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Family claims Mouseketeer was ’very private person’ before his homicide

The city of Phoenix intends to fight the recently refiled negligent investigation lawsuit filed by the family of Dennis Day, who was best known for his role in the 1950s Mickey Mouse Club.

The city of Phoenix intends to fight the recently refiled negligent investigation lawsuit filed by the family of Dennis Day, whose body was found inside his Southern Oregon home eight months after a missing persons report was filed.

The city’s two-page response filed earlier this month by lawyer Thomas Armosinio lists few details about their planned rebuttal to the lawsuit filed in March by Day’s sister, nieces and nephew.

Armosinio claims that the lawsuit “fails to state facts sufficient to constitute a claim for relief,” and that any claims are barred by qualified immunity and that damages, if any, are limited under state law.

Day, who was best known for his role in the 1950s as a founding cast member of Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse Club television series, was last seen alive at his Pine Street home in July 2018, according to earlier news reports. Cadaver dogs reportedly found Day’s body in April 2019 buried underneath a pile of clothes.

Day’s sister Nelda Adkins’ civil suit filed in Jackson County Circuit Court earlier this year seeks $2.2 million from Phoenix police on claims that include tortious interference of a corpse, negligent investigation, negligent infliction of emotional distress and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Among other claims, the 11-page lawsuit accuses the police department of stepping on the body and failing to notify Day’s next of kin of his disappearance.

Adkins, who lives in Coalinga, California, allegedly learned of her brother’s disappearance after her nephew in Roseburg saw a KOBI-TV news broadcast that Day was missing, according to the lawsuit and earlier news reports.

Armosinio’s response filed May 10 states that Adkins, and other plaintiffs that include Day’s three nieces and one nephew “are alleged heirs of Dennis Day and were estranged from his life for many years until this incident occurred.”

In a Facebook message, Day’s niece Denise Norris disputed that Day was estranged from the family — despite being an argument she claims is “legally irrelevant.”

“My uncle was a very private person who lived mostly secluded,” Norris stated in part. “The older he got, the more secluded he became.”

Norris stated that the family “loved him very much and respected” his privacy. She said she used to email her uncle every day, but the line of communication broke down after he stopped using the computer.

The family routinely sent Day wedding invitations, baby announcements, Christmas and birthday cards, that she and her mother would visit him every time they made a trip to Oregon.

Two days prior to Day’s disappearance, Day had cashed a check from Adkins, Norris stated. Adkins sent Day a birthday card with a check inside shortly after his disappearance, but the card was returned unopened.

“We have never been an estranged family,” Norris said.

Suspect Daniel James Burda, who lived at the Phoenix home with Day as a handyman, faces charges of second-degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, first-degree criminal mistreatment and second-degree abuse of a corpse. No trial date has been set in the case, and Burda is in Oregon Department of Corrections custody on an unrelated robbery conviction.

Burda’s next court appearance is a pretrial conference scheduled for June 28.

No upcoming court hearings are yet scheduled in the civil suit, records show.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.