Nearly one year since Dennis Day mysteriously disappeared from his Oregon community, the former Disney Mouseketeer’s body has been identified.
On Thursday, the Oregon State Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed that the body they had found in the Phoenix home that Day, 76, and his husband Ernie Caswell shared was the child star’s, Captain Timothy Fox of the Oregon State Police tells PEOPLE.
Oregon State Police announced the news today, as it took some time for them to identify the remains — first discovered on April 4 — because of their poor condition, which enabled them from using dental records or DNA, according to Capt. Fox.
At this time, it is unclear where Day’s remains were found inside the residence and if they had been there since he first went missing on July 15 — though Capt. Fox says the couple’s home was initially searched when Day disappeared last summer.
Caswell, meanwhile, who suffers from “age-related memory loss”, has been living at a care facility, Capt. Fox tells PEOPLE.
The former Mouseketeer’s death is still currently under investigation by the Oregon State Police.
Shortly after learning of the news, Day’s family issued a statement on the Facebook page that was originally set up to help find him.
“We are truly thankful to all of you for your love and support. Please keep Ernie in your prayers during this extremely difficult time,” they wrote. “Our 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. We love you Brother & Uncle Dennis!”
Day first went missing in July 2018, according to the Mail Tribune, but his family didn’t find out about until they saw a missing person report on TV in January which was filed by Caswell, NBC News reports.
“Ernie was in the hospital at that time, and he realized Dennis hadn’t come to visit him in a few weeks,” Day’s sister, Nelda Adkins, told NBC. “So he had someone from the hospital call the police and report Dennis as missing.”
“[A family member] saw it on the news broadcast and called us immediately,” Adkins said. “I called Phoenix Police Department the very next day, and we’ve been working on it ever since. The whole family got in on it.”
Police reportedly told Adkins that a roommate who was living in Day and Caswell’s home said that Day had left on foot the last time he was seen, saying he was going to visit friends.
“Ernie, at the time, was in the hospital, so he wasn’t even at the house,” Adkins added. “Dennis had a car, but the car was left behind. He left his dog and his cat behind, too — he loved them dearly, just like children.”
Adkins said that when she spoke to police, they had already searched Day’s home and a nearby graveyard and creek.
According to local station KOBI-TV, police also found Day’s car along the Oregon coast with two people inside. The station reported that the people inside were not known by Day or Caswell and the finding of the car didn’t lead anywhere.
“They said they brought in cadaver dogs, too,” Adkins added. “But they never found anything that would imply a crime had happened.”
Disney’s The Mickey Mouse Club first aired from 1955-1959. The children’s variety show was rebooted in 1977 and then again, most famously, from 1989-1994, when future A-list entertainers Britney Spears, Ryan Gosling, Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera starred as singing and dancing Mouseketeers.
According to the Mail Tribune, Day was a Mouseketeer from 1956-57 and a “long-time entertainer and director for the California Renaissance Pleasure Faires & Dickens Fair.”
His time on the beloved show is now one of the things that his family will hold dearly to their hearts.
“As a child I watched old reruns of The Mickey Mouse Club. At the end of the show I would sing along with this song and feel a little sad because it was over… today i’m feeling this sadness deep within,” Day’s niece Denise Woolsey Norris wrote on Facebook.
“I will forever remember my Uncle Dennis with great pride,” she added. “Today I am proud. Proud of the man he was and proud to be his niece.”
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