MEDFORD, Ore. — “Quite literally skin, bones, and hair left,” said Virginia Greer, Jackson Co. deputy district attorney.
No cause of death has been determined.
That’s what Jackson County prosecutors say about former Disney Mouseketeer, Dennis Day.
The 76-year-old was found in his Phoenix home months after he disappeared in July of 2018 in the words of state prosecutors, “quite literally mummified.”
This key detail of how Day died was the crux of the state’s argument on Tuesday in a hearing for the case.
Prosecutors say handyman, Daniel Burda, who was living with Day at the time he went missing, let Day die by not taking other actions to prevent it.
“They all get to know Mr. Burda in a similar time, in a similar fashion. The relationships all ebb between starting in a professional manner and developing into a personal one,” said one of the prosecutors.
They say Burda’s relationship with Day was just one in a triangle of abuse involving Burda and other elderly, male homeowners.
“Using these elderly men and using his relationship with them to maintain a situation where he was off of the street,” the state prosecutor said.
Prosecutors say James Willeford, who had a brief sexual relationship with Burda, was a part of this plan to exploit the elderly men.
Willeford says the two would argue often, but one day things got physical with Burda shoving him into a corner.
“I had never seen the look of hatred in his face towards me. I knew we had a love, hate relationship, but I never [saw] the rage that I saw that day,” said Willeford.
Another witness, Kirk Pederson, described a similar relationship with Burda, although he says things never got physical.
That’s not to say Burda never made him feel uneasy.
“He was out in the yard with a knife in hand waving and ranting to it to the heavens,” said Pederson.
It was presiding Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Lorenzo Mejia’s job to decide if Willeford and Pederson’s testimonies would be allowed in Burda’s trial.
But it all circled back to the missing piece of the puzzle.
“Still, Mr. Burda was living on this property, he was utilizing this property. Plus, the admissions of his interview about what his relationship was, paints the entire picture of Mr. Burda was the person who was in that position with Mr. Day to cause his death,” said one of the prosecutors.
“Cause his death how,” asked presiding Circuit Court Judge Lorenzo Mejia.
Daniel Burda is facing multiple charges including manslaughter, abuse of a corpse, and criminally negligent homicide.
Prosecutors say both Willeford and Pederson will be witnesses in Burda’s trial this August.
Judge Mejia is still deciding on what aspects of their testimony he will allow in the trial.
NBC5 News reporter Mariah Mills is a Medford native. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a Bachelor’s Degree in journalism. She also minored in sociology.
In school, she covered Oregon athletics for the student-run television station, Duck TV. When she’s not reporting, she’s reading, hiking and rooting for her favorite teams, the Seattle Seahawks and the Oregon Ducks.