Dee Ann Warner, 52, mother of five and grandmother of six, was reported missing April 25, 2021, from her rural Tecumseh, Michigan home. Her family does not believe she would leave without a word, especially without her nine-year-old daughter.
Last fall, a year and a half after she vanished, Dee’s four adult children filed a petition with the Lenawee County Probate Court to have their mother legally declared dead. Along with Dee's adult children, her brother, Gregg Hardy, and close friends filed sworn affidavits with the court. They all said Dee had planned to tell her husband, Dale Warner, she wanted a divorce the night she went missing. A friend offered to take Dale and Dee’s minor daughter overnight so she would be shielded from what was bound to be a heated argument.
In September 2022, a hearing date was scheduled for March 9, 2023. Essentially, the hearing is an opportunity for the petitioners to provide proof there is enough evidence showing Dee is not alive to have a trial. Yesterday, the Hon. Catherine A. Sala scheduled a trial date for March 16, 2023. That does not mean the hearing is cancelled — it just allows the court time to get a jury assembled. If there is a satisfactory amount of proof presented on March 9th, the trial will commence the following week.
“This is a pretty big deal,” Gregg Hardy said last night after leaving the courthouse. “It moves things forward much faster than we expected.”
After almost two years, there has been no evidence Dee is still alive. No one has had contact with her, her passport and credit cards have been idle, and her phone and Apple watch went dead the night before she was reported missing. An envelope of cash was left untouched in her desk drawer.
Gregg Hardy has been vocal from the beginning about who he believes is responsible for his sister’s disappearance. “In my opinion, the petition for the declaration of death is a precursor to being able to file a wrongful death suit against Mr. Warner for what we consider to be his acts in wrongful death,” Gregg told me.
For Dee’s family, the last 21 months have been agonizing. There have been no arrests and they believe Dale Warner is fraudulently draining Dee’s estate. “I think, right now, the court is doing its job. It’s never fast enough for someone sitting here in limbo nearly two years that has lost a loved one. We need to have enough patience to let the system work,” Gregg said.
Meanwhile, Dale Warner will face a judge February 14, 2023, on multiple criminal contempt of court charges. The motion shows evidence Dale Warner diverted millions of dollars in assets from Dee’s estate in violation of court orders and attempted to conceal his actions from the Conservator, whose job it is to protect Dee’s estate.
On January 25, 2023, the Conservator and his attorney filed a motion charging Dale Warner with 12 separate business crimes including common law conversion, breach of fiduciary duty, and silent fraud. Dale’s ex-accountant and current personal assistant, Mark Weisberg is included in this motion. Mark Weisberg is a convicted felon who served time for embezzlement. The civil complaint will be heard in a Circuit Court in Lenawee County on a date to be determined.
As to the lengthy legal process ahead of them, Gregg said, “It’s going to be a long, hard fight. We have to stay the course and we have to stay the course based on following the law, looking for the truth, and looking for justice. That’s all we can do. And we’ll do it by taking the high road.”
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