Drowning has been determined as the cause of the death of Jelani Day, the Illinois State graduate student who went missing in August and whose body was found but not identified until the month after, fueling concerns about what truly happened to him.
LaSalle County Coroner Richard Ploch announced the news on Monday (October 25th), acknowledging that “the manner in which Mr. Day went into the Illinois River is currently unknown,” but also writing that the office’s forensic examinations were less than optimal in a press release cited by CNN. He noted the activity of predators in the waters of the river as well as the state of decomposition of the body as factors before stating in the report that “there was no evidence of any (pre-death) injury, such as manual strangulation, an assault or altercation, sharp, blunt, or gunshot injury, infection, tumor, natural disease, congenital abnormality, or significant drug intoxication.”
Carmen Bolden Day, Jelani’s mother, emphatically disagreed with the coroner’s findings. She and the family suspect foul play and have engaged the services of an independent forensic pathologist to conduct a second autopsy. Bolden Day attended a march in Peru, Illinois, which is the town where Jelani’s car was located in a wooded area on August 26th two days after he was reported missing. “It’s been way too long not to have answers. I need to know why. I need to know the hows.”, she told the crowd which included members of the Illinois Black Student Union gathered in front of the town’s police department headquarters. She was joined in these concerns by Reverend Jesse Jackson, Jr. who addressed the student union the day before. “I don’t believe it. That’s a suicide line. We don’t believe it,” Jackson said to the press afterward. “The Department of Justice and the attorney general needs to be a part of this.”