Jelani’s body was recovered from the Illinois River near a suburb of Chicago 11 days after he went missing. His mother, Carmen Bolden Day, condemned law enforcement and the press for failing to look for him as zealously as other missing persons.
Ms. Day also took issue with the coroner’s report. “Jelani was an avid swimmer, and an avid swimmer doesn’t drown himself,” she said on Tuesday at a march with Rev. Jesse Jackson and his Rainbow PUSH Coalition. “Jelani didn’t have depression or mental issues. Those are indicative of someone that had suicidal thoughts. That’s not what my son had.”
Authorities say there were no signs of trauma on his body. “There was no evidence of antemortem injury, such as manual strangulation, an assault or altercation, sharp, blunt or gunshot injury, infection, tumor, natural disease, congenital abnormality or significant drug intoxication,” LaSalle County Coroner Richard Ploch said in a statement sent to NPR.
Police have noted that the circumstances around his death are “suspicious” and “unusual.”
Jelani’s family is pressing law enforcement to investigate his death. His car was found concealed in a wooded area. Ms. Day and Jackson said license plates were removed from his car. “My son ain’t coming into the woods to hang out, that’s not what he did, ever in all the 25 years of me raising him and knowing him,” Day said. “This wouldn’t have been Jelani’s hangout spot.”
Jelani had aspirations to be a doctor and was working toward his master’s degree in speech pathology at Illinois State University when he disappeared.