By Steve Hansen
QCS Managing Editor
To clinical psychologist Elizabeth Dinsmore, Tony Day has problems in perceiving situations and people’s motives for what they really are, a circumstance that is very hard to treat.
But to others who testified Wednesday, Tony Day was a well behaved young man and a good student. Day is facing first-degree murder charges in the slayings of his adoptive mother, Sue Day, 76, and her daughter Sherry Folts, 48, on Nov. 26, 2012, in the family’s home near Tucumcari.
Dinsmore explained her findings under questioning from First Judicial District Attorney Tim Rose on the second day of hearings to determine how Day would respond to behavioral health treatment. The result of the hearings may determine the course of the case, perhaps leading to a plea agreement that would make a trial to determine guilt or innocence unnecessary.
After interviewing Day on two separate occasions and reading over the record of previous examinations of Day, Dinsmore concluded that Day had a faulty grasp on reality, especially in interpreting events and sensing motives. Such misperceptions, she said, are very difficult to correct in behavioral therapy. She also said that Day’s current mental condition would make him a significant risk to the safety of others.
Day, she said, showed very little emotion as he discussed events on the night of Nov. 26, 2012, when he killed his adoptive mother, Sue Day, 76, and Day’s daughter, Sherry Folts, 48. She also viewed a state police video of Day’s apparent confession early on the following morning, observing that Day’s recounting of the slayings was emotionally flat, which, she said caused her concern.
She also said that when she interviewed Day, his recounting of the murders seemed to show careful planning, not an impulsive act. Day told her that when he becomes angry, he becomes methodical and goes into what he called “predator-prey mode.”
In cross examination, Jeff Buckels, Day’s defense attorney, challenged Dinsmore’s findings, especially her use of a Rorschach test, which some psychologists have discredited recently. In the Rorschach test, patients are shown ink blots and talk about what the blots cause them to visualize or what they bring to mind. Dinsmore said that while the Rorschach test has become controversial, it is still in common use.
Buckels also challenged the degree of “subjectivity” in Dinsmore’s findings. Dinsmore explained that her opinions are clinical observations that her education and experience allow her to render. Buckels said that testimony from a CYFD psychiatrist, Dr. George Davis, will show that Davis concluded Day would benefit from further treatment.
Defense witnesses called Wednesday included two teachers, who said they were very glad to have Day as a student. One, Andrea Rinestine, who taught Day in math classes in middle school, said Day would even help settle the class down when the students threatened to get unruly. Day could always be counted on to know the answer, she said.
Donny Garcia, who had Day as a student and coached him as an athlete, said Day was a good student and a conscientious athlete. Garcia said Mike and Sue Day, Tony Day’s adoptive parents imposed discipline on Tony and his adoptive brother Scott Day that seemed unusually harsh. Garcia said he became concerned one evening in mid-winter when Tony and Scott were required to walk the five miles home. When he gave them a ride home, Sue Day told him the boys had to walk as a punishment for being ejected from their school bus.
Rinestine said that in parent-teacher conferences, Sue Day would overlook good things about her sons and focus on bad behavior. When Mike Day visited the school a few times, she said, he seemed to be under the influence of alcohol. He seemed unsteady, he said, and “reeked of alcohol.”
Beverly Brockman, a member of the Temple Baptist Church, which the Days attended regularly, told of an incident in which Mike Day slammed Tony against the side of a van several times one Sunday morning. She said she saw Tony put up his arm as if to deflect a blow.
T.J. Rich, administrator of the Quay County Detention, where Tony Day has been incarcerated for all but a few months since the slayings, said Day has been a model inmate. He could remember only one very brief fight that Tony was involved with. The incident ended quickly when both inmates learned there had been a misunderstanding.
Diana Jimenez, who was once a foster parent for Tony Day, remembers him as a “great kid” who learned how to behave quickly as a boy of 7 or 8. She was very sad, she said, when Tony was sent back to Missouri to live with his biological parents.