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Jelani Day's mother begs for FBI to take over her son's death investigation

Carmen Day said authorities have not made her son a priority. "I need the FBI to come in and take over," she said Friday.

Saying her son’s case has not been prioritized, the grieving mother of Jelani Day, the Illinois State University graduate student whose body was found in the Illinois River in September, said Friday it’s time for the FBI to take over the investigation.

“I’m asking you. I’m imploring you. I’m begging you. I need to know what happened to my son,” an emotional Carmen Day said. “I need the FBI to come in and take over. … They need to make Jelani a priority.”

Day was supported in the request for federal assistance by prominent activists including Rev. Jesse Jackson and civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump.

Carmen Day spoke from the Rainbow Push Coalition’s headquarters in Chicago, a civil rights organization founded by Jackson.

"We are asking the FBI to make this young, Black man named Jelani Day a priority just like they did the young white woman, Gabby Petito, because his life matters just like hers," Crump said.

Day’s case went national following the media coverage of the disappearance and death of Petito, 22, who was the subject of global attention after she was reported missing Sept. 11 and found dead eight days later. Critics noted that missing people of color often don’t get the same kind of media attention.

Day’s body was found in the Illinois River near the city of Peru on Sept. 4, according to Bloomington police. He drowned, officials said.

Jelani Day.
Jelani Day.Bloomington Police Dept.

Day, 25, was a speech pathology student at the campus near Bloomington when his family reported him missing Aug. 25. His car was found the next day, leading searchers to focus on areas near the river, police said.

Police said security video showed Day going to a Bloomington cannabis dispensary the morning of Aug. 24. It was “his last known location,” police said.

The video showed him wearing a Jimi Hendrix T-shirt, a Detroit Lions baseball hat, light-colored shorts and black shoes, all in his car when it was found, police said.

LaSalle County Coroner Richard Ploch said there was no evidence of injury, assault, altercation, gunfire, tumors, infection, natural disease, heart problems or “significant drug intoxication

“The FBI is always willing to assist at the request of local law enforcement and is in communication with the Peru Police department to provide resources as needed," a spokesperson for the FBI said in a statement Friday. "Department of Justice policy prevents us from further commenting on investigations.”

A spokesman with the Bloomington police deferred questions to the LaSalle County Sheriff’s Office.