In a heartbreaking development, the search for the missing Black graduate student Jelani Day has come to an end after a body found earlier in the month has been identified as the 25-year-olds.
In a statement after the news broke, the Illinois State University graduate student’s family stated that “Our hearts are broken.” According to NBC Chicago, the coroner for LaSalle County identified the body through rigorous forensic testing and DNA matching, found near the Chicago suburb of Peru in the Illinois River on September 4th as the grad student who was reported missing in late August.
“We ask that you continue to pray for our family during what will be very hard days ahead. Throughout these 30 days, our very first concern was finding Jelani, and now we need to find out #WhatHappenedToJelaniDay. At this moment there are more questions than answers surrounding Jelani’s disappearance and death, and that is where we will focus our energy. As of this moment, we do not know what happened to Jelani and we will not stop until we do.”, the family’s statement continued.
The news comes as Day’s family has continued to criticize the investigation into his disappearance as well as the distinct lack of media coverage, stating that it hasn’t gotten nearly the amount of attention that other missing white persons have gotten. The disappearance and subsequent death of Gabby Petito were cited as a major example, with the case garnering widespread coverage and a multi-state law enforcement effort involved in finding her. Day was last seen on a surveillance video entering a dispensary in Bloomington, with police finding his car two days later in the woods near Peru.
The LaSalle County Coroner’s office told the press that it has not determined the cause of death and is currently conducting further investigation and toxicology testing.