Mother of missing Illinois State University grad student pleads for help finding him

Police investigating the disappearance of an Illinois State University graduate student are asking the public for tips as the search for the young man continues nearly a month after he vanished.

Jelani Day, 25, was last seen Aug. 24. His family in Danville and a faculty member reported him missing after he did not show up for class for several days.

Bloomington police said Monday they need tips from the public to aid the ongoing search for Day, whose car was found Aug. 26 in a wooded area in Peru, about 60 miles north of Bloomington.

Detectives found a body in the area where his car was last seen, but the LaSalle County Coroner says DNA results are still pending.


"What we want is any factual tip, even as simple as. ‘Hey, you know, we saw him walking last month on the quad’ or something. That would be a good tip," said John Fermon, a public information officer for the Bloomington Police Department.

After combing through the graduate student’s car, detectives say they found the same clothes he was wearing when he was last seen.

His mother, Carmen Bolden-Day, says crucial time is passing and the FBI should come in to help local police.

"I am not in denial and I am not delusional, and since we don’t know if that is Jelani (the body found), I need you to be looking for Jelani," she said.

Jelani Day (Facebook)

Bolden-Day said it’s not like her son to disappear without telling someone about his whereabouts.

She said Jelani wants to become a doctor and he was attending Illinois State University to get his master’s degree in speech pathology.

"I need him to come home so that he could continue his journey of becoming Dr. Jelani Day," she said.

Bolden-Day says she never went a day without speaking to her son.

She says the resources and media attention that Gabby Petito's case has received is much different than from what her son's case has gotten.

"The treatment they are giving to this young white girl isn't the same treatment they are giving to my young Black son, and I am angry about it and I want that same treatment for my son," Bolden-Day said.

She is talking about the all-out manhunt to find Petito using federal resources. Sadly, Petito’s story had a tragic ending as her remains were found over the weekend.

"There’s a disparity there. I understand the circumstances are different," Bolden-Day said.

"They hadn’t spoken to Gabby in two weeks when they reported her missing," she added. Her son has been missing 28 days.

"They found (Gabby) in three days," Bolden-Day said.

On September 20, Bloomington, IL police put out a statement on the investigation into Jelani’s disappearance.

"As of 9/20/2021, the Bloomington Police Department is still investigating and seeking leads in regards to missing person Jelani "JJ" Day. Currently, BPD detectives are still sorting through tips, and are still actively investigating the case. Their investigation includes but is not limited to: (1) collecting and analyzing digital evidence, (2) collecting and analyzing physical evidence, (3) locating and interviewing witnesses or potential witnesses, (4) searching for leads or other information that can help with the investigation. Anyone with information about Jelani Day is asked to contact BPD Detective Paul Jones at 309-434-2548 or at"

Associated Press contributed to this report.