TUCUMCARI — The doublewide mobile home sits along a long, flat country highway surrounded by dusty fields.
A plastic tricycle with red wheels is parked out front. A tool shed radio croons a lonesome country western tune. No one is around to hear it.
This is where, Monday night, 14-year-old Tony Day allegedly stabbed his sister and shot his mother, who had adopted him as a foster child. He had been one of nearly 100 foster children his adoptive mother and father had taken into their home on the outskirts of Tucumcari.
His middle school principal and wrestling coach say he was well-behaved — an A or B student, a good athlete, a quiet kid who refused to fight when another boy provoked him last year in the seventh grade. He had no criminal history, according to a spokesman from the Children, Youth and Families Department.
“I’m totally, totally, totally just shocked beyond belief that this could actually happen, simply because of the way he was with me,” said wrestling coach Eddie Encinias. “He didn’t hesitate at following directions. He was a hard little worker.”
State Police believe that Tony Day used scissors to stab his 49-year-old adopted sister, Sherry Folts, the biological daughter of Sue and Mike Day. Later, when police officers entered the home, they found her lying in a far west bedroom.
After killing Folts, Tony Day went to his 15-year-old brother Scott’s room in bloodied clothes and solicited his help to kill the rest of the family, according to police.
Scott went to warn his parents, said State Police Capt. Ryan Suggs. At some point — Suggs wasn’t sure when — Tony got a rifle from an outdoor shed and shot Sue Day, 67, police said. She was found in the hallway. Police believe he shot her twice before Scott could grab the gun from him. Scott struck him in the face with it, knocking out two of Tony’s teeth.
Tony did not give police a reason he did it, but said he intended to kill his father, Mike, as well, Suggs said. Mike Day and a 9-month-old foster baby were also in the house.
Tony Day told an officer at the scene that, after he stabbed Folts, he blacked out and did not remember anything else.
Prosecutors say they intend to pursue an adult sentence against him.
‘Earth mother type’
In a photo collage of Sue Day posted on the wall of the Children, Youth and Families office in Tucumcari, the woman with short, gray hair is smiling with dozens of foster children.
“She was very much the Earth mother type,” said CYFD Secretary Yolanda Berumen-Deines, who had met her on several occasions. “It’s like one of our staff mentioned — she was always ready to provide advice or consolation. She was a caretaker; she wanted to help. She wanted to take care of people, children especially. She wanted to make their lives better.”
Family members declined to be interviewed. About a dozen of them met with Berumen-Deines and other CYFD staff Wednesday afternoon.
Sue Day also served as a foster parent liaison, meaning she helped mentor and train other foster parents.
“She was a stern disciplinarian,” Berumen-Deines said. “No one will ever question that. But it was never out of control. It was the structure that kids need, that so many kids don’t get anymore. Kids could know they were loved, but they knew there was a boundary which they couldn’t pass.”
Sue and Mike Day adopted Tony and Scott three or four years ago, according to CYFD.
A stoic eighth-grader in glasses stares out from Tony Day’s Tucumcari Middle School yearbook photo. It’s more serious than his seventh-grade photo, which shows him with a buzz cut and a smile.
Last year, another student tried to pick a fight with Day at school.
“He actually attacked (Tony),” recalled Principal Roberta Segura. “And Tony didn’t fight. He knew what the consequence was for fighting. He said, ‘I don’t want to fight.’ And he didn’t.”
The only trouble he got into was last year, when he and his brother tried to light some hand sanitizer on fire on the school bus as a gag. They were disciplined for that, she said.
“He wasn’t really a kid you would say was in trouble,” Segura said. “Very quiet. Did his work.”
Students at Tucumcari Middle School were in shock, Segura said, and she brought in counselors for those who wanted to talk and allowed them to share things with their teachers.
Outside the school Wednesday, Jimmy Wallace was picking up his grandson, Ethan Rogers, 12.
Both described the news as “scary.” Wallace said he doesn’t know the family but used to be a foster parent.
“I hope it doesn’t set back the foster care system,” he said.
Both Tony and Scott wrestled last year, although only Scott went out for the team this year. Tony also played football, but wasn’t involved in other extra-curricular activities, his principal said.
At practice Wednesday night, wrestling coach Encinias said Tony followed instructions well and was “just a good kid.”
“Tony was probably one of the easiest kids to work with I ever had,” Encinias said.
He said Scott had stopped in at practice Tuesday night — the night after his mother and sister were killed — to talk. He was “emotionally drained,” the coach said.
“You know what? This community’s really hurting,” he said. “It’s really unexpected.”
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal