The coroner of LaSalle County, Illinois, on Thursday identified a body found earlier this month as missing graduate student Jelani Day.
The LaSalle County Coroner confirmed Day’s identity through forensic dental identification and DNA testing and comparison, the office said in a news release shared by the Bloomington Police Department. The cause of death remains unknown, the release said, pending further investigation.
Day, a 25-year-old graduate student at Illinois State University whose mother said he aspired to become a speech pathologist, was reported missing on August 25 in Bloomington, Illinois.
Day’s mother, Carmen Bolden Day, had spoken out in recent days, pleading for more help finding her son after the massive wave of interest sparked in the case of Gabby Petito, which has highlighted the disparities between cases where the missing person is White and those involving Black and brown persons.
Bolden Day told HLN Petito’s case is important, too, adding she understands the position Petito’s mother is in. But Day’s case “did not get that involvement,” she said. “I didn’t get that attention.”
Officer John Fermon with the Bloomington Police Department said Thursday that while the case recently received national attention, locally he believes it received a good amount of attention from the beginning and sympathizes with the cases that don’t get that exposure.
“We’re lucky the story actually exploded as well as it did, which may or may not have led to the tips that came in,” Fermon said during a news conference. “We’ve had people going out of their way, drive a few hours, just to walk around.”
Day was last seen on August 24, and his vehicle was located in Peru, Illinois, a couple of days later on August 26.
An initial search took place on August 26. Fermon said there were extensive K-9 searches conducted by Illinois State Police, drone aerial searches by local jurisdictions, and ground searches. Nothing was found then or in subsequent searches, he said.
Authorities returned on September 4 and found the body that would later be identified as Day’s floating in the Illinois River.
“We got some information to give us that second search,” Fermon said, citing there is still a death investigation looking into the cause. “We were getting tips in, but that’s really as far as I’ll get. We were getting some tips in from around that location.”
Fermon would not speculate whether Day’s death would be ruled a homicide.
“Foul play or not, it’s unusual,” he said.
An autopsy was conducted the day after the body was found, he said, but the LaSalle County Coroner has yet to release the results.
Fermon described a 10-agency effort that included specialized search and rescue teams near the Peru area where the vehicle was found, with FBI assistance. The FBI has not responded to CNN’s request for comment.
CNN’s Nicquel Terry Ellis contributed to this report.