The family of missing Illinois State University student is offering a reward for information about his disappearance, according to the student’s mother.
Jelani Day, a 25-year-old graduate student at ISU, was last seen the morning of Aug. 24 walking into a store called Beyond / Hello in downstate Bloomington, according to the Bloomington Police Department. Day’s family, from Danville, has offered a $25,000 reward, and started a GoFundMe to add to that. As of Friday afternoon, it had raised over $7,000.
Day is described as a Black male, 6-foot-2, 180 pounds , with short black hair, brown eyes and some facial hair.
According to the Bloomington police Facebook site, Day was wearing a blue baseball hat, a Jimi Hendrix T-shirt, white shorts and black shoes. But Day “will not be wearing this clothing,” according to police, because the clothes were found in Day’s car two days later.
The car was found in the afternoon of Aug. 26, concealed in a wooded area in downstate Peru.
Day was last seen at a marijuana dispensary, and his mother, Carmen Bolden Day, added that there has been judgment of her son because of this.
“He is in no way perfect,” she said, but “whatever he bought, that does not make him a thug or whatever. ... I know that Jelani was raised in a good family home. He has a good foundation.”
“Jelani is a smart, bright intelligent young man” who loves to spend time with his family and eats indiscriminately (especially chicken), said his mother.
Her son, who ran track at Alabama A&M and is a member of the fraternity Omega Psi Phi, decided to go to graduate school to study speech pathology and become a doctor, “so that his mom would never have to work again,” said Day’s mother.
He was in his second semester at ISU and was supposed to be at the university on the day he disappeared, with clinicals and appointments scheduled with clients, said his mother. “Something deterred him or changed his mind,” she said.
“I want to express and mainly put out to the media that Jelani is in no way confused, crazy, depressed, any of that,” she said.
Day’s mother is trying hard to get the word out about the disappearance of her son, who she said could be out of Illinois by now.
“I need you to see him, recognize him and grab him,” Day said.
According to Natalie Wilson, co-founder of the national nonprofit Black & Missing, media attention is “very vital” because it raises awareness about the missing person, but also because it “puts the pressure on law enforcement to add resources to the case.”
Wilson acknowledged that distrust between minority communities and law enforcement might deter people from contacting police. She said Black and Missing has an anonymous tip line and the information will be passed on to the family and law enforcement.
“We all have a responsibility. It’s not just law enforcement and the media’s job,” said Wilson.
Bloomington police spokesman John Fermon said that as of Friday “we don’t have any specific factual information to give us a best or worst case scenario.”
Bloomington police are asking that anyone who might have seen Day, or know of his whereabouts, contact Detective Paul Jones at 309-434-2548 or at email@example.com.