Jelani Day was a 25-year-old graduate student who was reported missing August 25th, 2021. After about a month missing his body was found in Illinois River.
Jelani last spoke to his family two days before going missing. A couple days after he was last seen at a cannabis dispensary near Illinois State University, his car was found abandoned in Peru, Illinois. This started the initial investigation between a few Illinois police departments and the FBI.
According to CBS news Jelani’s family posted to Facebook, “At this moment there are more questions than answers surrounding Jelani’s disappearance and death, and that is where we will focus our energy. As of this moment, we do not know what happened to Jelani and we will not stop until we do.”
There has been some controversy about the media coverage on Jelani Day’s case against Gabby Petito’s, who also was reported missing around the same time as Day. Gabby Petito’s case has been broadcasted all over the media and news, while Day’s case barely received any type of media coverage until his body was discovered.
Gabby Petito was last seen on August 24th leaving a hotel with her boyfriend Brian Laundrie. She was reported missing on September 11th.
Gabby left home in July for a cross-country road trip with her boyfriend. She was supposed to finish her trip in Portland, Oregon in October but her family began to worry when they lost contact with her towards the end of August.
Since reported missing, Petito’s case has been televised publicly and seen on many social media outlets like Twitter and Instagram. This has stirred up controversy between both cases because some believe Jelani Day’s case has not been publicly televised compared Gabby Petito’s.
Many criticize the media for not giving the same public light on missing people of color. According to ABC Chicago, “by December 2020 the FBI reported more than 89,000 active missing persons cases, with 45% involving people of color.” With so much attention on Petito’s case, other families including Day’s seek help to try to receive the same spotlight as Gabby Petito for their missing loved ones.
According to ABC Chicago, Jelani’s mother stated, “I shouldn’t have to plead. I shouldn’t have to feel that there is a racial disparity, I shouldn’t have to feel anything like that, I want these people that have these resources to realize this could happen to them,”.