PHOENIX, Ore. – Family members of homicide victim Dennis Day said they intend to sue the Phoenix, Oregon Police Department for negligence.
In July of 2018, former actor and Mouseketeer Dennis Day disappeared without a trace shortly after his husband was placed under medical care. Before the disappearance, they were reportedly living under the same roof in Phoenix with housemate Daniel James Burda.
Lieutenant Jeff Price with the Phoenix Police Department investigated the missing person report. He stated on “The Vanished Podcast” that “the logical thing is to look at Daniel” in connection with the missing person case. “I have looked at Daniel, I’ve done what I can with Daniel,” Price stated. “I don’t think he’s playing dumb when I talk to him.”
Having claimed to have investigated Burda, Lt. Price stated on The Vanished, “That’s not to say he [Burda] didn’t do anything, but at this point, I have nothing.”
In the podcast, Price claimed he couldn’t find any evidence of a crime in Day’s home. “I was looking at the walls, I was looking at the ceiling, I was looking at the crevices. You know? Looking for any type of clean up or anything like that,” Lt. Price said. “I checked everything. Obviously there was nothing there, or we’d have a different conversation.” However, that wasn’t the end of the story.
In a statement from Oregon State Police, investigators said the Phoenix Police Department conducted another search of Day’s home on July 27. Nobody was located.
OSP also stated that about two weeks later, on August 8, the Phoenix Police Department investigated a report of a “bad smell” coming from Day’s home. They noted “nothing observed or smelled in the area.”
At that point, the case went quiet until April 4, 2019, when Phoenix police obtained a cadaver dog. That’s when they found a badly decomposed body inside the home. At that point, the Jackson County Major Assault and Death Investigation Unit was activated and OSP became the lead investigating agency.
A medical examiner identified the body as Day under “strong circumstantial evidence,” OSP said.
On July 5, 2019, Burda was arrested in connection with Day’s death. He faces multiple charges including manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, abuse of a corpse and identity theft.
A couple of months after his arrest, court documents show Judge Lisa Greif signed an order finding Burda unfit to proceed with the trial.
Defense attorney Christine Herbert said Burda will be transferred to the Oregon State Hospital because of a “mental disorder.” He’ll remain at the hospital until it’s determined he’s able to continue being tried in connection with Day’s death.
The case against Burda remains open.
On October 25, 2019, NBC5 News learned Day’s family intends to file a tort claim against the Phoenix Police Department, specifically Lt. Price.
The tort notice claims Lt. Price “acted with negligence and bad faith in conducting an investigation into the disappearance of Dennis Day.”
The claim states in part, “… due to the City of Phoenix Police Department and Lieutenant Jeff Price’s negligence, neglect, and failure to conduct an investigation at even a minimum professional standard, Mr. Day’s body was found in April, 2019 and not identified until June, 2019. Worse, Lieutenant Jeff Price made statements that certain investigative tools were used in the Summer of 2018, such as cadaver sniffing dogs, which were knowingly false and further delayed the investigation. As a result, Dennis Day’s family members suffer irreparable harm in the form of emotional distress and mental anguish, invasion of privacy, and costs associated with their attempts to solve the case themselves and seek the help they ultimately needed in doing so.”
You can read the entire tort notice HERE.
NBC5 News has reached out to the attorney representing Day’s family and the Phoenix Police Department. We have yet to hear back. The Phoenix City Manager did not want to comment on the tort notice.