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Officials confirm body found in Illinois River is missing graduate student

CBS News logo CBS News 9/24/2021 Tre'Vaughn Howard
jelani-day.png © Bloomington Police Department jelani-day.png

A body found earlier this month has been identified by the coroner of LaSalle County, Illinois, as missing graduate student Jelani Day, police announced Thursday. The 25-year-old had been reported missing last month.

"At this moment there are more questions than answers surrounding Jelani's disappearance and death, and that is where we will focus our energy," Day's family wrote in a Facebook post. "As of this moment, we do not know what happened to Jelani and we will not stop until we do."

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The LaSalle County Coroner confirmed Day's identity by using forensic dental identification and DNA testing and comparison, the Bloomington Police Department tweeted. The cause of death is still unknown. However, officer John Fermon on Thursday called the death "very suspicious," according to CBS Chicago.

"Our investigation is not complete, and I know the LaSalle County Sheriff's Office investigation is not complete," he said. "We can all agree that it was very suspicious, unlike him, It's just one of those of is it foul play or not. And that's kind of what the LaSalle County Sheriff's Office is their main focus, is is it a homicide investigation, or is it a death investigation, and over time that's where we're going to get that answer."

The graduate student was reported missing on August 25, with family members saying they last spoke to him in the evening hours two days prior. He was last seen in a Bloomington cannabis dispensary near the Illinois State University campus on August 24, according to police.

a group of people posing for the camera: Jelani Day, 25, was reported missing on August 25, 2021. / Credit: Bloomington Police Department © Provided by CBS News Jelani Day, 25, was reported missing on August 25, 2021. / Credit: Bloomington Police Department

Two days after he was last seen, Day's abandoned car was found in Peru, Illinois, prompting an extensive aerial and ground search in that area by several law enforcement agencies. On September 4, agencies in the area recovered a body floating near the south bank of the Illinois River.

The investigation included several departments and agencies such as the Bloomington Police Department, Illinois State University Police Department, Peru Police Department and the FBI - Springfield Division.

Authorities request that any one with information contact the LaSalle County Sheriff's Office at 815-433-2161.

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