Tecumseh, MI

Investigator for Missing Dee Warner Reveals Michigan is Second Worst in U.S. for Solving Homicides

Tracy Stengel

Dee Ann Warner.Photo byStephanie Voelkle

Dee Ann Warner was reported missing from her Tecumseh, Michigan home on April 25, 2021, the day after she had planned to tell her husband she wanted a divorce. Almost a year later, in March 2022, Dee’s family was losing faith in the Lenawee County Sheriff’s Office. That’s when they asked Billy Little, Jr. for help, after seeing the nationally-recognized investigative attorney on the TV show, 48 Hours. Little agreed to help the family and work pro bono.

The community rallied for Dee’s case to be turned over to the Michigan State Police. In August 2022, it became official. Now, four months later, and 20 months since Dee disappeared, the case seems to have stalled.

Last night, Little met with Chris McDonough in YouTube’s podcast, The Interview Room, to give an update. McDonough, host of the podcast, is a retired homicide detective and behavioral analyst who has been working closely with Little on Dee’s case. They addressed the questions everyone seems to be asking. Why hasn’t there been an arrest? What are police waiting for?

Little began by explaining murder clearance rates. A murder clearance rate is the percentage of homicide cases law enforcement resolves. The federal government requires law enforcement agencies to upload the information into the National Incident Based Report System (NIBRS.) That information goes to the CDC and FBI, and ultimately, to the Murder Accountability Project (MAP,) which collects homicide data throughout the United States.

The MAP shows Michigan has a 54.35% murder clearance rate of homicide cases from 1965–2021. This ranks Michigan the second worst in the nation. Only Illinois, because of their problems in Chicago, does worse at solving homicides. “It’s essentially a coin toss if you commit a murder in Michigan that you’re going to be caught. That’s a little shocking,” Little said.

“In rural counties like Lenawee County,” Little said, “You would expect a 70–80% clearance rate.”

Instead, MAP shows Lenawee County having a pitiful 40% murder clearance rate.

Now that Dee’s case is in the hands of Michigan State Police, you’d think the murder clearance rate would improve considerably. Yet, when Little used the MAP to find out the murder clearance rate when Michigan State Police takes over murder cases in Lenawee County, he found the clearance rate plummeted to 35%. “I actually was speaking with the person who runs the Murder Accountability Project, and we were discussing these numbers,” Little said. “The guy blurted out, ‘Oh my God, this is the county from hell!’”

“You can’t argue with these numbers,” Little said. “Because these are the numbers uploaded by the state police. Uploaded by the sheriff’s office.” Of the numbers, Little said, “It’s atrocious. That is an indication there is a systemic problem.” He went on to say, “35% is a failing grade in every walk of life.”

Billy Little, Jr. at a press conference for Dee Warner.Photo byTracy Stengel

These numbers don’t include the three Skelton brothers or Dee Ann Warner. “They don’t upload missing persons in this county,” Little said. “I encourage everyone to go to that website and look those numbers up. It is shocking. Absolutely shocking.”

Little has a team of professionals, including people who have worked in the FBI, medical examiners, forensic experts, and technical experts. He has offered these resources to both the original agency in charge of Dee’s case, Lenawee County Sheriff’s Office, and to Michigan State Police.

Instead of welcoming the help, law enforcement has resented Little’s intrusion. In March 2022, Little, who was brand new to the case, met with a newly-formed Task Force consisting of Lenawee County Sheriff’s Office, Michigan State Police, and the FBI. Little described Officer Drewyor of the Michigan State Police as very hostile. “He said to me, ‘Are you here to show that you’re smart and we’re dumb?’” Little said.

Officer Drewyor and Officer Singleton of Michigan State Police are now in charge of solving Dee Warner’s case. Neither have ever solved a no body homicide.

Will Michigan State Police realize the people in this community deserve better, lose their egos, and accept help from a team of experts? Only time will tell. In the meantime, you can flip a coin.

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Tracy explores the world with a positive eye, an open heart, and a sprinkling of humor. Without laughter, she would be lost.

Onsted, MI

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