Jelani Day: Body of missing student identified a day after his mother complained about Gabby Petito attention

‘But do you not see us? Do you not see me? Do you not see my son?’

Stuti Mishra
Friday 24 September 2021 16:10
Jelani Day's Mother Calls On Local Police For Answers
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The body of a missing Illinois Black student has been recovered by the police after a month-long disappearance and the family’s accusation that officials were not taking his case as seriously as Gabby Petito’s.

Jelani Day, 25, a first semester graduate student from Illinois State University was missing since 24 August after last being spotted at ISU and at a store in Bloomington.

His body was found floating in the Illinois river on 4 September about a mile from where the car was found, however, the police took almost three weeks in identifying him, WGLT News reported.

On Thursday, officials confirmed that it was Day through forensic dental identification and DNA testing and comparison, the local news portal reported.

Day’s case received extensive media coverage locally, however, his mother, when questioned by the media, said she was disappointed that her son’s case did not receive enough resources as compared to another case being reported nationally.

“But do you not see us? Do you not see me? Do you not see my son?” she asked.

Her reference was to Gabby Petito’s case which is receiving hours of media coverage as the FBI searched for the 22-year-old day and night.

Day’s brother D’Andre Day also told NBC News that it has been difficult to see the difference of treatment between the two cases of missing persons.

“I understand what [Petito’s] family is going through because we are going through that right now,” he was quoted by NBC as saying.

“Jelani just didn’t disappear. Somebody knows what happened. Somebody needs to report what happened,” he said. “We need everybody involved, the same way they were involved with Gabby.”

Right after these statements from the family, the police confirmed the identification of the body. However, the cause of death is still isn’t clear in the case of Day.

Bloomington Police’s public information officer John Fermon told news reporters during a virtual news conference that his disappearance and death was “very suspicious.”

“We can all agree that it was very suspicious, just unlike him,” Mr Fermon said. “It was one of those things, was it foul play or not?”

Mr Fermon also acknowledged the Day family’s criticism that the case didn’t receive as much attention at first.

“A lot of our high-risk missing persons just here in the city don’t get the attention (they) deserve either,” Mr Fermon said. “I’m happy this got out there. We’ll take the criticism.”

The FBI is now involved in the case, however, it's not clear when the agency was brought in.

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