A former banker and rancher who has been linked to the 2015 disappearance of a teenager pleaded guilty to sexually abusing the young man. He is currently facing a maximum of 30 years in prison depending on the Fort Worth verdict, as reported by The Star Telegram.
What are the details?
Ricky Dale Howard, 59, has entered a guilty plea for a federal charge of sexual exploitation mere hours after a Fort Worth judge declared a mistrial because a juror had a medical issue.
Howard risks spending 30 years in a federal prison if he is found guilty.
The teenager from Nocona is still missing, based on Wednesday information.
“Although much of what happened to this young boy remains a mystery, we know one thing for sure. Before he went missing, he suffered at the hands of a child sex predator. He was preyed upon by a man his family knew and trusted. 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,” acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Prerak Shah stated in a news release.
The evidence available before the mistrial showed that the officials had seized several computers from Howard after the high school senior disappeared on Aril 1, 2015. It was just two weeks before he turned 18, as the news outlet points out.
Detectives found explicit images on the computers that appeared to show that Howard had sexually abused the boy.
The former banker has admitted to enticing the teen into engaging in explicit conduct. The visual depictions are part of the abuse.
“We will continue to work with our partners to seek justice for this victim’s family and do all that we can to ensure that vulnerable members of our community are protected from those who seek to do them harm. The defendant will be held accountable for his reprehensible conduct, and we will remain committed to investigating anyone who seeks to exploit children,” FBI Dallas Special Agent Matthew J. DeSarno added in the news release.
The boy’s mother testified at the trial this week that she and her kids had been closely connected to the Howard family for many years. Her son had been working alongside Howard since middle school.
Howard told the officers that the last time he saw the boy was on the weekend before he disappeared, when they had tried to repair a truck together. A burn pit was discovered on the former banker’s property and there were several incinerated computers there.
The boy’s mother also discovered a small tape recorder hidden in a bathroom cabinet with an audio of the defendant asking himself polygraph questions about his sexual interest in young boys.
The boy’s mother, Howard’s ex-wife and his sons all identified the missing teenager in the photos recovered from the incinerated computers, which had been examined by the FBI’s North Texas Regional Computer Forensic Lab.
Howard was also convicted of bank fraud 10 years ago.