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Fiancé of missing woman alleges ‘hostile takeover’ of estate near Idyllwild

Keith Harper in court battle with adult children of Dia Abrams over estate.
Credit: KFMB

MOUNTAIN CENTER, Calif. — The man who claims to be the fiancé of missing millionaire, Lydia “Dia” Abrams, has fired back at her adult children with a scathing declaration filed in Riverside County probate court.

“They have attempted a hostile takeover of their mother's properties by financial strangulation and harassment,” wrote Keith Harper in a sworn declaration dated July 19.

Abrams, 65, has been missing since June 6, 2020, from her 117-acre Bonita Vista Ranch east of Idyllwild, California.

Harper – who claimed he was Abrams’ fiancé in an August 2020 interview with News 8 – was the last person to see Abrams alive on her ranch.

Abrams hand-delivered cinnamon rolls to a neighbor early Saturday morning on the date she went missing, News 8 has confirmed.

Harper said he ate lunch with Abrams at the ranch midday and last saw her around 2:30 p.m. when he went to mow the grass and do some ranch work.  When he returned from his work around 7:30 that evening, Harper said Abrams was nowhere to be found.

Two weeks before she went missing, Abrams transferred her ranch and a couple of nearby, residential properties into a restated trust, naming Harper as trustee of the estate in the event of her death.

Abrams' two adult children, Clinton and Crisara Abrams of San Diego, are now challenging the restated trust in Riverside probate court. 

Harper, 71, has been managing the Bonita Vista Ranch since Abrams went missing and, until recently, had been renting out cabins on the ranch through Airbnb.

“Her children contacted 'Airbnb' and told them that the ranch was being run by a murderer and that I had been accused of murdering their mother,” Harper alleged in his declaration.

“'Airbnb' removed the ‘ranch’ from its rental lists even though the ranch had received 29 five-star ratings,” Harper wrote.

Harper has not been named a suspect in Abrams’ disappearance by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, which has been investigating the missing-person case.

Detectives have served several search warrants in the case, including one on Harper’s RV and one on his storage business in New Mexico.

“Shortly after [Abrams] wend missing, Mr. Harper fled the State of California for New Mexico, despite holding himself out as [Abrams’] fiancé,” attorneys representing Abrams’ adult children wrote in a petition seeking to terminate Harper’s claimed power of attorney over the estate.

“When [Abrams] went missing her keys, purse, and cell phone were found at her residence, items she would not typically leave behind. [Abrams] also left a note indicating she feared for her life,” the petition alleged, although a copy of letter was not included as an exhibit to the petition.

Abrams’ children also were “informed and believe” that “[T]he Riverside County Sheriff’s Department is investigating Mr. Harper as a potential perpetrator of the crime or crimes that led to [Abrams’] disappearance,” according to the petition.

Abrams is the widow of La Jolla developer Clem Abrams, who passed away in December 2018. 

In 2020, Abrams and her adult children were involved in a legal battle of their own in San Diego over the Clem Abrams estate.

Court filings showed Abrams was seeking to invalidate her prenuptial agreement she had signed with her husband in 1984. She also was seeking more than $6.7 million dollars in assets from the estate to fund a marital trust.

“In the five years I spent with Dia, I only remember her son, Clinton, coming to the ranch on two occasions. I never saw her daughter, Crisara, come to the ranch,” Harper wrote in his declaration.

Harper also alleged Clinton Abrams tried to poison his mother “six years ago” when she was hospitalized with lower back surgery in San Diego.

“When she woke up in the recovery room, she was surprised to see her son Clinton, since no one in the family had volunteered to assist her. Dia claimed the meeting was short and her son gave her something to drink and then left.  Dia claimed what happened next was she slipped into an unexplained coma for the next four days and nearly died. When she recovered, she believed the [sic] Clinton had administered her a dose of something intending to kill her, since the medical team had no explanation of her near death experience,” Harper wrote in the court declaration.

Clinton Abrams denied ever trying to poison his mother.  “What he [Harper] is saying would be comical if the situation wasn’t so serious. He needs to work writing tella-novellas.  It is tragic that law enforcement hasn’t done anything of substance on this case,” the son responded in an email to News 8.

The son recently spoke publicly for the first time about his mother’s case on the one-year anniversary of Abrams' disappearance, in an interview with News 8.

“My main thing is I want to find my mother,” Clinton Abrams said in the June interview.  “If somebody knows something and they're not speaking up, we need them to find the courage in their hearts to do so right now, please.”

Three separate cases now have been filed in Palm Springs probate court in Riverside County, aimed at resolving the dispute over Abrams estate.

The missing woman’s children want Harper removed as trustee of the estate, his power of attorney nullified, and a private professional fiduciary appointed by the court to manage the ranch and estate assets.

Harper seeks dismissal of the action against him and instructions from the court regarding who should be the trustee of the estate while Abrams remains missing.

At a hearing on June 21, Judge John G. Evans consolidated the three cases and set a future hearing for August 31 at 8:45 a.m. in Department PS3.

The Abrams family attorneys allege Harper is unfit to serve as trustee because of his criminal history and breaches of fiduciary duties.

“Mr. Harper, who has been convicted of two sex offenses and pled guilty to another assault charge stemming from a sexual assault allegation, is required to register as a sex offender,” according to the Abrams family petition.  “He has not demonstrated that he is fit to manage [Abrams] assets in her absence.”

Harper wants the court to confirm his position as either trustee or temporary trustee.

“I have personally paid more than $30,000 to clear the encumbrances on the 'sky high' property and $25,000 on 'Bonita Vista' ranch property to remove the indebtedness. I have worked on the property without pay using my own funds to keep it viable and generally debt free, working between 10 to 12 hours a day to keep the property running efficiently and efficiently.  Dia's children have done nothing to help facilitate the expenses and managing this property,” Harper wrote.

If you have any information on the whereabouts of Dia Abrams, call Riverside Sheriff at (760) 578-2101.

WATCH RELATED: Extended News 8 interview with Clinton Abrams, son of missing woman Dia Abrams