"I need to know what happened to my son," Carmen Day said during a press conference on Friday (December 3).
Jelani Day was a graduate student at the Illinois State University, working to become a speech pathologist when he disappeared. Carmen Day said on August 24, she couldn't reach her son by phone and when she didn't hear from him the next day, she filed a missing persons report with police.
On September 4, Jelani's body was discovered floating in the Illinois River in the small town of Peru located about 60 miles north of Bloomington. The body was positively identified as Jelani Day by LaSalle County Coroner's Office on September 23.
A Sundown Town's Slow Pace Triggers Call for Federal Officials
The family has questioned the circumstances surrounding Jelani's death and disappearance, and if his race was a factor. Their attorney, Ben Crump, noted Peru's history of being unwelcoming to Black people and that the family suspects foul play.
"Then you look at the demographics of this town in which this happened and acknowledgement this is was a sundown town," Crump said at the press conference. Crump has called for a hate crime investigation.
B'Ivory LaMarr, another attorney representing the Day family echoed the sentiments and added that given the slow pace of local authorities in investigating and the mounting questions around Jelani's death, federal investigators need to step in.
"The family at this point is calling for the FBI, obviously the FBI will be the most verse to handling these kinds of cases, knowing what to look for and be able to conduct behavioral analysis to determine a prospect of who the alleged killer would be," LaMarr said.
The federal input on the investigation, the family said, might be what's needed to get answers.
The Day Family Asks About Federal Involvement With Gabby Petito's Death Investigation
During the press conference, the Day family noted the wealth of local, multiple state, and federal resources that were used to investigate the disappearance and death of Gabby Petito who went missing around the same time as Jelani.
The family also brought up the disparity in resources when it comes to missing Black people and said they hope that federal authorities will be open to using the same level of attention as they've done for others.
Carmen Day also said the answers she has gotten has come from the Day family, not local police.
"I wasn't getting any help, I wasn't getting any resources, I didn't have all the drones, I didn't have the police officers, I didn't have all of that, I still don't have that," she said.
"It was me and my children who took on the task of going to stores and gas stations, watching surveillance tapes, calling detectives asking 'Have you checked this area, can you come get this videotape because we see Jelani's car was here,'" Carmen added.
There's still no word on if the FBI will take over the investigation.
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The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
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The Association of Black Psychologists 1-301-449-3082
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America 1-240-485-1001
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