The FBI is offering a reward for information regarding the death of Jelani Day, the Illinois State University student whose body was discovered in September.
The $10,000 reward was announced on Monday in a news release from the Jelani Day Joint Task Force.
Day had last been seen on August 24. His body was found floating in the Illinois River on September 4 and identified on September 23, CNN previously reported.
Federal authorities are looking for tips that will help with “substantial information” about Day’s final hours “leading to the identification of new witnesses or evidence in this case,” the release says. “Investigators believe the full cooperation of the public and Day’s close contacts may be key to understanding the facts and circumstances surrounding Day’s death.”
Day’s car found in a wooded area in Peru, Illinois, nearly 70 miles from where he was last seen alive.
His wallet, some clothes and an ID lanyard were all found individually at separate locations in the same general area as the car, but at distances as large as over a mile from where the body was found, according to investigators.
In late October, the LaSalle County, Illinois, coroner said the 25-year-old graduate student died from “drowning” with no evidence of pre-death injury but added, “the manner in which Mr. Day went into the Illinois River is currently unknown.”
Jelani’s mother, Carmen Bolden Day, disputes the coroner’s report. The family has hired an independent private forensic pathologist to conduct a second autopsy.
“That is a narrative that my son did something to himself. He did not,” she said at a general assembly meeting of Illinois State’s Black Student Union, shortly after the coroner’s report was issued.
Bolden Day said she believes someone is responsible for her son’s death. She has been pleading for more help in the case after the massive wave of interest sparked by the case of Gabby Petito, which has highlighted the disparities between cases where the missing person is White and those involving Black and brown people.
The Jelani Day Joint Task Force includes members from the Bloomington, Illinois Police Department; the Peru, Illiinois, Police Department; the FBI’s Chicago Division; the Lasalle County Sheriff’s Office; the City of LaSalle Police Department; the Illinois State Police and the Illinois Attorney General’s Office.
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