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Mom of dead Illinois State student Jelani Day hires civil rights lawyer

Carmen Bolden Day said she believes her son Jelani was "murdered," and she wants to know who is responsible and why it happened.
Credit: Day Family
Jelani Day, second from left

CHICAGO — The mother of an Illinois State University graduate student who vanished in August and was later found dead has hired a prominent civil rights lawyer to investigate the Black man's death.

Carmen Bolden Day, in a news release Thursday announcing she had hired lawyer Ben Crump, said she believes her son was "murdered," and she wants to know who is responsible and why it happened.

The investigation into Jelani Day's disappearance officially began on Aug. 25, when his family reported him missing after not hearing from him and learning he hadn't shown up to class for several days.

Day's vehicle was found Aug. 26 abandoned in a wooded area south of the Illinois Valley YMCA. During a search for Day on Sept. 4 in the LaSalle Peru area, police found a body in the Illinois River, just off the south bank, east of the Illinois Route 251 bridge.

The LaSalle County Coroner's Office confirmed Sept. 23 that a body discovered in the Illinois River belonged to Day, nearly three weeks after the body had been found. Forensic dental identification and DNA testing comparisons were used to make the connection, as the body had severely decomposed because it was in water.

RELATED: Lasalle County Coroner: Body found in early September identified as missing ISU student, Jelani Day

After further investigation, the coroner's office was able to determine in October that Day died from drowning, but it was still unclear how the 25-year-old had gone into the Illinois River. 

"There was no evidence of any antemortem injury, such as manual strangulation, an assault or altercation, sharp, blunt, or gunshot injury, infection, tumor, natural disease, congenital abnormality, or significant drug intoxication," LaSalle County Coroner Richard Pioch said in a statement release on Oct. 25.

Authorities have said his death remains under investigation. Anyone with information on the case was asked to contact the LaSalle County Sheriff’s Office at 815-433-2161.

For more regional true crime stories, stream episodes of WQAD's "Missing and Murdered in the Midwest" podcast.

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