NORMAL — A painting of deceased Illinois State University student Jelani Day appeared – and then was removed – from the Uptown Normal mural site in the past day, with plans to find it another home.
The painted poster appeared just to the northwest of the mural, sometime overnight Monday into Tuesday. It was a tribute to Day, who went missing in August and was later found dead in the Illinois River in Peru, Ill. The circumstances of his death remain a mystery.
By Wednesday, the Day poster had been removed by the Town of Normal. WGLT has not been able to confirm the artist’s identity. (Contact us if you know.)
“On Sept. 29, the Town of Normal removed a painted-poster tribute to Jelani Day from the west side of the 104 E. Beaufort building in Uptown Normal,” the town said in a note posted near the mural, and on Facebook. “Typically, the Town would simply remove the work. The Town recognizes this piece as an expression of grief over a tragic situation and respectfully preserved the tribute. We are working with Illinois State University to explore options for sharing it on campus.”
When asked why the painting was removed, town spokesperson Cathy Oloffson said “the tribute was placed on the side of a publicly-owned building without authorization and violates current code.”
The mural itself has been the source of controversy for years—and even a documentary about that controversy. The town wanted to remove it to make room for the Trail East development. However, the artists who created it filed a federal lawsuit to stop that from happening. Ultimately, the Trail East plans were revised to incorporate the mural. The Trail East project itself has since been scuttled—and the mural remains.
Suspect Ruled Out From Video
Meanwhile, the investigation into Day’s death continues. Authorities have released very little information about his death, including whether foul play is suspected.
Authorities said Wednesday that a man identified in a surveillance video in LaSalle has been ruled out as a suspect in Day’s killing. That video was shared Sept. 23 on the Peru Police Department’s Facebook page, sparking speculation about its connection to the case. The Facebook post did not specify any connection to the Day case.
“It has been verified the individual was in the area pursuant to his employment,” authorities said in a statement released Wednesday.
Authorities say a “multijurisdictional unit” is now investigating Day’s death. That includes the LaSalle County sheriff’s office, State Police, Peru Police, LaSalle Police, the Bloomington Police, and the FBI’s Behavior Analysis Unit.
Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact (815) 433-2161.