From left, 12th Judicial District Attorney David Mahonee, Rio Grande County Undersheriff Chuck Chick and Sheriff Brian Norton make public the fact that remains recovered in an Arizona lake June 24 have been identified as those of Danice Lea Day, missing since Jan. 9, 2002
DEL NORTE — The mystery of Danice Lea Day came to a sad conclusion Tuesday as Rio Grande County Sheriff Brian Norton revealed that her remains had been identified.
The remains were found in a barrel that had been submerged in Lyman Lake in Arizona and, on Sept. 18, Norton’s department learned that the DNA analysis on those remains were confirmed to be Day.
Missing for more than seven years, Day, then 19, was the subject of intense law enforcement investigation, following leads that didn’t pan out.
She was last seen alive late Jan. 9, 2002, but was not reported missing until three days later when her father, Rod Day, notified authorities.
When she disappeared, she left behind her purse, car keys, cell phone — and two young children.
Her live-in boyfriend, Victor Braun, soon became a person of interest in what began to appear as a homicide.
Through negotiations with Braun and his attorney, information was developed regarding the location of Day’s remains and Sheriff Norton, Undersheriff Chuck Chick, FBI Agent Jim Moore and the FBI Evidence and Recover Team traveled to Lyman Lake the week before Memorial Day of this year.
After an extensive, three day search, a barrel was located and retrieved. After returning to Colorado, the barrel was examined by the El Paso County Coroner and found to have no evidence associated with the Danice Day Case.
Norton later contacted the Utah Department of Public Safety dive team, due to the fact that the FBI Dive Team had scheduling conflicts and would not be able to return to Arizona.
Sheriff Norton was met with enthusiasm by the Utah DPS and arrangements were made to meet at Lyman Lake on June 22. On June 24, a barrel was recovered from the lake and was transported back to Colorado, then transferred to the El Paso County Coroner for analysis.
Preliminary examinations revealed that the barrel contained human remains, which were sent to a laboratory for examination and confirmation.
With the DNA identification made, Victor Anthony Braun, 33, has been charged with manslaughter, a Class 4 felony.
Norton said the manslaughter charge was decided upon due to time problems with the seven-year-old case.
“Without the cooperation of the attorney and suspect, we would never have found Danice,” Norton said.
Undersheriff Chick added, “We are not at liberty to discuss the negotiations at this time.”
Norton said a gag order put into place with the remains were first found has been lifted by the judge and more details can be found in the case file.
Braun has agreed to plead guilty and faces a maximum sentence of 12 years, according to 12th Judicial District Attorney David Mahonee. The sentencing hearing will be Nov. 2 before District Judge Martin Gonzales.
Hearing the news, Rod Day said, “It (the positive identification) is by all means resolution. It’s bittersweet, depending upon which part of bittersweet you want to pursue.”
The “bitter” came tumbling out. “Am I angry? You bet I’m angry,” Day said. He will make his own written statement later.
He said a memorial service for Danice will be held at a later date. Norton said release of the remains will be up to the El Paso County Coroner.
Day doesn’t have custody of either of Danice’s children. The daughter, who was an infant when her mother disappeared, is being raised by her paternal grandfather. Her son, who was two and a half, is being raised by his father in Missouri.
Victor has been in custody for a while on burglary, drug, and aggravated motor vehicle theft charges, but Norton said he was initially brought in on the burglary charges.
Sheriff Norton said the DNA report in no way closes the Day case. “Investigation continues into that person, or those persons, that had knowledge of or assisted in the disappearance of Danice Day.”