By Cyril Josh Barker
The missing and eventual killer case of white 22-year-old Gabby Petito continues to dominate headlines as mainstream media outlets fall deeper and deeper into the “missing white woman syndrome.”
As the hunt to find Petito’s fiance, possibly her murderer, makes the headlines, there are the cases of Daniel Robinson in Arizona and Jelani Day in Illinois, two missing Black men getting little if any coverage.
Both Day and Robinson represent the 524 Black boys and men missing in America, according to the Center for Missing and Exploited Children. In New York State there are 35.
Law enforcement announced last week that a body found in the Illinois River has been identified as Day, a 25-year-old Black graduate student from Illinois State University who has been missing since Aug. 25.
In a press release by the local law enforcement, Day was identified through forensic dental identification and DNA testing and comparison. Currently, the cause of death is unknown pending further investigation and toxicology testing.
Day’s family reported they last spoke with him on Aug. 23. He was seen at the Illinois State University campus on Aug. 24, and his last known location was at Beyond Hello in Bloomington on Aug. 26. Day’s vehicle was located in Peru, Illinois.
Based on findings by the Peru Police Department when recovering the vehicle, a command post was established and a K9 search was conducted by the Illinois State Police, with drone aerial searches by fire departments as well as a ground search by teams from Peru, Utica, and Oglesby, Ill.
Subsequent searches were conducted in the Peru area, and Jelani was not located. On Sept. 4 an additional search was conducted in the LaSalle Peru area by members of the Illinois Search and Rescue Council along with other search agencies in the area. Day’s body was recovered floating near the south bank of the Illinois River.
Day was a graduate student at Illinois State University pursuing his master’s degree in speech pathology. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the historically Black Alabama A&M University.
In a statement released by Day’s family, efforts are now focusing on what happened to him.
“At this moment there are more questions than answers surrounding Jelani’s disappearance and death, and that is where we will focus our energy,” the family said. “As of this moment, we do not know what happened to Jelani and we will not stop until we do. Thank you to every single person who has thought about, prayed for, talked about and searched for Jelani. The love you’ve shown our family has sustained us and we will definitely need you even more in the days to come.”
A public memorial service for Day is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 9 in Danville, Ill.The family has set up a GoFundMe (www.gofundme.com/f/find-jelani-day) for support. Anyone with information on Day’s death is asked to call police.
In another case of a missing Black man, 24-year-old geologist Daniel Robinson of Buckeye, Arizona has been missing since June 23 when he left his job site. Police say his vehicle was found with his keys, wallet and cell phone left behind.
Robinson is a field geologist and oversees many sites located in remote desert locations, often working in extreme conditions and traveling long distances to work on projects.
At a press conference last weekend, Robinson’s family say police aren’t doing enough to look for him, hoping to get the treatment given to Petito, who had police departments from three states and the FBI involved in her case.
Robinson’s father, David, said police cancelled a helicopter search to look for Robinson and he was told because his son “is a grown man” he has the right to leave when he wants. Petito is just two years younger than Daniel.
Local police say the condition of Robinson’s vehicle points to an accident where his 2017 Jeep Renegade rolled off of a cliff. They don’t believe foul play is involved.
David traveled from South Carolina to conduct his own search with the help of drones, volunteers, search dogs and social media.
“If the [police] stepped up to the plate, I wouldn’t be standing here now,” David said at the press conference. “After waiting for Buckeye police department to do more searches for my son, I knew I had to do something because time was crucial. I couldn’t go another day allowing the desert to separate me from being there for my son.”
Robinson’s mother, Melissa Edmonds, said the pain of her son missing has been unbearable.
“It took me three months to look at my son’s picture. I’d just seen his car. It took me three months to look at his car,” she said. “You thought you felt pain, try looking for your child and not knowing where he is. He might be a man to you but he’s still my baby and we’re going to find him. I know it in my heart.”
Robinson’s family has started a GoFundMe (www.gofundme.com/f/sebxxc-help-find-daniel), which has raised over $130,000 as of Tuesday. Anyone with information or who has seen Robinson is being asked to contact police or go to pleasehelpfinddaniel.com.