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Police: Body in river was missing Illinois State student

September 24, 2021 GMT

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (AP) — A body discovered in a river nearly three weeks ago has been confirmed as a graduate student missing from Illinois State University, authorities said Thursday.

Jelani Day’s identity was confirmed through DNA and dental records, the LaSalle County coroner’s office said.

Day, 25, was last seen at the Illinois State campus on Aug. 24. His car was found in Peru two days later. The body was discovered in the Illinois River in the LaSalle-Peru area on Sept. 4.

“There are no words to clearly communicate our devastation. ... Our hearts are broken,” Day’s family said on Facebook.

“As of this moment, we do not know what happened to Jelani and we will not stop until we do,” the family said.

Investigators are trying to determine if Day was a victim of foul play, said John Fermon, a Bloomington police spokesman.

“Over time, that’s where we’ll get that answer,” he said of the investigation.

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Day wanted to become a doctor and was pursuing a master’s degree in speech pathology at Illinois State, said his mother, Carmen Bolden Day.

llinois State President Terri Goss Kinzy described Day as “kind, intelligent and caring.”

“He joined his graduate program this summer and his impact on the campus community was immediate. ... Details regarding how our community will come together to celebrate Jelani’s life and honor his memory will be forthcoming,” Kinzy said.

Day’s cousin, Eriel Davis, said his disappearance didn’t make sense.

“His dad actually has cancer and Jelani is the bone marrow match for his dad, and he would never abandon his father like that,” Davis said.