PHOENIX, Ore. — “We’re not saying it’s a crime scene at this point, but we are handling it as a crime scene in case it is,” said Sgt. Jeff Proulx, Oregon State Police.
Police discovered a body at the property of former actor and original Disney Mouseketeer Dennis Day’s Phoenix home.
It’s the latest wrinkle in a mystery dating back to last summer.
The Phoenix man had put his husband Ernie in a memory care facility and said he was leaving to visit friends, but he never returned.
“When I found out his dog had been found roaming the streets… that was the moment that I said oh, no,” said Ally Jensen, Dennis Day’s neighbor.
Day’s mysterious disappearance shocked neighbors, friends, and even police who were stunned by the lack of clues available.
“I keep the file on my desk all the time waiting for that one call to come in,” said Lt. Jeff Price, Phoenix Police Dept.
The news later reached Day’s family in California, who before an NBC5 News story in January, had no idea he was even missing.
“I can’t imagine that he would leave Ernie. They’ve been married a long time, he loves him and his little dog,” said Denise Norris, Dennis Day’s niece.
Lt. Price said the 76-year-old lived with his partner of over forty years along with a third roommate. He said Day’s roommate had been using his car and credit card but had permission to do both.
A letter supposedly written by Day was found at a neighbor’s home after he disappeared, but Lt. Price said there was no evidence to support what it said.
“…that basically said that the roommate had assaulted him on an occasion,” said Lt. Price.
Day’s car also went missing and was later found by police along the coast with two people inside who were unfamiliar to Day and his partner.
“There was no evidence of a crime there, there was no evidence of a crime in the car,” said Lt. Price.
Monday, Lt. Price told NBC5 News he discovered the man and woman took Day’s car without his permission.
“If he is out with some friends or family somewhere, it would be nice to just contact him and see if he is okay,” said Lt. Price.
The case went cold for months until police made a shocking discovery Friday.
Cadaver dogs found a body, but police won’t say where on the property.
Despite an autopsy Monday afternoon, Sgt. Proulx of Oregon State Police says identifying the body is proving to be difficult.
“There’s no wallet to match up… the dental records aren’t available and that’s usually a pretty easy one we can do locally,” he said.
Sgt. Proulx says Day’s home was previously searched by the Phoenix Police Department, but it’s unclear how it was done and why the body wasn’t found earlier.
“If it is Mr. Day then we’re happy to at least find him but, unfortunately, if it is Mr. Day… unfortunate in the way we found him,” he said.
Oregon State Police says they’ll be sending the evidence off to Texas for DNA testing.
If you have any information about the case, you’re urged to contact Oregon State Police.
Amanda Rose is a multimedia journalist for NBC5 News. Amanda graduated from Columbia University earning a Master’s degree in Journalism. She also received a Bachelor’s degree in English with a specialization in literature from the University of British Columbia.
She’s a Los Angeles native, but is thrilled to return to the beautiful Pacific Northwest and is passionate about reporting on the criminal justice system.