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By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily
Nearly a decade after the death of his two children, Greg Day is still seeking answers and has now reached out to Governor Mark Gordon for help.
In an April 17 letter to the governor, Day, a member of the Eastern Shoshone Tribe from the Wind River Reservation, asked if Gordon would bring in federal marshals to re-investigate the death of his daughter Dawn in 2012.
Both of Day’s children – Dawn and Jeff – were found deceased in 2012 and 2016, respectively. They were both 28 years old when they died.
Dawn’s body was found floating in Morton Lake in Fremont County. Investigators were unable to determine the cause of her death. The case is technically still open, according to Fremont County Undersheriff Mike Hutchinson, so details of the investigation can’t be shared publicly.
Jeff’s body was found four years later, floating face-down in shallow water in the Wind River, south of Riverton.
Jeff’s autopsy and toxicology report revealed lethal levels of diphenhydramine, the active ingredient found in allergy medicines, in his body. According to the FCSO deputy report obtained by Cowboy State Daily, Jeff’s death was deemed an accident, the result of asphyxiation by drowning with diphenhydramine consumption as a contributing factor.
The report said that Jeff’s footprints were the only ones found in the wet sand and mud along the river bank and there was no visible trauma to his body. Impressions in the mud indicated he had been rolling around on the ground and didn’t appear to have been in the water for very long.
The Riverton Police and FBI assisted the FCSO in the investigation.
Despite findings, Day said he believes that both of his children were murdered.
He does not believe his son intentionally swallowed those pills and instead theorizes that someone forced them down Jeff’s throat. There’s a whole backstory to why someone would have done that to his son and who it might have been, and he does not believe it was thoroughly investigated.
Cause of Death Undetermined
Dawn’s case raises even more questions, Day said.
Evidence from Dawn’s body — such as the presence of bruises — indicate some kind of struggle occurred, Day said.
Dawn’s autopsy, meanwhile, provided no further clues and was deemed inconclusive for both cause and manner of death.
Multiple medical professionals, pathologists, coroners and investigators reviewed the findings and could not make a definitive finding because there was more than one possible cause of death.
“The body can only tell us so much, and the scene can only tell us so much,” said Erin Ivie, chief deputy coroner for Fremont County. “In this case, there wasn’t enough information.”
Cases like Dawn’s are rare, Ivie added, and exceedingly frustrating.
“Without more evidence, we can’t prove one thing or another,” she said. “Anything that can be gleaned from her body has been.”
For this reason, Ivie said doing an inquest would be fruitless because coroners would just be handing over the same inconclusive evidence to authorities.
“There’s always the opportunity that with new evidence, the case could be opened, but it would have to be new evidence,” she said.
Day said he hears talk and rumors about what went on the night of his daughter’s death and will continue asking questions until someone is held accountable. Along with the letter to Gov. Gordon, he’s also sent similar letters to the Fremont County Attorney General as well as the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office, but said he has yet to receive a response.
Michael Pearlman, Gov. Gordon’s communications director, said in an email to Cowboy State Daily Thursday that the governor is still looking into Day’s request to see if the governor has the authority to bring in the federal marshals in this matter.
Part of a Larger Problem
Last Saturday, Day held a fundraiser at his house for his new legal foundation, “Dawn and Jeff: I Won’t Be Silent.” The Indian taco dinner sold out and he was able to raise $300 to start laying the groundwork.
He laughed at the thought of himself as an activist.
“Dawn used to tell me when she was alive I needed to get involved in something,” he said. “I was that type of a person that would say ‘I live here, and that problem is way over there and doesn’t concern me.””
That all changed for him on July 21, 2012.
“What a way to get involved,” he said.
Along with seeking answers in his own children’s deaths, Greg has actively been raising awareness of the problem facing Native Americans throughout the state.
In January 2021, Governor Gordon’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous People Taskforce released its first statewide report that highlighted the larger problem of homicides among Native Americans. Between 2000 and 2020, the report said 105 Indigenous people – including 34 females and 71 males – were victims of homicide in Wyoming.
The homicide rate for Indigenous people was 26.8 per 100,000, which is eight times higher than the homicide of non-Indigenous people. Indigenous women are 6.4 times more likely to be victims of homicide than non-Indigenous women.
Day would like to see this changed and is becoming a vocal supporter for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous People movement. He said he hopes that there will be more follow-up done as a result of the statewide report.
What action will come of it is still to be determined.
“The big recommendation from the MMIW Report was to improve data collection for MMIP (Missing and Murdered Indigenous People),” Pearlman said. “While there are always challenges related to working with federal agencies, including the BIA and FBI, that effort is slowly but surely moving in the right direction.”
At age 60, Day said he doesn’t want to wait any longer for justice. He’s cautiously optimistic that Gordon will heed his request.
“I’d say there’s a 60/40 chance he’ll do the right thing,” Day said. “He’s a father. He should know what this feels like.”
In the meantime, he’s going to continue his efforts with the foundation in Dawn and Jeff’s name and would also like to use that foundation as a way to mentor young people on the reservation, for instance, teaching young boys not to hit girls, and providing opportunities for young people and leading by example.
“You might get knocked down a few times, but don’t let it define who you are,” he said. “Get right back up again.”
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