‘What happened to my son': Few answers emerge 2 years after Jelani Day's death

“Until I find out what happened to Jelani, I’m not going anywhere," Carmen Day said.

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It’s been two years since Jelani Day, a graduate student at Illinois State University, disappeared and was later found dead in the Illinois River. The coroner said the cause of death was drowning, but the manner of death -- homicide, suicide or accident -- remains undetermined.

"I want them to find out what happened to Jelani," said his mother Carmen Day.

On Aug. 24, 2021, Day got to campus early for an important class in speech pathology. Carmen Day said security video shows him looking at his phone and then suddenly leaving campus.

"I watched that video of Jelani walking around campus. Jelani is on his phone," said Carmen Day. “I was trying to see what numbers Jelani was punching in his phone. He stands there, he’s punching in the code.”

Investigators discovered Day’s cell phone months after his death on the side of a highway. At the time, everyone thought this was the big break in the unsolved case.

But investigators acknowledged they had not cracked the code to the phone until Carmen Day alerted detectives in April of this year about what she saw on the video.

"They worked on it, and within a matter of 10 days, Jelani’s phone was unlocked," Carmen Day said.

Despite cracking the code, Carmen Day said investigators told her there was no substantive information on the phone.

In a written state from the Peru Police Department, authorities said “the investigation into the death of Jelani Day remains open. The task force continues to solicit tips."

On Thursday, Carmen Day posted to her Justice for Jelani Facebook page with photos of what she said are shoe prints found at the scene where Day's body was discovered.

He was a bright student with a promising future, but an unexpected and sudden change in his daily routine led to a heartbreaking discovery as the reliable son went missing and his relentless mother went looking. New clues and never-before-seen evidence unfolds in a case that was once under a national spotlight.

“Why isn’t this a murder investigation? We all know that according to [police], Jelani didn’t have on any shoes. So, the shoe prints can’t belong to Jelani," Carmen said.

In purported emails exchanged between Peru Police Chief Sarah Raymond and Carmen Day, posted on her Facebook page, Chief Raymond responded saying, “There is no evidence to suggest that anyone was with Jelani or around where the body was found.”

“All I want to know is what happened to my son. … Until I find out what happened to Jelani, I’m not going anywhere," Carmen Day added.

Police said they have not received any recent tips concerning Day’s death investigation. There is a $10,000 reward for substantial information.

For more information in the case go to Scene of the Crime streaming on Peacock and in the video above.

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