The accused was a handyman and did odd jobs for Dennis Day, 76, and his partner of more than 45 years
Dennis Day, one of the original Mouseketeers, was found dead in his home almost a year after his mysterious disappearance. Now an Oregon man has been charged with second-degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide in Day’s death.
Daniel James Burda, 36, was also charged Monday with abuse of a corpse in the second-degree and six counts of aggravated identity theft, according to the Jackson County District Attorney’s Office.
Burda was a handyman and did odd jobs for Day, 76, and his partner of more than 45 years, Ernest Caswell, the Associated Press reports.
He entered a not guilty plea at an arraignment Monday afternoon.
Bail has been set at $150,000.
Day had gone missing on July 15, 2018 — but his family didn’t find out about his disappearance until they saw a missing person report on TV in January, which was filed by Caswell, NBC News reports.
“Ernie was in the hospital at that time, and he realized Dennis hadn’t come to visit him in a few weeks,” Day’s sister, Nelda Adkins, told NBC. “So he had someone from the hospital call the police and report Dennis as missing.”
“[A family member] saw it on the news broadcast and called us immediately,” Adkins said.
Police reportedly told Adkins that a roommate who was living in Day and Caswell’s home said that Day had left on foot the last time he was seen, saying he was going to visit friends.
“Ernie, at the time, was in the hospital, so he wasn’t even at the house,” Adkins added. “Dennis had a car, but the car was left behind. He left his dog and his cat behind, too — he loved them dearly, just like children.”
Adkins said that when she spoke to police, they had already searched Day’s home and a nearby graveyard and creek but never found Day.
According to local station KOBI-TV, police also found Day’s car along the Oregon coast with two people inside. The station reported that the people inside were not known by Day or Caswell and the finding of the car didn’t lead anywhere.
Police searched Day’s home again with a cadaver dog in April and found his remains, which were positively identified last month.
Disney’s The Mickey Mouse Club first aired from 1955-1959. The children’s variety show was rebooted in 1977 and then again, most famously, from 1989-1994, when future A-list entertainers Britney Spears, Ryan Gosling, Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera starred as singing and dancing Mouseketeers.
According to the Mail Tribune, Day was a Mouseketeer from 1956-57 and a “long-time entertainer and director for the California Renaissance Pleasure Faires & Dickens Fair.”
His time on the beloved show is now one of the things that his family will hold dear to their hearts.
“As a child, I watched old reruns of The Mickey Mouse Club. At the end of the show I would sing along with this song and feel a little sad because it was over… today i’m feeling this sadness deep within,” Day’s niece Denise Woolsey Norris wrote on Facebook.
“I will forever remember my Uncle Dennis with great pride,” she added. “Today I am proud. Proud of the man he was and proud to be his niece.”
A preliminary hearing is scheduled for July 15.
It was not immediately clear who is representing Burda.