.” In the end, Day’s grandmother and one of his brothers were the only ones in the family to see his body. Bolden said at the time she still wasn’t absolutely sure it was her son who was lying in the closed casket.
Meanwhile, it remains unclear how Day ended up in the river in the first place as the FBI continues to investigate Petito’s murder.