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Settlement talks underway in battle over estate of missing woman, Dia Abrams

Abrams, 65, went missing in 2020 from her ranch near Idyllwild.
Credit: CBS 8

MOUNTAIN CENTER, Calif. — A mediated settlement could end the court battle over the estate of Dia Abrams, a former La Jolla resident who mysteriously went missing in 2020 from her ranch near Idyllwild.

Abrams’ boyfriend, Keith Harper, currently lives on the ranch and manages the estate as a co-trustee under the terms of a restated trust filed two weeks before the 65-year-old went missing.

Abrams’ adult children, Crisara and Clinton Abrams, challenged the restated trust in Riverside County probate court in March 2021 and sought to have Harper removed as trustee.

The probate case went to mediation on July 28, according to court records.

Harper, 72, remains “a person of interest in Dia’s disappearance,” according to a mediation brief filed in July by the missing woman’s children.

Plaintiffs are seeking the appointment of an independent trustee to manage the estate, and possibly sell assets to fund a large reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of any person who is complicit in Dia’s disappearance, CBS 8 has learned.

Any settlement agreement would have to be approved by the Riverside County probate judge in Palm Springs, John G. Evans.

Abrams, 65, went missing from her 117-acre Bonita Vista Ranch in Mountain Center on June 6, 2020, and has not been seen since.

Under California law, Abrams may be declared deceased five years after going missing.

“Two weeks before her disappearance, Dia purportedly executed a new trust restatement and power of attorney, completely removing the Children from her estate plan and leaving everything instead to her alleged ‘boyfriend,’ Keith Harper,” the mediation brief said.

“Dia’s disappearance is under investigation by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department as a possible homicide and foul play is suspected,” the brief continued.

“Harper is an unemployable registered sex offender with a lengthy criminal record, including three instances of violence against women. His only chance at financial security was coercing the vulnerable and lonely Dia—in her impaired state while heavily sedated on prescription pain medication following back surgery—into adding him into her estate plan a mere 15 days before she mysteriously went missing,” attorneys for Abrams’ children wrote in the mediation brief.

The probate case was scheduled to go to trial in September.

During a deposition on June 30, Harper testified he was the last person to see Abrams alive, when they had lunch together on the ranch at 2:30 p.m. on June 6, 2020.

Following lunch, Harper testified he worked on the ranch for five hours -- mowing the meadow -- and then discovered Abrams missing when he returned to the main house around 7:30 p.m.

During his deposition, Harper said the first person he telephoned after Abrams went missing was a former tenant, who worked as a California Highway Patrol officer.

“He (the CHP officer) indicated that he hadn't heard of anything, and he also informed me it would be a while before they would actually consider her missing,” Harper testified during the deposition.

The mediation brief filed by Abrams’ children disputed Harper’s timeline.

“Although Harper publicly stated he called a local California Highway Patrol officer the day Dia went missing, the California Highway Patrol officer will testify that never happened. The officer says Harper did not call him the day of Dia’s disappearance, but instead showed up at his house early in the morning the day after Dia’s disappearance,” according to the brief. “The officer informed him that CHP did not handle missing persons, and to contact the sheriff’s department immediately."

Under deposition, Harper said he called the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department to report Abrams missing, but was told, “they wouldn't take any action for three days because most people return in that period of time.”

Two days after Abrams went missing Harper packed up an RV and left the state for seven days to take care of “tax issues” in Arizona, according to deposition testimony.

The next hearing in the case is scheduled for September 19 in department PS3 of Palm Springs probate court.

WATCH: Keith Harper deposition excerpts (June 30, 2022):

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