Man Sentenced to 4-plus Years in Death of Original ‘Mickey Mouse Club’ Cast Member

Man Sentenced to 4-plus Years in Death of Original ‘Mickey Mouse Club’ Cast Member
Inmate Daniel James Burda in Medford, Ore., in an undated booking photo. (Jackson County Sheriff's Office via AP)

MEDFORD, Ore.—A man charged in the death of Dennis Day, an original cast member on Walt Disney’s “Mickey Mouse Club” television program in the 1950s, has been sentenced to just over four years in prison after entering a modified guilty plea this week.

Daniel Burda, 41, pleaded no contest Monday to charges of criminally negligent homicide and abuse of a corpse. Mr. Burda was a live-in handyman at Day’s home in Phoenix, Oregon, but Day, 76, had been trying to evict him around the time he disappeared in mid-2018. A no-contest plea is a concession that the state can prove criminal charges at trial and carries the same legal effect as a guilty plea.

Prosecutors said Mr. Burda caused Day’s death and then used Day’s identity to spend money.

Day’s badly decomposed body wasn’t discovered for nine months, beneath a pile of clothes at the home. His family has sued the Phoenix Police Department, saying its failure to discover his remains in his own home for so long—despite having been to the home multiple times—caused emotional distress.

During one search, police stepped on Day’s body, causing fractures to the corpse, but they still didn’t find it until April 2019, when Oregon State Police came with a cadaver-sniffing dog, the lawsuit said. The delay prevented the medical examiner from being able to determine a cause of death, it said.

The police department has denied the allegations. A trial is set for October in Jackson County Circuit Court.

Mr. Burda’s criminal case was long delayed by trips to the Oregon State Hospital to determine his mental fitness to assist in his own defense as well as other legal challenges. He faced several other charges while out of custody, court records show, and he has also recently been sentenced to two years to be served separately in a burglary case—meaning he faces just over six years in all.