No organs were missing’: Jelani’s mother on autopsy claims
As Jelani’s family still awaits answers on his death, Jelani ‘mother, Carmen Bolden Day, set the record straight on a graphic report about his autopsy published by The Chicago Sun-Times.
The Justice for Jelani Day Facebook page released a statement on rumors that Day was missing body parts like eyes, a liver, and had his jaw cut out. Outlets like Blavity and NewsOne also reported on the story that Day’s organs were “completely liquified.”
“Family, We need to hit pause for a moment,” the post read. “As outraged and upset as we are, we must stay the course, and stick to the facts in our search for answers.”
The claims reached social media, with many social media users saying Day was a victim of organ harvesting.
Bolden disputed these claims in a statement.
“Some things need and have to be clarified. No organs were missing. I do not want to stray off from the facts. There were contradicting facts from the first preliminary autopsy compared to the second independent autopsy, but this is not a case of organ harvesting, however, my son did not put himself in a river. My son was murdered and my goal and purpose are to find out what happened and hold those responsible accountable!!!”
The 25-year-old was reported by Illinois State University on Aug. 27. His body was found in the Illinois River earlier his month on Sept.4 but wasn’t identified until Sept. 23 by the coroner of LaSalle County, Illinois.
A celebration of life service for Jelani took place on Saturday, Oct. 9 in Danville, IL, according to the Justice for Jelani Day Facebook page.
Tributes for Jelani
The case garnered national attention. Lizzo posted a TikTok about Day with the caption ‘#findjelaniday.
Day’s mother had been outspoken on the disparities between the search efforts to find Gabby Petitio compared to Jelani. The 22-year-old, white travel influencer disappeared on a cross-country trip with her fiancée, Brian Laundrie. A nationwide search led to Petito’s remains being found last weekend.
“She’s been missing for two days and her face is plastered everywhere, and the FBI is involved, and I do not understand why Jelani doesn’t get that same coverage, Jelani doesn’t get that same attention,” the mother tearfully expressed in a Newsy interview posted on Twitter on Sept. 17. “Because just like Gabby is important and I can sit in this seat and say I know what her mother is feeling like. Because she wants her child back, I want my child back too. And I want them to look for my child like they’re looking for her.”
She added, “He is not a nobody, he is a somebody and I want him to come back home.”
Day’s family wrote a heartfelt post on Facebook shortly after his remains were identified.
“Thank you to every single person who has thought about, prayed for, talked about, and searched for Jelani,” the post reads. “The love you’ve shown our family has sustained us and we will definitely need you even more in the days to come. We love each and every one of you for making Jelani’s story personal.”
But who was Jelani?
Jelani was a student graduate at Illinois State University. He was in the process of earning his master’s degree in speech pathology and wanted to become a doctor.
Illinois State University president, Terri Goss Kinzy, described Day as “well-liked and well-respected.”
“He joined his graduate program this summer and his impact on the campus community was immediate,” Kinzy released a touching statement on Day’s passing on the university’s website. “He is remembered as kind, intelligent, and caring.”
Jelani also attended undergrad at Alabama A&M University and was a member of Omega Psi Phi.
The fraternity posted their condolences on their national Instagram page. “Our prayers go out to the family of Bro. Jelani Day (’18 NE) and the Brothers of Alabama A&M University,” the caption read. “Rest in Peace. #OmegaChapter”
“Rest in Power Jelani Day,” a former AAMU student tweeted.
His cause of death remains unknown. But his family is still hopeful they will receive answers.
“At this moment there are more questions than answers surrounding Jelani’s disappearance and death, and that is where we will focus our energy,” a post reads on the Facebook tribute page. “As of this moment, we do not know what happened to Jelani and we will not stop until we do.”
Deidre Redhead is a junior journalism and international relations student at Stony Brook University. Her bylines include The Statesman and Mission Magazine.