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Sex offender registration continues for ranch manager near Idyllwild

A judge ruled Keith Harper, 72, must register until at least 2025.

MOUNTAIN CENTER, Calif. — The former boyfriend of Dia Abrams, the woman who went missing almost two years ago from her ranch near Idyllwild, will have to continue to register as a sex offender.

Keith Harper represented himself in court Tuesday in San Juan County, Colorado, where he was convicted 10 years ago of misdemeanor sexual contact for groping two women on snowmobile tours.

“I did a year in jail. Misdemeanors are not meant to be a life sentence,” said Harper, to Judge Anthony D. Edwards in court.

In Colorado, misdemeanor sex offenders can petition the court to discontinue registration after 10 years.

“Ten years have passed that have had significant impact on my ability to acquire jobs and it's become almost a death sentence for me,” said Harper.

Harper, 72, continued to maintain his innocence court. He told the judge he had grabbed one of the women, who was driving the snowmobile, from behind because she had lost control of the vehicle.

“My involvement with the female involved was less than four seconds.  If I had not acted in that moment of time, there would have been serious injury or death,” he said.

For the past two years, Harper has been living in Mountain Center, California on the 117-acre, Bonita Vista Ranch.

He was the boyfriend of the ranch owner, former La Jolla resident Dia Abrams, 65, who mysteriously went missing from her ranch in June 2020.  Abrams has not been found.

A second woman, Jodi Newkirk, 46, died on the ranch in December of last year in an incident reported by Harper as an ATV rollover accident.

Newkirk's cause of death and autopsy have been sealed, as part of Riverside Sheriff's ongoing investigation.

In Colorado court, Assistant District Attorney David Ottman opposed Harper's petition because, while Harper was convicted of the misdemeanor sex offenses in 2012, he appealed his conviction and didn't get released from a one-year jail sentence until 2015.

“Based upon the statute, the 10 years has not run,” said Judge Edwards in court, ruling that Harper cannot petition to discontinue his sex offender registration until 2025.

“So, I'm going to deny it,” said Edward.

The Colorado convictions and Harper’s mug shot are posted on California’s sex offender website because he lives on the ranch in California.

CBS 8 contacted Riverside County Sheriff about the ongoing investigations of Abrams and Newkirk.  The agency did not respond.

The adult children of Dia Abrams continue their court battle to have Keith Harper removed as trustee of the Abrams ranch and estate.  

The trial in that case has been continued, over and over, and is currently set for September 19, 2022 in Palm Springs probate court.

WATCH: Keith Harper extended interview with CBS 8, Sept. 2020.

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