Body found in Illinois River has been confirmed missing Illinois State University student Jelani Day; Police call death “very suspicious”

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CHICAGO (CBS) – A body found in the Illinois River near Peru earlier this month has been identified as Illinois State University student Jelani Day, missing since late August, and police say his death was “very suspicious”.

On September 4, researchers found a body in the Illinois River near the Highway 251 bridge in the city of central Illinois in Peru, not far from where Day’s car was found over a week earlier. Authorities confirmed on Friday that dental records and DNA tests identified the body as Day’s.

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The cause of death is still unknown and police did not say whether they believed it was homicide, but Bloomington police officer John Fermon on Friday called the death “highly suspicious”.

Day was last seen at a Bloomington cannabis dispensary on August 24 near the Illinois State University campus. His abandoned car was found two days later in a wooded area near the YMCA of the Illinois Valley in Peru, located about 60 miles north of Bloomington in LaSalle County. The YMCA is about two miles from the Illinois River.

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Fermon said an investigation into the death was underway and declined to say whether police had determined why Day was in Peru or any of the circumstances surrounding his death.

“Our investigation is not over and I know the LaSalle County Sheriff’s Office investigation is not over,” he said. “We can all agree that it was very suspicious, unlike him. It’s just one of those whether it’s a criminal act or not. And that’s kind of what about what LaSalle County Sheriff’s Office is focusing, is this a homicide investigation or a death investigation, and over time that’s where we’re going to get that answer.

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Fermon also declined to say whether investigators found evidence in Day’s car leading them to believe there was someone in his car with him when he was in Peru.


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