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'Do You Not See My Son?' The Mother of Jelani Day Says Case is Not Getting The Attention It Deserves

Jelani Day, 25, was last seen Tuesday morning on a security camera at ISU’s Bone Student Center.
Jelani Day, 25, was last seen in Bloomington on Aug. 24.

The mother of missing Illinois State University graduate student Jelani Day said the discovery of an unidentified body on Sept. 4 seems to have brought her son’s case to a standstill.

“Since they found that unidentified body, it doesn’t seem to me that they are pushing to continue to look for my son,” Carmen Bolden Day said of authorities.

Day was last seen in Bloomington on Aug. 24. He is still considered a missing person and the case is being handled by the Bloomington Police Department. Bolden Day said BPD seems to lack the manpower to devote more than one detective to the investigation.

“I understand that there are other crimes that they have to investigate, but it seems like I only have this one detective and I understand he has a life outside of his work. But once he stops, does that mean we stop looking for my son?”

Officer John Fermon told WGLT that while one BPD detective has been assigned to lead the case, other staff is directed to the case as necessary.

“At one point during the investigation, five detectives, crime scene detectives, and CID supervisors were helping comb through digital evidence, physical evidence, and helping with investigation,” Fermon wrote in an email.

Bolden Day said she can’t help but feel a “lack of enthusiasm” around her son’s case. Her frustration stems in part from delays in identifying the body found in the Illinois River on Sept. 4. Bolden Day said State Police collected DNA samples from her and other members of the family on Sept. 6. But Bolden Day said she’s been told that “the state lab does not have the chemical that is needed to process the DNA.”

Through a spokesperson, the State Police Division of Forensic Services declined to comment citing its policy on open cases.

The office of the coroner in LaSalle County, where the body was found, said it couldn’t answer any questions about the status of forensic testing in the state lab. In an email, the LaSalle County coroner said no identifying characteristics of the body, like race or sex, could be confirmed.

But Bolden Day worries that authorities assume the body is that of her son, and that the investigation has fallen off as a result.

“I don’t have anything. They’re not telling me anything,” she said of authorities in LaSalle-Peru, where Day’s abandoned vehicle was recovered in a wooded area on Aug. 26. “I don’t know maybe if it was their child there would be an urgency on this. They would still be looking.”

Bolden Day has drawn attention on social media to the disparity she perceives between her son’s case and that of missing Florida woman Gabby Petito. Petito was reported missing on Sept. 11 after her boyfriend returned to Florida from a road trip without her. The case has garnered national media attention and is being investigated by multiple law enforcement agencies including the FBI.

Bolden Day said in pointing out the differences between Day and Petito’s cases, she isn’t arguing that Petito deserves less, but that Day deserves more. As a mother, Bolden Day said, she understands what Petito’s family is going through and would never minimize their pain.

“But do you not see us? Do you not see me? Do you not see my son?”

“He is loved,” Bolden Day said. “He is wanted. He is important.”

Sarah Nardi is a correspondent at WGLT. She rejoined the station in 2024.