The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
A man accused in the stabbing death and mutilation of a woman over the weekend was convicted in 1974 of fatally stabbing a woman 23 times.
James Millard Day, Sr., went to prison after stabbing to death Ethell Spence in her Old West End apartment. Ms. Spence, 53, was found, barely alive, in a pool of blood on her kitchen floor. She was wearing only a blouse and pantyhose. Monday, almost four decades later, Day, 66, of 2519 Auburn Ave., was in Toledo Municipal Court, charged with the murder of Joan Watson, 49, who was found naked and mutilated on the kitchen floor of her second-story West Sylvania Avenue apartment Sunday morning.
Day was ordered to be held in the Lucas County jail in lieu of $1 million bond.
Although Ms. Watson’s body was badly mutilated, she died of a sharp-force injury — a slice wound — to the left side of her neck, said Lucas County Deputy Coroner Dr. Cynthia Beisser, who performed the autopsy Monday.
Ms. Watson’s left breast was cut off and she was missing tissue from the front left side of her pelvis. She also suffered multiple superficial stab wounds; she did not have any defense wounds, Dr. Beisser said.
All of the wounds were inflicted around the time of death, although it’s not clear how long Ms. Watson had been dead before being found by a neighbor at 9:25 a.m., Dr. Beisser said.
In an affidavit filed in Toledo Municipal Court, police state that Day was caught with blood on his hands. The suspect reportedly told police he and Ms. Watson were alone at her apartment overnight Saturday where the two were drinking and using drugs.
On Dec. 28, 1974, Day, then 28, was apparently visiting a woman named Linda Dixon, 22, at Ms. Dixon’s Floyd Street apartment.
Ms. Dixon, described in Blade archives as a friend of Day, shared her apartment with Ms. Spence, a housewife from Arkansas who was widowed the same year that she died.
It’s not clear what happened at the apartment, but Ms. Spence was stabbed nearly two dozen times, according to an autopsy report.
The autopsy ruled her death a homicide, and determined the fatal stab wounds were through her aorta — the body’s largest artery — and her left atrium.
In addition, she had wounds to her arms, legs, each breast, and abdomen.
In 1975, Day pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in commission of a misdemeanor assault for Ms. Spence’s death, according to Lucas County Common Pleas Court records, and was sentenced to spend three to 10 years in prison.
At the time, Frederick McDonald, then an assistant county prosecutor, told The Blade the plea to the reduced charge — originally murder — was accepted because witness accounts were inconsistent.
Day was admitted to prison Aug. 22, 1975, and was paroled on Aug. 15, 1978, according to records from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.
Day’s father, Millard Day, 83, said his son “drifted away from God.”
Mr. Day said he hasn’t seen his son since last Tuesday when his son was headed to the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Ann Arbor for treatment, although Mr. Day said he did not know what his son was being treated for.
Day served in the Vietnam War, Mr. Day said, although he said he could not recall what branch of the military his son was in or how long he served.
A spokesman for the Department of Defense said he could not access Day’s military records without knowing which branch of the service he served.
Mr. Day and his son shared a home since the younger Day was released from prison after serving two concurrent seven-year sentences on two rape convictions.
Day was convicted of the charges in 2001 and released from prison in September, 2008.
According to the state’s sex offender registry, Day raped a young girl.
Mr. Day, who suffered a stroke seven or eight years ago, said his son — the middle of three — frequently attended church with him at True Church of God on North 12th Street, where another of Mr. Day’s sons, Daniel, is the minister.
Daniel Day declined to comment.
After Day’s last stint in prison, “when he got out he wasn’t acting right,” Mr. Day said, although he could not pinpoint what was wrong. He said he never heard of Ms. Watson and had never seen her before.
He has not spoken to his son, but if he could, he would say, “You can lie to me, but you can’t lie to God.”
Contact Taylor Dungjen at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6054, or on Twitter @taylordungjen.