(WXYZ) — It’s been almost a year and a half, and no one has seen or heard from Dee Warner.
Her children believe that she’s dead, and they’re now asking a judge to agree with them as part of their effort to hold someone accountable for her death.
This is just one step in a long legal road that could end with a wrongful death lawsuit.
Family members say Dee Ann Warner never would have missed her granddaughter’s first day of kindergarten.
“I just can't wrap my head around it,” said Rikkel Bock, one of Dee’s five children. “My mom would be the one to blow up my phone, send me pictures. How did her first day go?”
Dee was last seen on April 25, 2021 at her home near Tecumseh.
“It's horrible. But at this point, I'm so much more frustrated than I am sad, because it's gone on for so long. And for me to have to feel like I have to convince people that my mom would never run away from us is so frustrating,” said Bock.
That’s why Dee’s children filed a petition with the Lenawee County probate court to have the 52-year-old legally declared dead. According to the court filing, more than 4,000 acres of land have been searched, using drones and other methods.
In August, the Michigan State Police took over the case.
Dee’s children, brother, and close friends just filed sworn affidavits with the court, detailing their fears that something went terribly wrong when Dee tried to tell her husband Dale that she wanted a divorce the night she vanished.
“She expressed that to almost everybody she spoke to and her friend, knowing that that was the intent, knowing that this was not going to be a good conversation because of the two personalities offered to take the minor child, who was nine years old at the time, and keep her overnight so that they could have this conversation about her leaving,” said Billy Little, a former military investigator and attorney who’s been hired by Dee’s family.
Dale’s attorney, Larry Leib, maintains his client had nothing to do with Dee’s disappearance,
“He feels horribly about his wife’s disappearance, he had nothing to do with it. Over the course of a year, there’s been no evidence to suggest that he did, but he was a loving husband,” said Leib. Leib said Dale believes Dee left the country, and he wants to find his wife. He also said Dale misses her.
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But the probate court filing provides new insight into the last day Dee was seen alive.
According to sworn statements, she had an appointment to have false eyelashes applied, but was crying so much about an alleged fight with her husband that the appointment had to be delayed.
The lash technician said Dee scheduled two future appointments, which her children and attorneys say is proof she did not disappear by choice.
“She had she had a lot of future plans,” said Little. “She had an appointment to get a generator. She had an appointment to pick up a ring that she had purchased.”
Court records also reveal that Dee has not shown up on any facial recognition technology anywhere across the world.
“There's been no activity. Anywhere. Her phone, her credit cards, her bank accounts. Her passport has never been used. They have never traced her license to being scanned,” said Bock.
One of Dee’s sons told the court in his affidavit that his mother kept an envelope of cash hidden in her office. He said Dale never knew about the hidden cash, and that “the envelope containing the cash was still in the hidden location and had not been disturbed” when Dee vanished.
Having Dee legally declared dead allows the family to pursue other legal action, including a wrongful death lawsuit.
“Justice can be in a criminal court or justice can be in a civil court. But this is part of the process of closing the doors and getting justice, making sure that that community is safe,” said Little.
“We just want to hold somebody accountable for our mother's life. And at this point, nobody's being held accountable, and it just feels wrong,” Bock told 7 Investigator Heather Catallo.
“Having to ask a court to declare your mother deceased is a family’s worst nightmare; but after nearly a year and a half of searching, the facts and evidence gathered lead us all to one conclusion: Dee Warner has passed and will not be coming home,” said one of Bock’s attorney’s, Ryanne Rizzo in a statement to the 7 Investigators.
While law enforcement officials have told Dale Warner that he is a person of interest in this case, his attorney told the 7 Investigators that Dale is doing everything he can to cooperate with police.
Leib says they also plan to respond to the petition in probate court. A hearing is scheduled for March.
If you have any information about this case, the Michigan State Police want to hear from you: 855-MICH-TIP or www.michigan.gov/MICHTIP
If you have a story for Heather, please email her at email@example.com.