A former Nocona banker and breeder who is a person of interest in the 2015 disappearance of an 18-year-old from North Texas pleaded guilty on Tuesday to sexually abusing the missing teenager.
Ricky Dale Howard, 59, pleaded guilty to a federal sexual exploitation charge just hours after a judge in Fort Worth declared the trial canceled due to a medical issue with a juror.
Howard faces a maximum of 30 years in federal prison.
Nocona’s boy is still missing on Wednesday. Nocona is approximately 90 miles northwest of Fort Worth.
“While much of what happened to this young boy remains a mystery, we know one thing for sure: Before he vanished he suffered at the hands of a child sexual predator. He fell prey to him. of a man his family knew and trusted, “Acting US District Attorney for the Northern District of Texas said. Prerak Shah in a press release.” Our fervent hope is that one day he will be found In the meantime, we are proud to put the man who abused him behind bars.
In evidence presented before the case was called off, authorities seized several of Howard’s computers during an investigation into the disappearance of the high school student who went missing on April 1, 2015, just two weeks after his 18th birthday.
On the computers, investigators found sexually explicit images that appeared to show Howard sexually abusing the missing boy.
Howard admitted he instigated the teenager to engage in sexually explicit behavior to create visual representations, according to federal officials.
“We will continue to work with our partners to seek justice for this victim’s family and do all we can to ensure that vulnerable members of our community are protected from those who seek to harm them,” said Matthew, Special Agent. from FBI Dallas. J. DeSarno in the press release. “The accused will be held accountable for his reprehensible conduct, and we will remain committed to investigating anyone who seeks to exploit children.”
In this week’s trial, the boy’s mother said she and her children have been close to the Howard family since the boys were children, claiming her son had worked for Howard since college.
Authorities said that after the boy went missing, Howard told police the last time he saw the teenager was the weekend before he went missing, when they attempted to fix his truck. Several days after the missing boy’s instigation began, an officer observed a household with several cremated computers on Howard’s property.
In 2017, the mother of the missing teenager discovered a small tape recorder hidden in the back of a bathroom cabinet that contained audio of Howard asking polygraph questions related to his sexual interest in young boys. .
Soon after, investigators re-examined the missing person’s case and asked Howard’s ex-wife and daughter for the cremated computers that were examined by the North Texas FBI forensic lab. The mother of the missing teenager, Howard’s sons and his ex-wife have all identified the missing teenager in redacted versions of the photographs taken from the computers.
The federal trial took place after Howard’s release from state prison after serving a five-year sentence for 11 counts of illegal possession of a firearm by a felon, according to KFDX-TV in Wichita Falls.
Howard had also been convicted of federal bank fraud about 10 years earlier.
The gun conviction came a year after he was charged with four counts of aggravated child sexual assault in two separate cases after two men came forward and said they were repeatedly assaulted. covers in the ’90s while working for Howard. One was 12 and the other 13 at the time, according to KFDX-TV.