Today marks the second day Michigan State Police have turned out in full force in Lenawee County. Police cars, trailers, and unmarked vehicles are lined up along roadsides as troopers search fields, culverts, and wooded areas for clues or the remains of Dee Ann Warner.
Dee has been missing from her farm in Tecumseh, Michigan for two years. Michigan State Police have been zeroing in on land Dee’s husband, Dale Warner, either owns or leases to farm.
Dee was reported missing on April 25, 2021. Her four adult children and extended family are convinced her husband is responsible for her disappearance. In October 2021, the FBI, Michigan State Police, and Lenawee County Sheriff’s Office did an extensive search of Dale and Dee’s property using manpower, K-9 units, drones, and ground penetrating sonar.
They came up empty. The case seemed to be growing cold.
On August 1, 2022, after pressure from Dee’s family and the community, Lenawee County Sheriff’s Office turned Dee’s case over to Michigan State Police. Hopes were buoyed the case would finally be solved and there would be justice for Dee.
In late October 2022, Billy Little, Jr., nationally recognized investigative attorney, expressed his frustration that there still hadn’t been an arrest. Little began investigating the case pro bono in March 2022 and worked months without pay or a day off to find out what happened to Dee. He interviewed over 100 witnesses and scoured through piles of documents. Little turned over all his findings to law enforcement.
“I don’t jump to conclusions. I only look at the facts.” Little said. “The evidence against Dale Warner is overwhelming.”
Now, Michigan State Police are conducting another extensive search. Two years have passed since the night the mother of four adult children and a nine-year-old daughter planned to tell her husband she wanted a divorce and to sell their businesses. Is it possible they’ll find anything after all this time? If so, will it help the prosecution?
Gregg Hardy, Dee’s brother, expressed his desire for authorities to use the evidence they already have and move forward with the case. Hardy doesn’t believe finding Dee’s remains is crucial to getting an arrest and conviction. However, he did say there were two areas in particular he would like Michigan State Police to look at while they are searching.
I asked Billy Little, Jr. what he thought about the latest developments. “Police departments — good and bad — always get fixated on finding the body. I get it. I understand. It’s the brass ring. But the difference between a good police department and a bad police department is the amount of resources and focus you put on finding the body as opposed to the amount of resources and focus you put on building the case.”
Lenawee County has never successfully prosecuted a no-body homicide and many suspect that is the reason there hasn’t been an arrest.
“It’s okay to admit you’ve never done something before. It’s okay to ask for assistance from someone who has more experience. Sure, no-body cases are difficult, but you can’t allow hard things to prevent families from getting justice. Evil prevails when good people do nothing. You’re never going to hit the ball if you are afraid of striking out,” Little said.
Little was a Colonel in the United States Air Force, a Marine Corps Officer, and served on active duty in the Air Force. He has been a prosecutor, defense attorney, and a judge. “You go to war with the army you have, not the one you wish you had,” Little said.
As time goes on, Dee’s story is garnering nationwide media attention and her family is touched and thankful for the messages of love and support from around the world. Her family, friends, and community are anxiously awaiting the day the prosecutor’s office takes action.
“This case is immensely winnable. But if you don’t try — you’ve already lost,” Little said.