Suspected affairs, mistrust, and money woes at center Warner investigation


Above: Defense attorney Mary Chartier, center, speaks to the court in a hearing last week related to murder charges against her client, Dale Warner, right, in the 2nd District Court in Adrian as Lenawee County Assistant District Prosecutor David McCreedy listens.


Story, photos
By Julie Riddle

ADRIAN ― The turbulent relationship and financial upheaval that preceded the disappearance of Lenawee County woman Dee Warner may have prompted her husband to murder her, attorneys argued last week.

Witnesses at a three-day hearing in the 2nd District Court described Warner as fiercely loving but volatile and combative, more so in the days leading up to her disappearance from her home near Tipton in late April, 2021.

Warner has not been seen since. A judge declared her legally dead in March.

In November, more than two years after Dee Warner’s disappearance, the Lenawee County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office charged Warner’s husband, Dale Warner, with her murder, though his wife’s body has never been found.

At last week’s preliminary examination, in which a judge decides if the prosecution has enough evidence to proceed toward trial, witnesses said the couple had deep financial troubles and frequently feuded. Dee Warner often disappeared for short stretches after a fight, returning after a few days.

The last time she vanished, she didn’t contact family to let them know where she had gone, a striking contrast to the hundreds of texts and calls they usually exchanged daily.

Prior to her disappearance, Dale Warner, now 56, tracked his wife’s whereabouts and, according to witnesses, tried to access her private information, including financial documents. After she vanished, he blocked family members from his wife’s computers and seemingly hid her phone data from police, witnesses said.

At a hearing last week in the 2nd District Court in Adrian, witness Todd Neyrinck explains an aerial photograph of the property where missing woman Dee Warner was last seen in April 2021.

Multiple times during the hearing, spectators and the media were removed from the courtroom without explanation while the court conducted business unobserved. Visiting Judge Anna Frushour abruptly ended the exam early Friday afternoon. Testimony will continue in early June, when Frushour will determine whether the case can continue toward trial.

Dee Warner, a regular viewer of the television show Dateline ― known for its reporting on murders and missing persons cases ― told her adult daughter shortly before she was last seen, “He could do something like that to me,” according to testimony by daughter Rikkell Bock.

Asked by an attorney to clarify, Bock said, “To make her disappear.”


By all accounts, Dee Warner was warmhearted but tempestuous, quickly angered and inclined to overdramatize. She liked attention, her daughter testified, and attracted that attention via outbursts at work and at home.

“She could yell, scream, holler,” said Todd Neyrinck, who ran the couple’s trucking company and interacted with Dee regularly. “She could get to any level of mad you could think of.”

She and her husband regularly sparred in what her children called an unhappy marriage. Several witnesses reported Dee’s allusions to divorce in the years prior to her disappearance but said Dee ruled out leaving her husband because she didn’t want to leave the couple’s young daughter with him.

Dale Warner, accused of murdering his wife, Dee Warner, in spring of 2021, appears in police body camera footage filmed the day of her disappearance and shown at a court hearing last week in the 2nd District Court in Adrian.

Dee did often leave when she was angry, however, and kept a “go-bag” packed for a several-night stay at a hotel or a second house purchased for that purpose, according to her son. She always stayed in contact with her family on those occasions, witnesses said.

She also stayed connected with the many personal and business accounts in her name, some of them held jointly with various members of her family, sometimes conducting financial transactions daily for weeks at a time, the detective in charge of the investigation testified. She kept cash, including large sums, in numerous locations, from pockets to dresser tops to “all over” her vehicle, family members said.

For years, the couple fought off financial collapse as three of their four businesses struggled and ate up the earnings of the couple’s one profitable business, their trucking company. As Dee planned cruises and bought expensive jewelry, the couple let bills go unpaid and had to finagle financial deals to stave off foreclosure, witnesses testified.


Meanwhile, Dale Warner allegedly harbored suspicions about his wife. A year or more before her disappearance, he had a GPS tracker secretly placed on her secondary vehicle because he worried she was having an affair, according to family members’ statements to police. That data was accessed 176 times before Dee found the device, according to testimony.

No preliminary exam testimony indicated Dee Warner had any romantic relationships outside her marriage.

Prior to April 2021, Dale or someone else requested location data for Dee’s primary vehicle more than 2,000 times over a 16-month period, averaging four location checks per day, according to data from a subscription service provided by an automobile manufacturer. Those requests stopped after Dee disappeared.

Dale also requested a hidden camera in the home’s kitchen and arranged to replace a safe with a lookalike so he could access paperwork Dee kept inside, a family member testified.


On the Friday before Dee went missing, Neyrinck told Dee they needed to bring in someone to look at company books regarding a suspicious financial matter. That day, she seemed more upset than usual and talked about an impending confrontation, either with an employee or with her husband, according to witnesses.

The following day, she told a family member she intended to sell the trucking company ― which she believed was her sole property, although a judge later ruled it was co-owned with Dale ― and was going to tell her husband she wanted a divorce. Dee reported being violently upset that day, hyperventilating to the point of vomiting, several witnesses said.

Viewed through video equipment being used to film a segment of the television series “48 Hours,” witness Amy Alexander testifies in last week’s hearing related to the disappearance of Dee Warner of Lenawee County. Warner’s husband, Dale Warner, is accused of murdering his wife.

The couple reportedly argued that night. Dale later told a family member he had confronted Dee about “affairs and money,” according to testimony. He told police that Dee then took medication for a migraine and he helped her fall asleep on the couch by massaging her shoulders ― an action several witnesses said Dee did not allow him to do.

When he woke up around 6 a.m. Sunday, Dee was still asleep on the couch, and he left to spray the fields, Dale told police.

Dee’s adult children from a previous marriage discovered Dee’s absence when a daughter arrived for their weekly Sunday brunch. Her lack of responsive texts quickly raised alarm. According to cell phone records, Dee sent or received an average of 307 calls and texts per day shortly before she disappeared.

When none of them could reach Dee, her adult children pressed Dale to call police. He reluctantly did so, telling the responding officer from the Lenawee County Sheriff’s Office that he didn’t want to unnecessarily raise an alarm only to have Dee return in a few days, as she usually did.


Video footage from security cameras mounted around the trucking company property, adjacent to the couple’s home, showed no activity explaining Dee’s disappearance, witnesses said. The cameras do not cover all parts of the property and do not show the house.

One camera does record inside the office building of the trucking business, where, according to Dale, he found an object suggesting his wife may have disappeared on purpose.

Zack Bock, Dee’s adult son, said he had his back to Dale in the office when he heard Dale exclaim. Bock turned to see Dale holding Dee’s $30,000 wedding ring. The ring had been sitting on his desk, Dale said.

The office camera captured no sign of Dee the night of her disappearance. She could have accessed Dale’s separate office another way without being recorded, Bock acknowledged under questioning by defense attorney Mary Chartier.

Dee’s phone, which was always in her hand or pocket, according to witnesses, went silent the day of her disappearance and was never recovered by police. Location data suggests the phone’s last known location was the Warners’ house.

Dee didn’t know her husband knew about her second, secret phone, Dale told police immediately after her disappearance. He speculated she must have called for a ride from the alleged second phone and taken it with her when she left.

Before she disappeared, when his wife was hospitalized for reasons not revealed in court, Dale requested a cloned copy of her primary phone, giving him access to some of her information. Of the more than 100 Apple devices collected from the home after her disappearance, none were the phone with the cloned information, although Dale told police he had given it to them, police said.

Police eventually obtained the phone after Dale called them from it, police testified.


Dee had disappeared many times before, but this time was different, Dale told the police officer who responded to the initial 911 call. His wife’s go-bag and toiletries were gone, like usual, but she hadn’t taken either of her vehicles and had dropped out of contact with her family.

Her kids thought their mother’s absence spelled something more than another temper tantrum, Dale told the responding officer, according to body camera video shown at the hearing.
“I wasn’t convinced of it for a while,” Dale said. “I am now.”

A police search for Dee on national databases yielded no facial recognition hits, law enforcement interactions, pawn shop transactions, or other digital footprints someone living might be expected to leave, a Michigan State Police expert testified.

Medical insurance company records, which once logged three or four medical billings for Dee per week, show no medical activity for her after her disappearance, and her weekly prescription billings stopped just as abruptly, said Detective Sgt. Danier Drewyer of Michigan State Police, the officer in charge of the investigation.

Numerous searches of the Warner property and other locations, including digs, have unearthed no sign of Dee Warner, dead or alive.

In the police body cam footage, Dale called his wife’s absence “really weird” and floated the possibility that this time, his wife left intending to never come back.

“The way she left, she didn’t want anyone to know where she’s at,” Warner told the officer. “Obviously, she knows what she’s doing, because we can’t find her.”

Frushour dismissed spectators and media early afternoon on Friday after one full and two half days of testimony. The preliminary exam is scheduled to resume June 6 and 7.

In a March declaration of death ruling, a judge said evidence pointed to the probability that Dee Warner was dead and probably the victim of a homicide. The judge in that probate case named Dale Warner as profiting most from her death and said circumstances point to him as her probable killer. That judge’s opinion has no bearing on the criminal charges against Dale Warner.

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