Body found in Illinois River ID’d as missing college student

Published: Sep. 24, 2021 at 9:39 AM CDT
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BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (WEEK) - “I feel like right now, the whole school is just so tense and just so scared. Like, it could’ve been any of us,” said Maleah Williams, an Illinois State University senior.

That was the consensus on campus Thursday afternoon as students learned the news about missing college student Jelani Day.

The LaSalle County coroner confirmed a body that was found along the Illinois River on Sept. 4 was Day.

He had been missing since Aug. 24 and was last seen in Bloomington.

“Everyone was kind of just on edge this whole time, you know, trying to find him, trying to find information about him. And when we finally got the information, it wasn’t in the way that we wanted,” Williams said.

It has been about three weeks of waiting to know if that body was Day’s after using forensic dental and DNA evidence to confirm it.

His car, wallet and other personal items were found at different spots throughout LaSalle and Peru.

“It’s it’s one of those things that sometimes it’s out of your control, especially as a police department, you know. The coroner’s office sent off the testing. I can’t really get into a lot of why the identification wasn’t made or things like that,” said officer John Fermon, public information officer with Bloomington Police Department.

Police said students shouldn’t be worried on campus, but some students said the case has changed how they feel when walking to class.

“I was kind of shook, you know. ... It’s like, an African American myself, you know, I kind of fear that ... you know, we’re not really safe everywhere we go.” said Jason Dedios, a college sophomore.

Some students are thankful for the closure.

“It’s heartbreaking and totally frustrating to be sure, but at the same time, I’m happy that the family is hopefully able to get the closure that they’re seeking,” said Brandt Swanson, a grad student.

Police said there is still work to be done to figure out how and why this happened.

“You know, we’re still doing our investigation. We’re not finished with it,” Fermon said.

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