Family, friends and fans of the Mickey Mouse Club are mourning the tragic death of one of the show's original stars. Officials have confirmed that remains found in a home in Phoenix, Oregon are those of missing Mouseketeer Dennis Day who disappeared from his home nearly one year ago.
— Chasen Hampton (@Chasen_Hampton) June 7, 2019
Many people have taken to social media to mourn the loss of their friend, mentor and colleague like Chasen Hampton of The All New Mickey Mouse Club who expressed his condolences to Day's family while others from the original series feared the worst once it was learned that Day went missing on a reported trip to visit family out of state last July.
The circumstances surrounding the disappearance and death of Day are still puzzling. Days after investigators confirmed that remains found inside the actor's home were those of the missing Mouseketeer, there are more questions than answers in the case and Oregon State Police say their investigation is ongoing.
The remains of the 76-year-old Day which were discovered in his home back in April were positively identified by State Police earlier this month. The one-time child star of the original Disney Mickey Mouse Club in the 1950s went missing last summer puzzling loved ones and police as to what happened to him.
According to investigators because of the corpse's condition investigators were hindered in their ability to use dental records or DNA to positively identify the body. In a statement from Oregon State Police, detectives used evidence gathered at the scene and other information to identify the remains.
Day was first reported missing in mid-July 2018 by his husband who suffers memory loss and was hospitalized at the time.
Police were always concerned about Day's disappearance and why it took so long for someone to report him missing. He told family that he was leaving on a trip to visit relatives out of state. There was no activity on his bank accounts while he was missing and his car was discovered about 200 miles away on the Oregon coast in possession of two strangers who reportedly told police that Day had let them borrow the vehicle. Early in their probe, police confiscated the car and searched it but there was no sign of foul play.
There was also confusion surrounding the search of Day's home in the wake of his disappearance. On two separate occasions police scoured the home which Day shared with his husband, Ernest Caswell but turned up no evidence.
After he vanished without a trace, a roommate had been living with Day and Caswell and told police that Day left his home on foot to visit friends.
Police used cadaver dogs to search Day's home and property as well as a nearby graveyard and creek for traces of the missing man but turned up no clues as to his whereabouts.
A post on June 6th on a family sponsored Facebook page dedicated to finding Day confirmed that police identified the remains. The post read “Or family is truly thankful to the Oregon State Police for helping to bring closure to our family so that we can finally lay Dennis to rest.” The post goes onto say that the family will not be making any further comment or answer questions at this time. “We are truly thankful to all of you for your love and support.”
According to a fan side dedicated to The Original Mickey Mouse Club, “Dennis was one of the first Mouseketeers hired and one of ten retained for the show's second season. He left the show after the second season and ultimately went on to participate in several artistic endeavors including acting, directly, sculpting and dabbling in the culinary arts.”
In her book Why? Because We Still Like You: An Oral History of the Mickey Mouse Club, author Jennifer Armstrong recounts that Day during his audition for the show “had charmed the audition panel when he and his sister who were performing a dance routine together where thrown by the pianist playing off tempo. The 12-year-old took charge stopping the music to sort things out and impressing the producers so much with his confidence that they offered him a job on the spot.” Armstrong recounts in her 2010 book that the producers were so caught up in the excitement of the auditions, “they never asked the kid to sing. When filming started and they found out he couldn't carry a tune, he got booted to the second string” of actors on the show.
Despite his lack of singing talent, young Dennis was used to introduce a Mouseketoon and was featured in many dance numbers including Mickey Mouse Mambo, Get Busy and Simple Simon. He was also featured in Banjo Joe, where he sat and played the banjo while another cast member sang.
Day was born in Las Vegas, Nevada on July 12, 1942. As an original Mouseketeer, Day modeled costumes for Walt Disney, made preview appearances for network executives and was featured in publicity photos.
Out of the spotlight for decades, Dennis and his husband moved to Oregon developing their own line of wine jams and jellies. He also worked part time at a store and catalog business that sold gourmet fruit and food items.
While the family now has some form of closure to Day's disappearance and death, the cause of his demise is still unclear. Oregon State Police say they continue to investigate the cause and exact time of his death not ruling out the possibility that Day's death was a homicide.