In the middle of the questions there are clues. His car was found in forests in Peru, Illinois, nearly 70 miles from where he was last seen alive. His purse, some clothes and an ID cord were all found individually in separate places in the same general area of the car, but at distances as large as over a kilometer from the place where the body was found, according to investigators.
“It’s been too long to have no answer,” Carmen Bolden Day, Jelani’s mother, said Tuesday. “I need to know why. I need to know how.”
Ball Day, along with supporters, including Pastor Jesse Jackson, traveled to Peru, Illinois, on Tuesday, where Days’ vehicle and other belongings were found.
“Help me find justice,” Bolden Day pleaded with the crowd outside Peru police, who had gathered to travel to where evidence was found in the case to raise awareness and questions about what happened.
Jelani Day was last seen on August 24 in Bloomington, Illinois, where he walked into a Beyond / Hello store.
Two days later, his car was found about an hour’s drive north in Peru, Illinois, dumped in the woods behind a YMCA and in the middle of a residential community.
Where the car came in, according to the former family lawyer, looks like a dead end from the paved road.
The license plate was removed. The clothes Day was seen wearing on a surveillance camera on August 24 were in the car.
His purse was found “slightly in the bushes” about half a mile away, according to investigators. Neither the car nor the wallet was found near the water, yet Days’ body was found more than a week later over a mile off the banks of the Illinois River.
According to investigators, an ID cord was found just across the river from the body. Clothes were also found further east along the river next to the Illinois Route 251 Bridge.
Ball Day does not believe that her son would have harmed himself, certainly not by drowning in a river in a city where he had no ties.
“There’s plenty of water in Bloomington!” Bolden Day told CNN. “We are in Peru. A city that Jelani has no friends. His car was parked in a wooded area that you would not even have known how to get hold of if you had not heard of this.”
Bolden Day has ordered two independent autopsies after she told CNN that it has been difficult to maintain faith in local authorities.
Jelani Day’s body was found in a serious state of decay, so much so that Bolden Day does not believe that the coroner could say with such certainty in his report that there was no evidence of any damage, such as manual suffocation, a assault or quarrel, sharp, blunt or gunshot wound, infection, tumor, natural disease, congenital abnormality or significant drug poisoning. “
The LaSalle County Coroner even wrote in its report, “the study was suboptimal” based on the level of degradation after over a week in the hot summer weather. According to the former family lawyer. Hallie Bezner, his bodies were “completely fluid.”
Ball Day told CNN: “He has no skin to determine bruises, so none of this makes sense, and you want to tell me that no physical trauma has occurred to my child?”
“Do I accept this if they tell me this is my son? I accept it, but I still need to know why my son is not here anymore. Because someone knows,” she added.
The taxman’s report was “an insult to not only myself but to my son,” she said. They’re emotions, Jackson’s civil rights activist. shares and says “it assumes there is some kind of suicide planned.”
Ball Day has consistently pushed back on that narrative.
“Jelani was an avid swimmer, and an avid swimmer does not drown himself,” Bolden Day said. “So Jelani ended up here against his will, he ended up in that river against his will. He was drowned against his will. So that’s like murder.”
She wants the investigation to be taken over by state or federal authorities and says there should be more evidence out there showing how her son came from Bloomington to Peru if only someone would look like that.
CNN asked Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s office if he had plans to investigate, but had not received a response Tuesday night.
A statement from the Peru Police Department to CNN stressed that Jelani Day’s death was being worked on by officers from various forces every day.
“There are hundreds of hours of video to look through, numerous follow-ups to perform and a wealth of social media, bank records, phone records and other pieces of information to examine,” it read, adding that the device was dedicated to getting answers for the family.
Ball Day was supported by U.S. Representative Bobby Rush of the nearby Illinois 1st District, who supported her call for the FBI to take over the case, though it usually only happens when a federal crime may have been committed.
Rush wrote to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray asking them to intervene, in a letter first reported by CNN.
“The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has led the investigation into the disappearance of Gabby Petito, who disappeared around the same time as Jelani Day. Although the result was also unfortunate and tragic, I hope that after receiving timely answers will provide her family a level of comfort and closure, “he wrote.
“When I learned the details of Day’s case, I was reminded of the lynching of Emmett Till, whose body was found floating in a river in 1955, and yet, decades later, no one has been held legally responsible for his death.”
He continued: “Appropriately, the FBI has aggressively pursued justice for Petito, and Day’s family deserves the same urgency as they continue to seek answers to the many questions surrounding his tragic death.”
Siobhan Johnson, a spokesman for the FBI’s Chicago Field Office, said agents were always willing to offer assistance if asked, and were in touch with the Peru Police Department to make resources available.
So far, Bolden Day says she’s still angry at how her son’s case has been handled and wants the answers she believes the national attention got for the Petito family.
“Jelani deserves the same,” she said. “I deserve the same.”