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Ranch manager questioned in case of missing woman near Idyllwild

Attorneys deposed Keith Harper for six hours about the disappearance of Dia Abrams.

MOUNTAIN CENTER, Calif. — Lawyers had tough questions on Thursday for the man managing a ranch near Idyllwild, where one woman went missing in 2020 and another woman died in 2021.

Keith Harper appeared remotely for the six-hour deposition in a probate case brought by the children of the missing Dia Abrams.

Attorneys for Clinton and Crisara Abrams walked Harper though the events surrounding Dia Abrams’ disappearance on June 6, 2020.

“The last I saw her was approximately 2:20 or 2:30 p.m., when I had lunch with her,” Harper testified.

“After you finished the lunch where did you go next?,” asked attorney Matthew Owens.

“To the meadow to complete the mowing,” Harper replied.

Harper, 73, testified he was the only other person at the Bonita Vista Ranch in Mountain Center that afternoon.

Listen to the full deposition >>

“You never left the property at all?” asked attorney Owens.

“Never,” replied Harper.

“And then after you were done mowing the meadow you went back to the house around 7:30, true?” Owens asked.

“Correct” Harper replied.

Abrams left her cell phone, purse, and Ford pickup truck behind.

“You would have seen the truck go by if she had left?” Owens asked.

“Yeah,” Harper replied.

“And you never saw the truck go by?” asked Owens.

“No,” Harper said.

Abrams' two adult children are suing Harper in probate court, trying to get him removed as trustee of the 119-acre ranch, and two other properties in the area owned by Abrams.

During his deposition, Harper testified Abrams was afraid of her son, Clinton.

WATCH: Ranch manager questioned in case of missing woman near Idyllwild | Deposition excerpts

“She was fearful that Clinton was involved in a situation that would take her life or make her disappear,” Harper testified.

He said Abrams was in fear for her life because she was in a court battle with her children over the estate of her late husband, La Jolla developer Clem Abrams.

“She had told six of her friends that Clinton had issued an order for her extermination,” Harper testified.

In the weeks following Abrams' disappearance, Harper testified that police seized his cell phone and served search warrants on his RV, his storage business in New Mexico, and a home he owns in Colorado.

“Have the authorities ever done or said anything to give you an indication that they were looking at you as the potential perpetrator?” asked Owens during the deposition.

“I think the last person that ever sees an individual, they're always a suspect,” Harper answered.

The remains of Dia Abrams have not been found, and Harper continues to live on the ranch and manage her estate.

“Did you ever have any discussions with Dia about who she would want her trustee to be after she passed?” the attorney asked.

“No. I knew she did not want her children to have anything. Period.” Harper responded.

CBS 8 interviewed Clinton Abrams in 2021 on the one-year anniversary of his mother going missing. He has denied any involvement in her disappearance.

In a statement responding to Harper’s deposition statements, Clinton Abrams wrote to CBS 8, “Keith Harper is a career criminal and sex offender with multiple convictions.”  Harper caught himself in “numerous lies both on and off the record,” the statement said, in part.

Another death on the ranch

On December 23, 2021, another woman, Jodi Newkirk, died on the same ranch.

During the deposition, attorneys questioned Harper about Newkirk's case as well.  Harper testified Newkirk died in an accidental ATV rollover accident.  Her autopsy and cause of death have been sealed by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department pending the outcome of its ongoing investigation.

CBS 8 reached out to Riverside Sheriff for an update on both cases, asking if the cases had been submitted for criminal charges.  A spokesperson responded, “Both these investigation are still active and on-going and have not been submitted to the DA’s office as of yet.”

WATCH RELATED: Audio interview released in disappearance of Dia Abrams near Idyllwild (June 2021).

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