Jelani Day

New Clues Emerge in the Death Investigation of Jelani Day

Jelani's iPhone was turned off shortly after he left the marijuana dispensary

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The discovery of Jelani Day’s iPhone—a crucial clue in the unsolved case—was pure luck.

Six weeks after Jelani’s body was found in the Illinois River, a man driving on I-55 north in Bloomington pulled over to secure a mattress tied to the roof of his car. By chance, he looked down at the side of the road and saw a shattered iPhone, it was Jelani Day's.

“I want to know who’s involved. Who was his last conversation with?,” said Jelani’s brother D’Andre.

D’Andre and his mother Carmen are convinced the answers to what happened to Jelani are on messages locked in his iPhone which was sent to the FBI in Chicago.

“They haven’t been able to get inside the iPhone. They tell me there is software that’s only available for the iPhone up to the 11. Jelani had a 12 Max Pro, “ said Carmen Bolden Day.

Police sources close to the investigation, say that Jelani’s Verizon cellphone records show his iPhone was turned off at 9:21 am shortly after he was last seen buying marijuana at the Beyond Hello dispensary in Bloomington. His car was captured on video driving away.

Three Chicago-area mysteries are put under the microscope in the second season of NBC Chicago's unsolved mysteries series, "Scene of the Crime," available starting Friday, April 29, on Roku, Apple TV and Amazon FireTV.

Then, his cell was apparently tossed from the car onto the roadside off I-55 North in Bloomington.

NBC5 Investigates obtained heavily redacted police emails through the Freedom of Information Act. One email refers to a “extraction Report Apple iPhone” and notes “23 chats and 17 messages” found on Jelani’s cell. These details have been cross referenced from Jelani’s contact list.

Another email notes “six phone numbers of interest” but a detective also writes “nothing crazy on Jelani’s phone extraction.”

Despite national attention to Jelani’s case, the family says no one has come forward with any information that has panned out.

“They didn’t even come forward and say 'yeah, I remember talking to him (Jelani) that day,'” remarked Carmen.

Police also recovered Jelani’s car from a wooded area in Peru. The license plate had been removed and they found a partially smoked marijuana cigar blunt in the car. There was something else—a journal—perhaps a possible clue into Jelani’s state of mind.

Police would not comment on the contents of the journal, but we do know there was no suicide note. Carmen said that Jelani’s journal began in 2016 but there were only two entries in 2021.  

More puzzling was the discovery of Jelani’s sneakers and shorts on a riverbank north of where his body was found. While the items contained DNA, it wasn’t Jelani’s and still has not been identified, raising even more questions for the family.

“I think there are people withholding information—for whatever reason—I don’t care,” D’Andre said.

The family rejects any suggestion that Jelani took his own life saying that he had everything to live for at the time of his death, even volunteering to donate stem cells for his father, who had leukemia and needed a transplant.

Sadly, his father passed in April.

The Day family has lost a son, a brother and now a father but say their will to find out what happened to Jelani will never wane.

Twenty-five-year old Jelani Day was the fourth of Carmen Bolden Day’s five children raised in Danville, Illinois—two girls and three boys.

In August 2021, Jelani was set on getting a master’s degree in the competitive field of speech pathology at Illinois State University in downstate Normal, Illinois when he suddenly didn’t show up for class.

A week and a half after his mysterious disappearance, his body was found in the Illinois River in Peru an hour north of the downstate campus in Bloomington Normal.

The LaSalle coroner’s report said Jelani drowned, but his mother Carmen says her son was an experienced swimmer and she suspects foul play.

In December 2021, the Jelani Day Joint Task Force was announced to help identify and coordinate new leads in the death investigation. The task force includes Bloomington Police Department, Peru Police Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation-Chicago Division, LaSalle County Sheriff’s Office, City of LaSalle Police Department, Illinois State Police and the Illinois Attorney General’s Office.  

The public can submit tips, anonymously via 1-800-CALL-FBI. The FBI is offering up to $10,000 for “substantial information” and the family is offering up to $25,000 in reward money.

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