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New 'Jelani Day' bill to require FBI involvement in cases where bodies remain unidentified

Sen. Elgie Sims, D-Chicago, in a 2018 committee hearing.
John O'Connor
State Sen. Elgie Sims, D-Chicago, in a 2018 committee hearing.

It’s been six months since Illinois State University graduate student Jelani Day went missing. His body was not found for nearly two weeks. Once found, Day's remains went unidentified for three more weeks.

State Sen. Elgie Sims, D-Chicago, says the process should not take so long.

“When you look at missing person cases, typically the first 72 hours are extremely important. So being able to get those resources in place, they're just critical to the overall success and getting families the help that they need,” said Sims.

Sims hopes to amend the Missing Persons Identification Act with SB 3932. It would require medical examiners and coroners to contact the FBI if a body remains unidentified after 72 hours. Sims said the FBI would then work with the Illinois State Police.

“It's not an indictment of any person in law enforcement. It's about utilizing the tools that we have we have at our disposal,” Sims said.

Sims said he hopes the legislative reinforcement will help police and coroners find out sooner how and why a missing person died, and therefore bring closure to the family and the community suffering the loss.

Sims is a former Redbird himself. He says he sends his heart out to Day's family, his alma mater, and the Bloomington-Normal community.

“My heart goes out first and foremost to the family, but also to the entire community. Because you want everyone to understand that they have value. Whomever you are, your life has value,” said Sims.

The FBI is offering a $10,000 reward to anyone who comes forward with information on Jelani Day's death.

SB 3932 passed through the Senate Local Government committee on Tuesday. The 5-3 vote fell along party lines. The bill is placed on the Senate calendar for second reading.

Maggie Strahan is a Public Affairs Reporting program intern for WGLT and WCBU.