Five days after finding a corpse inside a missing man’s Phoenix home, Oregon State Police have yet to determine whether the body was that of former Mickey Mouse Club actor Dennis W. Day.
Forensic investigators from multiple Southern Oregon law enforcement agencies are still working to identify the body found April 4 at 510 Pine St., according to OSP Capt. Tim Fox. The home belongs to Day, 76, missing since July and best known for his child acting gig as an original “Mouseketeer” alongside the likes of Annette Funicello during the series’ first and second seasons.
OSP took over Dennis Day’s missing persons case as lead investigator April 4, according to Fox and Phoenix Lt. Jeff Price, after Phoenix police activated the Medford Assault and Death Investigations Unit on Thursday after finding the body.
Fox said investigators haven’t yet determined whether foul play was involved.
Fox bristled at national media reports that have jumped to the conclusion that the body found was that of Day. Outlets such as the New York Post and London’s Daily Mail have headlines claiming that police found Day at his home, but all that’s officially known is that a body was found on the premises.
“We’re not going to say until we know,” Fox said.
Identifying the body could take investigators until the end of this week or possibly into next week, according to Fox. He declined to say whether the body found was that of a male or female, any possible age or provide any information about how long the body had been deceased.
Investigators can work from dental records, fingerprints or DNA to confirm a person’s identity, Fox said, and described DNA as a “likely way to go.”
“It isn’t uncommon that we have to identify people that way,” Fox said.
Although he anticipates OSP’s crime lab will put a rush on any DNA analysis, “it doesn’t just give you a name.”
Fox said a sibling could be used to help identify the body.
“If there’s a standard, it goes a lot faster,” Fox said.
For Day’s friends and loved ones active in the “Help Us Find Dennis Day!” Facebook group, last week’s development is bringing the group an uncertain step toward closure.
Some friends, particularly those close with Day when he was active with The Renaissance Pleasure Faire in the Bay Area in the 1970s and early ‘80s, switched their profile photos to an open green umbrella. It references a way Day would coach renaissance festival actors in “creating another human being” and staying in character through the festival, according to a set of rules Day wrote in the 1970s as his Newington Butts character.
Day referred to a Green Umbrella as a prop or personality trait that actors could use to better learn their characters on the streets of the festival — even if it slipped past the audience.
“He carries a green umbrella because he constantly leaves it on trains, and it is easier to identify a green one than a black one,” Day wrote as an example.
His niece Denise Woolsey Norris posted a photo tribute on the page with photos from Day’s roles with the Mickey Mouse Club, off-Broadway productions and at the renaissance fair.
“The years took their toll, but to me you will always be a Shining Star,” Norris posted. “You Uncle are loved.”