Legal troubles continue for Dale Warner, husband of missing Dee Ann Warner. Yesterday, the Honorable Catherine A. Sala heard closing arguments in Lenawee County Probate Court regarding the petition filed by Dee’s adult children asking for a declaration of death. Then, Judge Sala continued the proceedings from last Wednesday to determine whether Dale was guilty of criminal contempt of court.
Just last month, Dale and Mark Weisberg were taken into custody for civil contempt of court. Mark Weisberg used to be an accountant before being convicted of embezzlement. Dee fired him several years ago. Dale rehired him shortly after her disappearance. Now, Mark is referred to as Dale’s personal assistant.
Dee Ann Warner was reported missing April 25, 2021 from her Tecumseh, Michigan home. The night before, she had planned to tell Dale she wanted a divorce and to sell their various businesses. When her daughter came over for their usual Sunday breakfast, Dee was gone.
Her adult children, extended family, and close friends insist Dee would never willingly leave them without a word. She especially wouldn’t have left without her nine-year-old daughter who was the light of her life.
Last month, Det. Sgt. Drewyor of the Michigan State Police told the court Dale Warner is the main suspect in Dee’s death.
Yesterday, Todd Flood, the attorney representing Dee’s adult children in the petition for the declaration of death, made his closing arguments. He referred to Dee as a first responder — someone who treasured her family and friends and was always there for them. “That was her DNA,” Flood said. “She was the connective tissue to this family.”
Flood reminded the court there had been no activity on Dee’s phone or in her bank accounts. The security cameras surrounding her farmhouse and office did not show her leaving. Her vehicles remained on the property. Dee hasn’t shown up in any national databases using facial recognition technology. “There is not scintilla of evidence to say that she was alive after April 25th,” Flood said.
Michael McFarland, attorney ad litem for Dee’s estate, described Dee as a matriarch of the family who would never miss the recent birth of her latest grandchild. “I think she’s dead. I believe she’s been murdered,” McFarland said.
Dale's attorney, Lawrence Leib, did not object to the petition but said, “We don’t know where she is.” Leib also said, “Mr. Warner wants to move on with his life. He believes moving forward is the right thing for his family and his daughter.”
Judge Sala will deliberate before making her decision. “I hope to have it within a week,” Sala said.
After a short recess, Judge Sala ruled Dale was guilty of criminal contempt of court for neglecting to follow court orders and selling assets of Dee’s estate without the conservator’s knowledge or consent. Dale renamed Dee’s thriving trucking business, bankrupted the original, and then sold it to Laidlaw, a large trucking company.
Judge Sala sentenced Dale to 93 days in Lenawee County Jail and six months of probation. He was fined $7,500 and ordered to reimburse Dee’s estate.
Kathyrn Adams, lifelong friend of Dee, said, “I’m a little bit disappointed that after all the hearings we’ve had that we did not get to hear the ruling today, but I am confident the judge will make a clear and fair ruling. I’m sure she has a good reason to delay her decision.”
As to Dale’s arrest, Kathryn said, “I’m really happy with the outcome. Dee took a lot of pride in her business. She put her heart, soul, blood, sweat and tears into it. I am glad he will have to restore the estate for her children and grandchildren. I don’t know how he’ll come up with the money, though. Now I’d like to see him in handcuffs for her murder.”
Dee’s children petitioned the court last fall to have Dee declared dead. It’s a major step toward getting justice for their mother. If Judge Sala grants the petition, they will move forward with a wrongful death suit against Dale.
“This is a very important ruling, not just for this case, but for the judicial law here in the state of Michigan,” Gregg Hardy, Dee’s brother, said. “It will be used as a model case for other people in similar circumstances. There’s been so much evidence put out there, so much of a foundation established, so much effort put forward by so many people to get this where we’re at.”
As to seeing Dale arrested again, Gregg said, “I am very conscious of the impact it has on family members, and even in Dale’s circle. I’ve never had malfeasance against his family, his daughters, any of them. It’s their lack of concern and compassion for my sister that is troublesome. For me, it was not a celebration day, so to speak, because of the gravity of what this does to other people and other families. I have no problem with Dale being penalized. Believe me, I don’t have a bit of empathy for him. But the other people involved in this — it changes people’s lives — and I feel bad for them.”