WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — A former Nocona banker and rancher linked to a missing Nocona teenage boy received the maximum sentence Wednesday morning for charges of sexual exploitation of a child.
Ricky Dale Howard was sentenced to the maximum sentence per federal guidelines of 30 years Wednesday morning in Fort Worth, Texas after a mistrial that led to him then pleading guilty.
District Attorney Casey Polhemus made a statement this morning in regards to Howard’s sentence.
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.
“My family is broken, I know we will never have a gathering where there isn’t a sense of wrongness and of a huge, important part being missing,” Ms. Diehl said while testifying in court.
“It has now been almost seven years since my son disappeared. Years of searching, waiting, and praying for answers to get to this day, and still to not truly have the answer our hearts require. But I am so thankful to the investigators and prosecutors for not giving up and at least making sure that Ricky Howard can hurt no one else,” Diehl’s mother said.
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.