Mouseketeer homicide trial postponed, suspect released from jail
A man charged with manslaughter in the death of a former child actor who lived in Phoenix was released from jail Wednesday, and his trial won’t start until December at the earliest.
Daniel James Burda, 37, was ordered released from the Jackson County Jail while the Jackson County District Attorney’s office appeals a judge’s ruling from earlier this week that dramatically restricts the evidence they’ll be able to present to a jury, Jackson County Circuit Court filings show.
Burda faces charges of second-degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, first-degree criminal mistreatment, second-degree abuse of a corpse and aggravated identity theft in the death of 76-year-old Dennis W. Day, who was a founding cast member on Walt Disney’s “Mickey Mouse Club” television series in the 1950s.
Day went missing in July of 2018, and a months-long missing persons investigation ended in April 2019 when Day’s body was found in his home, allegedly under a pile of clothes, according to earlier news reports.
Burda had been held in the Jackson County Jail since June 26 of last year — including two trips to the Oregon State Hospital to determine his mental fitness to assist in his own defense.
Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Lorenzo Mejia ordered Burda be released with conditions that include intensive check-ins, GPS monitoring, not to contact alleged victims or witnesses, not to consume alcohol or intoxicants, to stay in contact with his defense lawyers, and to stay away from Day’s former home on Pine Street in Phoenix.
Deputy District Attorney Virginia Greer requested Wednesday that the trial be rescheduled “for the reason that the state is appealing a pretrial ruling,” court records show.
On Tuesday, Mejia sided with Burda’s defense lawyer John Hamilton on an order prohibiting prosecutors from giving the jury evidence that included a 911 call Day allegedly made seeking to evict Burda and interrogation recordings involving an Oregon State Police polygraph examiner.
Greer filed roughly 106 pages worth of responses between June 12 and July 2, court records show; however, the contents of those motions were sealed in court records.
Burda’s next scheduled court appearance is a pretrial conference set for Dec. 7.
Still pending is a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Medford by Day’s family seeking $1.7 million from the Phoenix Police Department alleging that the law enforcement agency compromised the investigation by overlooking Day’s body, which was inside his own home, along with “tortious interference with a corpse” alleging a Phoenix police officer caused post mortem fractures when the officer stepped on Day’s body.
The city of Phoenix has not yet responded to the lawsuit, but has until July 20 to respond, court records show.