At the conclusion of a three-day hearing last week in Tucumcari, District Judge Albert Mitchell ruled on Friday that Day is amenable to treatment, “which is what we were seeking from the beginning, so you better believe we’re pleased,” Buckels said.
The ruling means the maximum sentence Day can receive is detention and treatment in a Children, Youth and Families Department facility until age 21. CYFD operates four secure centers, none of them in Tucumcari. They include the Lincoln Pines Youth Center near Ruidoso, the J. Paul Taylor Center in Las Cruces, and the Youth Diagnostic and Development Center and the Camino Nuevo Youth Center, both in Albuquerque.
Had Mitchell ruled the boy was not amenable to treatment, he would be facing adult sanctions of up to two consecutive life sentences.
Day, who will turn 16 in September, was charged with two counts of murder in connection with the Nov. 26, 2012, deaths of his adoptive mother, Sue Day, 67, and her adopted daughter, Sherry Folts, 48.
According to police investigators, Day used scissors to stab Folts, then shot Sue Day with a rifle retrieved from an outdoor shed.
An adopted brother, Scott Day, then 15, wrested the rifle away from Tony Day and struck him in the face with it, knocking out two of Tony’s teeth.
Tony told police at the time that he also intended to kill his adoptive father, Mike Day, who had been in the home at the time of the killings, as was a 9-month-old foster baby.
A psychologist testifying at the amenability hearing said Day has a faulty grasp on reality and an inability to accurately interpret events and people’s motives, things that are difficult to correct in behavioral therapy, Buckles related.
However, he challenged those findings and presented testimony from a CYFD psychiatrist who indicated Day would benefit from further treatment; and a representative from the Quay County Detention Center, where Day has been held, who said the boy has been a model inmate.
Buckles also called former teachers, who said he was a good student, a good athlete and a calm presence in class.
Additionally, Buckels presented evidence at the hearing showing his client was “abused and neglected as a child, that his biological parents had their parental rights terminated by the time he was 7,” and the adoptive home of the Day family was chaotic.