Jelani Day's mom continues to press FBI to investigate his death as a hate crime

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The mother of a graduate student whose body was found in the Illinois River is not giving up on her quest to have the FBI investigate the death as a hate crime murder.

Jelani Day's remains were found in Peru in September. The 25-year-old was a graduate student at Illinois State University. Local authorities said it looks like he committed suicide, but his mother, Carmen Day, does not accept that. Neither does her attorney, Ben Crump.

"The facts just don't add up. When you put in the historical reference of this town being a sundown town, which means that Black people were not allowed to be in that town after the sun went down and if you were, you could be killed," Crump said. "Jelani's body was found in the Illinois River 3 and a half miles from his car, his clothes were found miles in another direction, his wallet was found miles in another direction, his cell phone was found miles in another direction, and then his license plates were removed from the back of his car. That doesn't sound like suicide. That sounds like homicide. We are asking the FBI to take over this investigation and investigate it as a hate crime because we believe Jelani Day was killed."

Carmen Day said she is continuing to speak to the media because it's the only way to get La Salle County authorities to continue their investigation.

"Every time I do something, when I am able to get into the press, they always have a development. If this what I have to do, to push them to do their job, this is what I will continue to do," Carmen Day said. She said she expects local police to "announce something further this week."

Crump pointed out the disparity between the attention the Gabby Petito case received and the attention given to cases involving people of color.

"He got a college degree. He hasn't committed any crimes. He's in graduate school getting a PhD for God's sake. And all of a sudden people are trying to suggest to you, he turns up naked, dead in a river, it might be suicide," Crump said. 

He said that Carmen Day's request is simple: "'Go find out who killed my son the same way you did with Gabby Petito, this young white woman in Orlando, Florida."