Jelani Day

Jelani Day

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BLOOMINGTON — The mother of a Danville man whose body was discovered in early September in LaSalle County said her son’s phone was found last month on the side of an interstate highway in Bloomington.

Carmen Bolden Day said she was notified of its discovery last week. It was originally in the custody of the Bloomington Police Department, but she asked that it be given to the FBI for investigative purposes.

LaSalle County Sheriff Adam Diss confirmed the phone belonged to Mr. Day, whose body was found Sept. 4 in the Illinois River. He said the phone has been handed over to the FBI.

Bolden Day said a man driving a truck Oct. 17 had stopped by the interstate after a mattress had fallen out of the vehicle. He discovered a shattered cellphone.

The truck driver took the phone, which didn’t work, to a Walmart kiosk and was paid $80 for it, she said.

It is not clear how it was determined the phone belonged to Mr. Day or how it came into the possession of Bloomington police. Bolden Day said she was notified of the existence of the phone on Thursday.

She said Bloomington police didn’t tell her about the phone being found earlier because they wanted to first determine if it was her son’s.

She said the man who found it was questioned two days prior to her being told the news.

At that point, Bolden Day said she told Bloomington police she would like the phone to be turned over to federal investigators.

She said members of the public have been instrumental in locating evidence in the case — a man and his son found her son’s wallet in the LaSalle County town of Peru, two Illinois State students found some of Mr. Day’s clothing on the banks of the Illinois River, and members of the public found the car Aug. 26 hidden in a wooden area of Peru.

That was two days after Mr. Day was last seen at the Beyond/Hello cannabis dispensary in Bloomington.

Bolden Day said that because of the location of the cannabis dispensary and where the phone was found, she would like to ask businesses located off East Main Street in Bloomington if they can recall anyone seeing her son or his car on Aug. 24.

A graduate of Alabama A&M, Mr. Day was an undergraduate student at Illinois State, studying to become a speech pathologist.

In other news related to the case:

  • A Catholic priest — Michael Pfleger, who heads St. Savita Church in Chicago — confirmed he hired a private investigator to examine Mr. Day’s disappearance.

Pfleger said the more he’s read about the case, the more sure he is that Mr. Day was killed. He said the case makes him angry because it doesn’t appear police have taken it seriously.

The LaSalle County coroner announced in late October that Mr. Day died from drowning. However, the family says Mr. Day was a good swimmer, and some believe foul play was involved.

At 7 p.m. Friday, Bolden Day, the Day family, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and several guests will hold a virtual town hall at 7 p.m. on YouTube or Facebook live that will chronicle the case “and how everyone can be a part of fighting for #JusticeForJelani Day.”

They declared Nov. 19 Jelani Day Day and asked that people post on their personal and business social media pages updates on the case in an effort to make it a trending topic.

Our County Editor

Dave Hinton is editor of The News-Gazette's Our County section and former editor of the Rantoul Press. He can be reached at dhinton@news-gazette.com.

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