Dale Warner, husband of missing Dee Ann Warner, was sentenced to 93 days in Lenawee County Jail for criminal contempt of court on September 14, 2023. He was released in late October after serving less than half his sentence.
Dee’s family had no warning that his sentence had been reduced. Then, it was revealed Dale was released an additional 8 days early.
Today, Judge Sala in Lenawee County Probate Court held a hearing to review the miscalculation of credit for time served. When Dale was arrested for civil contempt of court in August, he served 8 days. This was a separate offense than the criminal contempt of court charge he received in September. This caused confusion for authorities at the Lenawee County Jail.
“Apparently what happened was they saw that he had done eight days on contempt and saw contempt again and gave him credit for eight days on the civil contempt towards the criminal contempt which was obviously not appropriate. So today’s hearing is to review that issue and to hear the attorney’s recommendations,” said Judge Sala at the beginning of the proceedings.
Dale was not present in court but was represented by Shawn Head, his attorney. Head cited a doctrine which states if a prisoner is erroneously released through no fault of their own, the prisoner should be credited that time against their sentence.
Both Dale’s civil contempt of court and criminal contempt of court charges stemmed from him not following court orders pertaining to Dee Ann Warner’s estate.
“It’s shocking to the conscience,” Head said. “I don’t know what or if there’s nothing more cruel or unusual than releasing an inmate, then waiting two weeks after he reunites with his minor child, and then saying he’s got to go back because someone at the jail messed up.”
Head noted he’s never seen this situation in his 15 years of practice. “Releasing somebody from jail and then requiring them to go back after a period of time would certainly affect their sanity,” Head said.
John Polderman, attorney for the Successor Conservator in charge of preserving Dee’s estate said, “There’s nothing cruel or unusual about Lenawee County Jail.”
Ariel Berger, attorney for missing Dee Ann Warner, said, “Mr. Warner has continually been in violation of this court’s order while he was erroneously released.” She said there would be pleadings filed soon stating Dale allegedly has been attempting to continue to violate court orders and is instructing others to do so as well. “I believe that his absence from this court today is further evidence of, I suppose, his inability to follow the court’s order.”
Berger continued with, “Is it unfortunate for Dale Warner to go back and serve those eight days? Sure, it might be. But it’s also unfortunate that he literally cannot help himself from violating these court orders over and over again. So, I’m asking that he be remitted back to jail.”
Ultimately, Judge Sala said, “I’m not going to reincarcerate Mr. Warner. Part of the beauty, I believe, in living in the United States of America is that we do have the opportunity to look at issues of liberty -- and when you have issues -- look at them in the most civilized way possible.”
As to the miscalculation of Dale’s time, Judge Sala said, “I don’t want to say that it’s simply the jail’s fault. All of us sitting here today in this room had the ability to calculate the appropriate release date and to make sure that that was communicated effectively to the jail. Asking our jail personnel to differentiate between civil contempt and criminal contempt under the same case file number was understandably out of the ordinary.”
Dale’s wife, Dee Ann Warner, was reported missing April 25, 2021. The night before, she made arrangements for their minor child to stay with a friend because she planned to tell Dale she wanted a divorce and to sell their various businesses. Dee’s four adult children, extended family, and friends have been vocal about their belief Dale is responsible for Dee’s disappearance.
Dee’s family filed a petition to have Dee declared dead. Judge Sala is expected to make her decision soon. If Judge Sala rules Dee is deceased, Dee’s family plans to file a wrongful death suit against Dale.
What do you think should have happened to Dale after he was wrongfully released eight days early? Should he have been arrested again? Or since it was through no fault of his own, was it the right thing for him to be allowed to remain free? I’d love to read your opinions in the comments!