Ricky Dale Howard enters plea for child porn charge after mistrial

Local News

MONTAGUE CO. (KFDX/KJTL) — A former Nocona banker and rancher who has ties to the Caleb Diehl missing persons case, enter a guilty plea in a child pornography case.

Not long after the mistrial was declared, on the morning of July 20, 2021, Ricky Dale Howard decided to plead guilty to sexual exploitation of a child.

Howard was on trial in a federal court in Fort Worth for child exploitation and pornography charges.  Jury selection for the trial started on Monday, July 19.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas says the mistrial order, declared on July 20, was the result of a medical issue with a juror.  She said additional information will be released shortly.

Ricky Dale Howard booking photo

Howard was being tried for sexual exploitation of a child, receipt of child pornography, possession of child pornography and accessing child pornography. Multiple investigations led to this trial.

A special agent with the FBI said 300 images of child pornography on Howard’s laptop included images of missing person Caleb Diehl when he was a minor taken over a period of several years.

The agent said he also found four images showing Howard in sexual contact with the Diehl, who went missing in 2015.

Two years after Diehl’s disappearance, his mother found a small handheld tape recorder hidden in the back of a bathroom cabinet. On the recorder was audio from Howard asking himself polygraph questions about his sexual interest in young boys.

While these federal charges came as a result of the investigation into the unsolved disappearance the missing person’s case remains open.

The trial was set following Howard’s release from state prison after serving a five-year sentence on 11 counts of unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon.

Howard also had been convicted of federal bank fraud about 10 years earlier.

The gun sentence came a year after he was charged with four counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child in two separate cases after two men came forward and said they had been assaulted multiple times in the ’90s while working for Howard.

One was 12-years-old and the other 13-years-old at the time.

The then 13-year-old boy estimated he was assaulted about 500 times.

Howard was arrested on those charges in 2015 during an investigation of the disappearance of 18-year-old Caleb Diehl of Nocona, who worked part-time for Howard.

Authorities said Diehl was seen in a truck owned by Howard in March of 2015 when he disappeared, and the truck was seen on Howard’s property a few days later.

The 97th District Attorney confirms that since Howard pled to a single federal charge for sexual exploitation of a child, all charges previously filed in Montague County against him will be dismissed.

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