WARNING — GRAPHIC CONTENT: The investigation into the death of an aspiring young doctor has taken a mysterious turn after his family revealed an autopsy report showed his organs had been "completely liquefied".
Jelani Day, a 25-year-old university student from Illinois, US, was reported missing after vanishing from the Illinois State campus on August 24.
His car was found in the small town of Peru, about an hour’s drive north of campus, two days later.
On September 4, the 25-year-old’s body was discovered in the Illinois River in the LaSalle-Peru area but it was not confirmed to be him until weeks later.
In the third instalment of a series of articles looking into Mr Day’s death, John W. Fountain, a journalist with the Chicago Sun-Times, details the anguish the student’s mum went through while while waiting to learn if the body found in the water was her beloved son.
To help with the county coroner’s confirmation, Carmen Bolden Day told the publication she had submitted her son’s dental records and her own DNA upon request.
However, she was unsure why they needed to do something so drastic to identify the remains.
After receiving the findings of a second private autopsy requested by the family, Ms Day learnt the heartbreaking truth.
The running water had taken its toll on the the 25-year-old's body, which was missing his eyeballs, top and bottom teeth, Ms Day and the family attorney, Hallie M. Bezner, told the Chicago Sun-Times.
His jaw had also been "sawed out", they said, citing the second autopsy.
His brain could not be found and his other organs were also missing, including the liver and spleen.
Ms Bezner said the county coroner had explained in the first autopsy that Mr Day’s organs had been "completely liquefied".
While the private autopsy determined his genitalia was unidentifiable, the county coroner ruled it had been "flayed".
After being in the river for some time, Mr Day’s body also had signs of fish and turtle bites.
What happened to Jelani Day?
The horrific findings have added fuel to the overarching question — what happened to Mr Day?
"I’m really trying to ask questions and not go down the path of a lot of conspiracy because I think it’s easy to go that way," Ms Bezner told the publication.
The heartbreaking case has touched people across the US and the hashtag Justice for Jelani Day is now trending on social media as they demand answers.
Many Twitter users have speculated Mr Day was killed because he is African-American and are pushing for a "proper investigation".
"Justice for Jelani Day. Those details were painful to read regarding his autopsy. Morally reprehensible and just plain evil, whoever did this to him," one woman Tweeted.
"I am hurting for Jelani Day’s family. The world is so cruel and sick, I really hope they get the justice they deserve," another said.
A Change.org petition titled Justice for Jelani Day has so been signed more than 23,000 times so far.
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