Carmen Bolden Day, mother of Jelani Day, the 25-year-old Illinois State University graduate medical student found face down in the Illinois River, said she is “appreciative” of Father Michael M. Pfleger offering a $10,000 reward for those responsible for the murder of her son, and his paying for a DNA test needed to positively identify that the body she buried weeks ago
Day was reported missing August 24, his body was found near Peru, IL on September 4. The LaSalle County coroner identified the body as that of Jelani Day; the cause of death has been ruled as drowning.
Pfleger said he too is hoping that the DNA test will prove that the person Mrs. Day buried was in fact her son. He also wants to know the manner in which Jelani Day was killed and if murdered, how did he die and who did it. “All the things I have read and seen sound like this young man was killed,” Father Pfleger said.
“They said he drowned, but there is too much stuff that doesn’t make sense, like his car is in one place, clothes in another place, his missing license plates, his body is in another place in the river and his cell phone is gone. When you put the dots together, it doesn’t make sense. I believe he was murdered,” Pfleger told the Chicago Crusader. And if he were murdered, who did it is a question that remains unanswered.
Having worked with parents who have lost their children to gun violence, Pfleger said finding out answers won’t bring back their children, but they all deserve to know who caused the death and obtain some justice for the lost lives.
In an interview with the Chicago Crusader, Pfleger said after reading several stories about Jelani Day’s death, he is sure that the medical student was murdered.
He also saw the pain Day’s mother was going through, fighting police officials who gave her conflicting information about her son. At this stage of her investigation, Mrs. Day wants to verify that the body she buried was really that of her son.
And that is what Pfleger wants to know as well. He said bereaved parents who have lost children to gun violence, while they may stand strong publicly calling for justice for their loved ones, in following days some are suicidal, others resort to drugs to cope with the pain. “Everybody says how strong she is,”Pfleger said referring to Mrs. Day who has shown remarkable resilience in dealing with the media and three law enforcement agencies she says are giving her conflicting information and not much help in finding out who killed her son. In fact, the autopsy report claimed Jelani Day “drowned” even though his mother said he could swim.
“He was not suicidal,” Mrs. Day said. “He had hopes and dreams. Somebody did this to my son, and I want answers.” Pfleger said he understands her pain and agreed that he too does not believe her son drowned.
Pfleger works closely with Purpose Over Pain headed by Pam and Tom Bosley. Their son Terrell, an 18- year-old musician, on April 4, 2006, was loading band equipment into his car in the parking lot of the Lights of Zion Ministries, at 11636 S. Halsted St.. A car drove by and someone opened fire, killing their son. No one has been arrested.
Ironically, Pfleger lost his foster son, Jarvis Franklin, to gun violence on May 30, 1998.
His son was caught in gang crossfire at 79th and Carpenter. At the time his son was shot Pfleger had just officiated a wedding at Saint Sabina Church.
When he got the news, he said he ran all the way to 79th and Carpenter St. and cradled his son as he bled out on the street. “I know the pain of losing a child,” Pfleger told the Chicago Crusader.
Asked his thoughts when he first learned about Jelani Day, Pfleger said, “It really hit me, and when I learned that the mother was looking for someone she could trust to conduct another independent autopsy and a DNA test, I decided to pay for this service.” He reached out and talked to Mrs. Day.