Mouseketeer's family: 'It's been a long wait'
Authorities have confirmed that the body found two months ago in the Southern Oregon home of Dennis W. Day is that of the former Mickey Mouse Club member.
The Oregon State Medical Examiner’s office identified the body found April 4 in the former Mouseketeer’s Phoenix home was Day on Thursday afternoon, based on “investigation, evidence and other information,” according to an Oregon State Police release issued Thursday.
“Despite their efforts, investigators were unable to utilize dental records or DNA due to the condition of the remains,” police said.
Police are still investigating Day’s death, according to the release.
Day’s family was first to break the news Thursday.
In a post on the “Help Us Find Dennis Day!” Facebook page, Day’s niece Janel Showers of Coalinga, California, shared with the group’s 1,417 members that investigators have officially identified the human remains as that of her uncle.
“Our family would like to take this time to share with you that the remains found ... have been officially identified as our beloved Brother and Uncle, Dennis Day,” Showers posted.
Showers declined to comment on Day’s death because the case is under investigation, but said she and her family are grateful for all the people who helped bring closure — from the Oregon State Police investigators to Day’s friends who “took the reigns” in the months before family was notified of Day’s disappearance.
“It’s been a long wait,” Showers said. “We have tears of sadness, but also tears of happiness that we finally have closure.”
The confirmation marks the end of an unusual missing-persons investigation that began nearly 11 months ago. Day was last seen alive in the middle of July 2018, and investigators found the longtime Phoenix resident’s body April 4 in the Pine Street home Day shared with his husband, Ernest “Ernie” Caswell following a search that involved two K-9s and a drone to search the property.
Day’s husband now lives in a Southern Oregon assisted-living facility. Caswell’s struggles with memory made investigating the missing-persons case difficult for investigators prior to finding Day’s body, according to earlier news reports.
Sylvia McRae, who forged a four-decade friendship with Day through her involvement in California renaissance festivals through the 1970s, said in a Facebook chat that she woke up to the news from her home in the Gold Coast of Australia.
“I knew this, deep down, but it still hurts to have the fears confirmed,” McRae said.
McRae struggled to find a way to describe Day beyond “one of a kind.”
“I’ve never met a more authentically true-to-themselves individual,” McRae said.
Showers said that she, her sisters and her mother, Day’s sister Nelda Adkins, adored and admired him.
Her most vivid memory was visiting her uncle and “Uncle Ernie” at the Renaissance Pleasure Faire and the Dickens Christmas Faire in California in the late 1970s and early '80s. Showers remembered her mom making costumes for her and her sisters, and they came up with characters at the festival.
“We loved that he was an entertainer,” Showers said, adding that her uncle wasn’t just able to entertain large audiences, but could also make her and her sisters laugh.
Showers said she’s been blown away and “overwhelmed” on the Facebook group by the different people whose lives Day touched.
“Everybody took something different from him, but it was all positive,” Showers said.
McRae and another longtime friend, Rosanne Reynolds of Oakland, California, started the Facebook group last fall as a way to get the ball rolling and spread word of Day’s disappearance. They started issuing press releases in December — leading to the Mail Tribune’s first story about Day’s disappearance.
Family became active in the search for Day after a nephew in Roseburg spotted a KOBI-TV news report about the same time.
Day’s disappearance became national news in early February, after a story ran on Dateline NBC’s website.
In the months between the Dateline story and finding the body in April, family members details of Day’s disappearance with The Vanished Podcast as they worked to raise funds for a private investigator through GoFundMe. The crowdfunding campaign raised $1,263 of a $5,000 goal.