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Time until Jelani Day's body was found did not affect part of the science

Peru Illinois walk through woods Jelani Day.jpg
Emily Bollinger
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, left, and Jelani Day's mother, Carmen Bolden Day, walk this week through a wooded area in Peru, Ill., where Jelani Day's car was found. His body was found about a mile away in the Illinois River.

As the investigation into the death of Illinois State University graduate student Jelani Day goes on, the time it took to find and identify the body looms larger, as potential evidence external to the body may have washed away while he was in the Illinois River.

The autopsy report WGLT acquired under the Freedom Of Information Act doesn't help much. Over and over again, there is reference to deterioration and predation from aquatic animals.

Much has been made of how the delay in finding the body might have affected the ability of authorities to discern what happened to him. LaSalle County Coroner Rich Ploch said in at least one respect, that's not the case — in the testing of the body. He said if a body is not deteriorated, they test blood, serum, and sometimes fluid from the eye. If the body has decay the preferred test is liver tissue.

"The only difference normally is time frame. That's another reason blood is sent in because those panels can be processed more quickly than tissue samples because it takes extra steps to process a tissue sample," said Ploch.

He said the sensitivity of the tests is the same. And the standards used to determine detectable and significant levels of compounds are uniform and set by federal authorities using decades of experience and scientific research.

Ploch said water and time may have reduced evidence external to Day's body that crime scene investigators might have found useful. But Ploch said it's still too soon to talk about the possibility that it may never be known how Jelani Day came to be in the water.

"I'm not going to answer that yet because I know the police agencies, the FBI and State Police are working this case really hard," said Ploch.

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