Bloomington (Ill.) Police
The LaSalle County, Ill., coroner has released the cause of death for Jelani Day, the Illinois State University graduate student who was found dead in the Illinois River last month, 11 days after he went missing.
Day’s cause of death was officially ruled as drowning, said LaSalle County Coroner Richard Ploch in a statement sent to NPR.
However, Ploch says how Day ended up in the Illinois River is “unknown.”
“There was no evidence of antemortem injury, such as manual strangulation, an assault or altercation, sharp, blunt or gunshot injury, infection, tumor, natural disease, congenital abnormality or meaningful drug intoxication,” he said.
Ploch adds that the forensic exam of Day’s remains was “suboptimal” due to the degree of decomposition and the activity of river predators while his body was in the warm water.
The 25-year-old graduate student had been living in Bloomington, where he aspired to be a doctor. His car was found in Peru, a small city an hour north of Bloomington, two days after he was last seen on Aug. 24.
Police say Day went missing “in unexplained suspicious circumstances.”
Day’s white Chrysler 300 was spotted in “a wooded area south of the Illinois Valley YMCA,” according to Bloomington Police. Inside the car were the clothes he had been wearing when he was last seen.
But nine days after Day’s car was found, police discovered his body in the Illinois River — following a search that was triggered by a tip, member stop WGLT reported.
Questions keep as to what happened to Day before his body was found.
“It’s suspicious or uncommon circumstances while he was missing, and then [the car’s location was] also, you know, pretty suspicious or uncommon, and I’ve been a police officer 10 years,” Bloomington Police public information officer John Fermon told local news stop WMAQ-TV on Monday. “That’s very uncommon to just find a car like that.”
News of Day’s case attained national attention as his mother, Carmen Bolden Day, urged authorities to pursueher son’s case as they did for Gabby Petito, the 22-year-old white woman who was reported missing on Sept. 11.
Petito’s remains were found later in a national park in Wyoming.
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