Melvin’s Last Stand 

The man who would have $156 million of the Hughes estate is out again to prove himself right.

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Living Utah folk legends don’t come more down-home and working class than Melvin Earl Dummar. Now that he’s 61, some might say Dummar is Utah’s only living folk legend.

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Sitting in the living room of his Brigham City house, which is drenched in the deep harvest colors of orange and yellow, Dummar brandishes a quiet voice between disarming chuckles. When he isn’t battling death in the form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which has struck him twice, he makes a living delivering packaged meat across vast stretches of Nevada and Wyoming. Shaking his diminishing physical condition hasn’t been easy. Battling cancer has put him through numerous chemo treatments, drained his wife Bonnie’s retirement and put an orthopedic sleeve around his right arm to manage a blood clot in his shoulder.

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Far harder to shake, however, is a late December night 39 years ago. That’s when, at age 23, Dummar picked up a “bruised and battered” man from off the road near U.S. Highway 95 outside of Lida Junction, Nev.

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Dummar’s turned that night over in his head, he says, “millions of times.” Perhaps you’ve heard it all before, too. Even if you have, it warrants retelling'if not as a sympathetic exercise in how it’s nagged this man ever since, then at least in the context behind Dummar’s renewed bid after 28 years to claim part of the fortune of the most famous billionaire in American history.

150 miles to Las Vegas
tOn leave from his job at a magnesium plant in Gabbs, Nev., after a motorcycle accident, Dummar instead used that time making his way to Southern California in attempts to reach his estranged first wife and save their marriage. “I was crazy in love; trying to get my wife back,” he remembers.

He drove his Chevy off the main highway and onto an off-road to “make a little rain.” Dummar noticed he wasn’t alone. A body lay facedown in the dirt nearby. Rousing that person awake he found, he says, a disheveled and bearded old man dressed in a long-sleeved shirt, gabardine-like pants and tennis shoes. Dummar asked him if he was all right, then offered him a lift. He accepted.

It was 150 miles south to Las Vegas, where Dummar was passing through, and where his passenger was headed. They made small talk until reaching Sin City. Small talk, until the man announced he was none other than billionaire and aviator Howard R. Hughes Jr. Given the gross contrast of the man’s appearance, Dummar thought nothing of it. He no doubt thought even less of it when, after Dummar dropped him off behind the Sands Hotel and Casino, the “billionaire” asked for money. Dummar handed him some spare change, and they exchanged goodbyes.

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That 150-mile drive has steered the course of Dummar’s life almost ever since. It frustrates him even as he revels in it. It haunts him even as he hangs on to it. In his memories and in his heart, he knows that his night drive with Howard R. Hughes Jr. took place. The gaping maw that harasses him to this day is that others don’t believe it, too.

Thank You, Howard
tThen again, nine years after that night drive to Las Vegas with Hughes, Dummar wasn’t sure it happened, either. Life went on. He divorced his wife. He remarried his wife. He divorced his wife again. He worked as a milkman in Southern California, wrote and sang country & western songs and, not one to give up on conjugal bliss, married again. Moving to Willard, Utah, he and Bonnie ran a gas station while he attended Weber State University part-time studying business management. The year was 1976, the year of Hughes’ April 5 death.

Dummar saw a man step inside the door of his gas station but didn’t see him step out. It looked as if this man was just killing time, so Dummar tended to paying customers. Returning to his gas-station desk, Dummar found an envelope on his schoolbooks marked, “Dear Mr. McKay, please deliver the will to the Clark County courthouse, [signed] Howard R. Hughes.”

He steamed it open and read the contents. Written in ballpoint ink on lined, yellow notepad was the “Last Will and Testament” of Howard R. Hughes, signed “that 19 [sic] day of March 1968.”

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Dummar read it over. If the document was bona fide, Hughes had divided his nearly $2.5 billion estate into 10 portions of one-sixteenth each, and one huge remainder. Hughes’ penchant for Mormons as trusted aides and employees of his company, known as “the Mormon mafia,” was well known. One-sixteenth of his estate went to “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints'David O. McKay-Pre.” Another one-sixteenth “of assets to go to Boy Scouts of America.” Eighth on the list of one-sixteenth beneficiaries was “Melvin DuMar [sic] of Gabbs, Nevada.”

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Dummar read it again. And again. Then, so to speak, he freaked. “I thought someone was playing a cruel joke on me,” he remembers. “It was like holding a hot potato in my hand, and I didn’t want to hold it.”

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Driving straight to Salt Lake City, Dummar parked his car and entered the LDS Church Office Building in search of the president’s office. McKay was church president at the time Hughes purportedly wrote the will Dummar carried. Spencer W. Kimball was president in 1976. No one saw Dummar deliver the will to the church offices, but it didn’t get lost on anyone’s desk. A radio news broadcast later reported that a “mysterious woman” had delivered to the LDS Church what looked to be Hughes’ will. Dummar also heard it reported what he read in the will beforehand'that he was a beneficiary.

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“I just decided I’d go along with it, especially if it was a joke of some kind,” he says.

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It was no joke to the media, which descended on Melvin and Bonnie’s small-town gas station in hordes. The phone rang off the hook from attorneys’ calls and interview requests. The attention was unsettling; the pressure intense. And “going along with it” cost Dummar big when it came time to determine the will’s veracity in court. He denied knowing anything about the will at first but was pressed to admit he was in fact the mysterious courier when his fingerprints were discovered on the envelope.

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He was implicated almost immediately as the will’s forger, an opportunist out to make a buck. His story of picking up Hughes in the Nevada desert seemed more like an afterthought than the reason America’s most renowned billionaire bequeathed to him one-sixteenth of his estate, a cool $156 million. Also damaging was the discovery of Dummar’s fingerprints on the Weber State University library’s copy of Hoax, a book containing samples of Hughes’ handwriting. Still, no one could prove Dummar perused the book for purposes of learning forgery, as opposed to learning from the book whether or not the will he was given had been forged.

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It could also be argued that Dummar didn’t choose legal representation wisely when it came time to go to court over the question of the will’s authenticity. Unable to find an attorney he liked out of numerous offers, he enlisted a lawyer who’d once helped him out of a legal jam after he unwittingly bought stolen guns from a teenager.

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Perhaps it didn’t matter anyway. In June 1978, after a seven-month trial in front of a Las Vegas jury to determine the authenticity of “the Mormon will,” Dummar’s claim lay in shambles. So did his account of picking up the billionaire in the Nevada desert.

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The presiding judge, a Mormon who called him “Brother Dummar,” threatened to throw Dummar in jail if he wasn’t telling the truth. With apologies to his past fib, all Dummar could do was tell his story as straight as he could remember it. Meanwhile, Hughes’ aides testified during trial that their eccentric charge couldn’t have possibly ventured far enough to find himself facedown on some Nevada dirt road. Hughes was too sick to go anywhere outside Las Vegas’ Desert Inn. It was here, on his ninth-floor penthouse, that he remained shut in through 1966 to 1970, his body wracked by syphilis, his psyche reeling from drug addiction and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

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As for “the Mormon will,” four handwriting experts deemed it authentic, four others deemed it dubious. The yellow-lined paper and pen ink of the will were Hughes’ trademarks. Its many misspellings were not.

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Dummar had sold nearly everything he owned to fund his court case. Now he was left with a list of disgraces to his name: “fraud,” “liar,” “con man.” At about the same time the Las Vegas jury ruled “the Mormon will” a fake, a Texas court ruled the same. One newspaper article detailing the “World’s Greatest Hoaxes” grouped him with disgraced journalist Janet Cook, who won the Pulitzer Prize for stories she later admitted were fictionalized. The most cutting blow was a Salt Lake Tribune editorial cartoon that mockingly linked Dummar to the infamous Hitler diary forgeries of 1983.

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Dusting himself off, it seemed almost as if Dummar didn’t mind the jabs. His name recognition soared after film director Jonathan Demme adapted his unlikely saga in the 1980 film Melvin & Howard, a lightly fictionalized mellow masterpiece that garnered two Oscars. Dummar had a cameo appearance as a bus-station cook and liked the film as a more-or-less accurate depiction of his life, apart from wishing he could have “played himself.”

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Under the banner of Melvin Dummar & Revival, an act he fronted with female twins as back-up singers, he tried his hand at performing music in Reno, Nev. Management problems made songwriting and performing difficult, though. Some of his songs were playful and forward looking'“Santa’s Souped-Up Sleigh,” “American Dreamer”'but there was no denying an undertow of bitterness in his song, “Thank You, Howard,” rendered in a cheeky, ’50s doo-wop style: “Thank you, Howard/ For leaving me something/ All you left me was frustration/ And I’ll never live it down/ How I wish you were around … Only you know what went down.”

Rank Speculation?
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It was such a long time ago, all that. Along with the Salt Lake City flood of 1983, the Mark Hoffman bombings and other Utah lore, legend and fact, Dummar’s shambled saga is well worn.

When you’re the center of that saga, however, the perspective’s quite different. For Dummar, the past 28 years amount to a long, drawn-out sense of shame. So he’s rallying one more time to show the public and court of law that while he may be a simple working man, he was never a con man.

He’s out to reopen his case because finally, to his mind, certain facts or findings have aligned in his favor, and in the form of credible advocates. There’s retired FBI agent Gary Magnesen, who spent years piecing the puzzle together, then penned a book arguing for Dummar’s claims. There’s Albuquerque estate attorney Stuart Stein, who’s batting for him in federal court, Magnesen’s claims of new evidence in tow.

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Most important, Dummar has three new corroborating witnesses'one a centerpiece willing to testify'supporting claims that he drove Hughes to Las Vegas. One is former Hughes chief of mining operations John Meier, who’s stated that during late 1967 or early 1968, Hughes walked out of seclusion to survey Nevada mines for purchase where Dummar says he picked up Hughes. Corroborating that claim, Magnesen said he’s discovered a 1968 deed of purchase by Hughes for an interest in 32 mines near the dirt road Dummar remembers finding the disheveled billionaire.

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There’s another reason Hughes would venture out near Lida Junction, Nev. Namely, his admiration for a prostitute named Sunny, who worked at the nearby Cottontail Ranch brothel. Not only does the widower of the brothel’s manager, Madam Beverly Harrell, remember his wife telling him of Hughes’ visits during that time, the Hughes employee who flew the billionaire to a runway just outside the brothel door, Robert Deiro, says he remembers that night as well. More to the point, he remembers flying away from the brothel on the night in question, without Hughes on board.

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For some of Dummar’s newfound allies, asking whether or not the man who delivers meat from Brigham City picked up Hughes in the Nevada desert is almost tantamount to asking whether or not Paul saw Jesus on the road to Damascus. Of course Dummar did. That’s why he filed suit this June in Utah’s federal court, alleging that two of the Hughes’ estates primary beneficiaries, William Lummis and Frank Gay, conspired at the time of the 1978 jury trial to defraud Dummar of his rightful claim to $156 million through fraud including perjured testimony and concealing evidence. Dummar’s suing Lummis and Gay for the original sum, plus interest and punitive damages. But it’s a long road to such a large check.

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Lummis’ attorney in Salt Lake City, Randy Dryer, dismissed those charges as “a bunch of baloney.” Nor did they seem to fare well with U.S. District Judge Bruce Jenkins when Stein presented them early this month in hopes that the 28-year-old case might be reopened. Jenkins called some of the fraud claims “almost indecipherable,” and asked Stein why he wasn’t instead “rapping on the door” of a court in Nevada, where the first trial was held. (Jenkins’ decision remained unannounced as of publication.)

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Dryer understands how Dummar might come across as a sympathetic, even colorful, figure in search of validation. But that doesn’t mean he has good cause to sue Lummis, a cousin of Hughes who, at 77, thought the mad scramble after Hughes’ fortune had long since past. “Everyone’s heard this story before, I don’t know why we have to go through it again,” Dryer said. “The attempt to revive this case is a perfect example of why we have a statute of limitations. Whether Dummar is telling the truth or not, a jury in Las Vegas concluded the will was a forgery long ago, and that decision was never appealed.nn

Dryer also faults Dummar’s purported new evidence as the height of speculation, even “rank speculation.nn

“They seem to assume that if Dummar in fact picked up Hughes that therefore the will must be authentic, and therefore he should get all this money. That’s a huge leap of faith,” Dryer said. “Even if one assumes Dummar’s telling the truth, that doesn’t mean Hughes handwrote a will and wrote him in it. An equally plausible conclusion, if in fact it’s true that he picked up Hughes, is that someone who knew Dummar’s story saw this as an opportunity to forge a will and write Dummar into it.” (Disclosure: City Weekly is a client to Dryer’s legal work.)

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Frank Gay’s attorney, Peggy Tomsic, was no less impressed with Dummar’s attempt to reopen the case, especially in light of the fact that almost every key player involved in the original case, from judge to witnesses to jury members, are dead. “Since that time Mr. Dummar did nothing. He sat around for 28 years,” she told Judge Jenkins during the Nov. 2 hearing to reopen the case.

It would only be reasonable
tMagnesen, who will collect 10 percent of the settlement should Dummar’s case prevail in court, doesn’t sound worried. He said authenticating “the Mormon will” is no longer the issue.

“The basis of the suit isn’t the legitimacy of the will, but the allegation that Dummar was defrauded,” he said from his home in St. George. “I believe we can certainly prove that.”

His book Investigation: A Former FBI Agent Uncovers the Truth Behind the Most Contested Will in American History was written at his own expense in part, he says, to help Melvin and make certain justice isn’t “stolen from him again.”

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Dummar also has an unlikely ally in, of all people, Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, who bases his opinion in part on lie-detector tests Dummar passed when “the Mormon will” was coming to light.

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“Howard Hughes absolutely left that money to Melvin Dummar, who’s the rightful owner of one-sixteenth of Hughes’ estate,” Anderson said. “The evidence is in federal court.”

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Evidence or no, Dummar and his crew seem to base their appeal on another foundation as well. No one will say as much, exactly, because it’s certainly not the sort of point that scores big in court. It’s the feeling that Dummar’s simple act of kindness carried out long ago on that dirt road in Nevada must somehow be vindicated.

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Some believe Hughes, having left the brothel intoxicated and with unsavory characters, was roughed up, robbed, and then left on the side of the road. If not for Dummar’s charity, he might have died that cold December night in the desert. In that light, then, who should be surprised that Hughes never forgot his ride with Dummar, or even wrote him into his will?

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Magnesen puts it this way: “It would only be reasonable that if you saved someone’s life, you’d want to reward them,” he says. “What other details authenticate it [the will]?”

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Reasonable, that is, unless you’re a hardened cynic. It’s easy to argue an air of charming naiveté outlines Dummar’s attempt to go through all this again. Is this about money? You bet. But it’s also about chipping away at the old saw of no good deed going unpunished.

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“I’m glad that I picked him [Hughes] up,” Dummar says, sitting on his living room sofa. “I’d do it all over again. But I sure got hell for helping him. The list of names I got called is almost endless. I’d rather be remembered as loving, caring, honest …”

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“And thoughtful,” his wife Bonnie chimes in. “Which he really is.

Not well-educated, but honest
tAnother of Dummar’s characteristics is his long run of odd jobs, from milkman to lounge singer to working for a Salt Lake City liquidation company in 2001. The latter marked the genesis of his renewed attempt to secure a share of Hughes’ estate, as it was here that the company’s owner introduced Dummar to his brother, former FBI agent Gary Magnesen.

Dummar’s battle with cancer was running especially fierce at this time in his life, with everyone sensing he wouldn’t live much longer. When the two met, Magnesen said he was struck almost immediately by two impressions. One was the pain behind Dummar’s voice when he talked about the ridicule he’d endured. The other was his seeming honesty.

“I just couldn’t understand why he’d want to reopen all this, unless he wanted the truth to come out,” Magnesen recalls.

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The man who made a career out of busting crime rings in Las Vegas for a living was still skeptical, but the more he learned about Dummar’s case'interviewing figures from the past, poring over old court records'the more he came to believe Dummar had been wronged. Magnesen’s first allegation of fraud in the Las Vegas case to determine the will’s authenticity arises out of his discovery of the Nevada mining deeds linked to Hughes. This ran contrary, it seemed, to the 1978 testimonies of Hughes’ aides that their charge never left the Desert Inn during the year Dummar said he picked him up in the desert.

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Buttressing further the claim that Hughes was out and about in 1967 was Howard Harrell, widower of the Cottontail Ranch madam, who says the dirt road where Dummar claimed to have picked up Hughes was but six miles south of the brothel.

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Momentum was gathering. Magnesen embarked on his book. It would take two more meetings, one by radio and the other by chance, until true critical mass was behind Dummar, however.

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Scanning the horizon for hosts of his New Mexico radio show Your Estate Matters, Albuquerque estate attorney Stuart Stein felt Magnesen and Dummar were “right down the sweet spot” of illustrating problems that arise when people take the matter of wills and estates into their own hands without proper legal consultation. Stein’s words are hardly an overstatement, both as Dummar can attest and by the fact that the two men from Utah featured on Stein’s show for two weeks straight.

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If the quest to renew Dummar’s claim to the Hughes estate looks suspect to outsiders, perhaps it’s down to the singular characters of both Dummar and Hughes. Stein admits Dummar fumbled his first attempt'namely, lying about receiving the will before it was discovered at LDS Church offices.

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“What everyone must understand is that Melvin, who’s now 61, was in his early 30s when the will was left to him. This was a spotlight he’d never felt before, and it overwhelmed him,” Stein said. “Was it foolish? Of course it was. He just wasn’t sophisticated enough to deal with it at that time. Ultimately, he came forward with the truth, to his very great credit.”

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Furthermore, if Dummar was aiming for forgery, Stein says, he also failed miserably in that regard. Miserably enough, in fact, to discount any claim that he was out to forge Hughes’ will.

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“If anyone wanted to forge a will and get it admitted into probate, you don’t go and read a book [Hoax], and you don’t steam open the will. The first thing you do is go to a lawyer. But the more he [Dummar] turned it over, the more he realized he should give this will to the church president, because that’s what the instructions said.”

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Regarding his client, Stein says, “He’s not a well-educated man, but he is an honest man.” Plotting to win a share of the Hughes’ estate through fraud or other machinations, he says, “would compute to Mr. Dummar a level of thought and conspiracy that would never have crossed his mind.”

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Match Dummar’s benign incompetence with Hughes’ eccentric and paranoid behavior and the public can be forgiven for believing the two never crossed paths. Take time to understand these two key players long enough, however, and it makes poetic sense, as it does in Demme’s 1980 film. Patient analysis will reveal its logic in the courtroom as well, Stein argues. Even if there are holes that will never be filled by adequate explanation.

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“The one thing we’ll never know is why Howard Hughes went through all these machinations when he could have easily hired an outside source to write his will,” Stein says.

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Why on earth would Hughes have his will allegedly delivered to Dummar in Willard, Utah, with instructions for Dummar, in turn, to deliver it to the LDS Church president? It makes no sense. Neither, however, did Hughes’ instructions to aides that they purchase gallons of banana-nut ice cream, only to change his mind and eat nothing but French vanilla.

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As Stein stated Nov. 2 in the federal court hearing to reopen the case, “Everyone would stipulate that Howard Hughes was one strange man. But there are other things they’d stipulate that everyone who knows Hughes would agree on. Namely, that he loved women and he loved flying.”

Deiro and Sunny
tEnter, then, the man Magnesen calls “the frosting on the cake” in vouching for the viability of Dummar’s long-mocked story. Former director of aviation facilities for Hughes Tool Co., and sometime pilot for the billionaire, Robert Deiro is also Dummar’s most outspoken witness in his favor, even if the two men have barely exchanged more than 20 minutes of conversation. But if it weren’t for Deiro’s chance reading of an April 12, 2004, article detailing Dummar’s encounter with Hughes in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, it’s doubtful Deiro would ever have surfaced. Upon reading Dummar’s account of how he dropped Hughes off behind the Sands Hotel and Casino, Deiro said he immediately dialed the Las Vegas telephone directory for any Dummar listed. He phoned Dummar’s sister-in-law, who connected him with Melvin in Brigham City. The two exchanged notes about what Hughes wore at the time'long-sleeve shirt, gabardine-like dress pants and tennis or “deck” shoes'and Deiro hung up convinced that the Howard Hughes he flew to the Cottontail Ranch one late December night was the same Howard Hughes Dummar roused from the Nevada dirt-road ground.

“I’m happy to help Mr. Dummar restore his reputation,” Deiro says from his home in Las Vegas, where he’s now retired after running several business ventures. “I feel he was wronged and he’s entitled to compensation.”

If anything links Hughes’ whereabouts to the approximate place and time where Dummar says he came across Hughes, it’s his own memory of flying the billionaire to meet his favorite prostitute, Sunny, at the Cottontail Ranch as per the instructions of Hughes’ executive Howard Eckersly, says Deiro.

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After landing Hughes’ Cessna on a small runway outside, Deiro says he entered the brothel to wait till after Hughes had finished his business. He was so tired, however, that one glass of “holiday cheer” put him to sleep as he sat slouched on the brothel’s kitchen banquette. Awakened by maids at 4 or 5 in the morning, Deiro noticed everyone was gone, including Hughes. A search over the whole brothel turned up no trace of the man, but Deiro found the plane still on the runway.

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“I just took off and flew back to the North Las Vegas air terminal,” he remembers. “I figured I’d be canned by the time I got back, but what surprised me more than not getting canned was that there was no one there to ask me where Hughes was.”

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After all these years, then, Dummar’s account of having picked the billionaire up in the desert that very night is the answer to a question that’s puzzled Deiro ever since. Why wasn’t he fired by the time he got back to Vegas? Because Hughes had already been dropped off behind the Sands, scruffy and roughed up, but still accounted for.

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“I never saw the old man, or spoke to him, after that night,” Deiro recalls. But he was promoted higher up the Hughes hierarchy before going on to work for other business luminaries. Deiro believes his promotion may have been motivated, in part, to keep him quiet regarding Hughes’ lascivious mishap. Regardless, before leaving his post with the Hughes Tool Co., he remembers that certain pages from his logbook were “unceremoniously ripped out” by aides. He also signed a nondisclosure agreement with the company before parting ways.

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Today, Deiro, along with Magnesen and Stein, believe those pages weren’t ripped out due to standard procedure but to hide record of Hughes’ whereabouts. Deiro still keeps that old logbook, pages ripped and all. It’s a central piece of evidence alleging fraud should Dummar’s case revive.

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Of course, those pages could have been ripped out for any number of reasons than inoculating Hughes’ will from outside claims. For Deiro, however, Dummar’s story and his recollection of that night fit hand in glove, right down to where Dummar says he dropped Hughes off, behind the Sands Hotel and Casino, which Hughes owned. For the back of that casino, Deiro says, housed the office of Hughes confidant Nadine Henley.

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“That would be the natural place for Hughes to be dropped off, because from there he could engineer his return to the Desert Inn,” Deiro says.

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Like Magnesen, Deiro’s drawn to Dummar’s story by its moral overtones. Where everyone else sees a scammer, they see in Dummar a Good Samaritan done horribly wrong. Knowing Hughes as well, Deiro’s not at all surprised that the billionaire would leave portions of his estate to the parties named in “the Mormon will,” alternately known as “the holographic will.”

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“This man performed an act of generosity and kindness that I believe saved Hughes’ life. It’s a matter of morality. I’m sure it was Hughes’ intention to reward Melvin Dummar,” Deiro says. “He [Hughes] liked the morality of institutions like the LDS Church and Boy Scouts, even though he wasn’t the most straight-laced, moral person himself. He admired loyalty, patriotism and belief in God. I know he did. He said he did. He wouldn’t hire someone who wasn’t as American as apple pie. He was a patriot, and inspired patriotism in those who worked for him.”

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Meshing details and anecdotes with personal attributes to say it all “makes sense,” however, is entirely different from proving something in court. And Lummis’ attorney Dryer isn’t the only person to ask why someone as close to the matter as Deiro would have waited all these years since to come forward. “It’s just awfully strange that he waits until now to have this epiphany when, during the original trial, it was all over the news,” Dryer says.

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Awfully strange, Deiro responds, unless you’re busy with building your life and raising a family. Besides, as long as he’d heard Dummar’s tale of picking up Hughes, he’d always heard the site of that purported meeting was in Gabbs, Nev., far north of Lida Junction. Deiro also says the Hughes’ mystique made famous by the Martin Scorsese film The Aviator wasn’t nearly as full blown then as now. In his time, Hughes was a respected man, not a delusional buffoon.

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“That crap just didn’t interest me,” he says. “To me it was all ancient history. No one came to me.”

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The only remaining possible witness of immense interest is Hughes’ Cottontail Ranch favorite, Sunny. Magnesen describes her in his book as “an elegant woman in her 30s from Minneapolis,” at the time Hughes enlisted her talents, with the distinguished mark of a diamond “embedded in her left incisor.”

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Stein’s been in hot pursuit of this woman, so to speak, almost ever since meeting Dummar and Magnesen. Stein says he’s located a woman he cannot name who knew Sunny. Still, that will be nothing compared to running into the woman herself. He calls out to her even now with a measured appeal.

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“Perhaps, one day, a woman in her 60s or 70s will walk into my office, and when she smiles, I’ll see the diamond in her incisor, and I’ll know Sunny has come forward,” Stein fantasizes. “I certainly understand her hesitancy in coming forward today, perhaps at her age. But the closer you come to looking God in the face, the more you have to think about righting a grievous wrong.”

To Sing Again
tThat “grievous wrong” is hard to define, though, when talking about $156 million, an amount of money difficult to divorce from blind opportunism'an amount of money sure to be aggressively protected, if at all fought over.

It’s extremely difficult to separate that kind of money from saying you also want your good name back. For Dummar, his misfortune was to lose both at the same time. Even now, redeeming his good name is inseparable from getting the money he feels is due him.

“I don’t think I’m asking for anything that I shouldn’t have gotten in the first place,” he says.

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And so the story of picking up Hughes by the side of a dirt road echoes through the rest of his life, doubtless to his dying day. Tucked into the corners of a bookshelf near his kitchen floor are two books, Magnesen’s opus Investigation and Brown and Broeske’s biography Howard Hughes. Placed next to the biography is a small bottle of what looks to be Champagne.

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Dummar misses singing and would love to sing one of his songs again for a curious public. For now, at least, he cannot. His legal team said it would give his current bid to reopen the case too much of a circus appearance.

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“They said I can sing all over again if I win.”

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