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Melvin Earl Dummar (born August 28, 1944) is a Utah man who earned national attention when he claimed to have saved reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes in a Nevada desert in 1967, and to have been awarded part of Hughes' vast estate. Dummar's story was adapted into the Academy Award winning film Melvin and Howard (1980). As of 2008, Dummar lives in Brigham City, Utah with his wife Bonnie.

Dummar's claims resulted in series of court battles which have all ruled against Dummar, and additionally determined he had forged the will.

Contents

Dummar's purported meeting with Hughes

While working as a Willard, Utah service station owner, Dummar claimed to have discovered a disheveled and lost man lying on the side of a stretch of U.S. Highway 95 about 150 miles (240 km) north of Las Vegas, Nevada, near Lida Junction. Hughes asked Dummar to take him to the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas. Dummar claimed that only in the final minutes of their encounter did Hughes reveal his identity.

The "Mormon Will"

After Hughes's death in April 1976, a handwritten will was discovered in the Salt Lake City, Utah headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Though purportedly written by Hughes in 1968, the will had many strange discrepancies. It named Noah Dietrich as an executor, despite the fact that Dietrich had left Hughes' employ on bad terms in the late '50s. The will left approximately $156,000,000 to the LDS Church and although Hughes had employed many LDS workers, he had never been a member of that church. The will left money to his two ex-wives, Ella Rice and Jean Peters, even though both women had alimony settlements that barred claims on Hughes' estate. The will was rife with misspellings, including misspelling the name of Hughes' cousin. It called Hughes' famous flying boat, the Hughes H-4 Hercules, the "spruce goose"—a derisive nickname that Hughes had always despised.[1] Most oddly, the will left one "Melvin DuMar" of Gabbs, Nevada one-sixteenth of Hughes's estate.

Text of the "Mormon Will"

The text of the handwritten document known as the "Mormon Will":

Last Will and Testament
I, Howard R. Hughes, being of sound mind and disposing mind and memory, not acting under duress, fraud or the undue influence of any person whomever, and being a resident of Las Vegas, Nevada, declare that this is to be my last will and revolt [sic] all other wills previously made by me -
After my death, my estate is to be devided [sic] as follows -
First: one-forth [sic] of all my assets to go to Hughes Medical Institute of Miami -
Second: one-eight [sic] of assets to be devided [sic] among the University of Texas - Rice Institute of Technology of Houston - the University of Nevada - and the University of Calif.
Third: one-sixteenth to Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - David O. McKay - Pre.
Forth [sic]: one-sixteenth to establish a home for Orphan Cildren [sic] -
Fifth: one-sixteenth of assets to go to Boy Scouts of America.
Sixth: one-sixteenth to be devided [sic] among Jean Peters of Los Angeles and Ella Rice of Houston -
Seventh: one-sixteenth of assets to William R. Lommis [sic] of Houston, Texas -
Eighth: one-sixteenth to go to Melvin DuMar [sic] of Gabbs, Nevada -
Ninth: one-sixteenth to be devided [sic] amoung [sic] my personal aids [sic] at the time of my death -
Tenth: one-sixteenth to be used as school scholarship fund for entire country - the spruce goose is to be given to the City of Long Beach, Calif.
The remainder of my estate is to be devided [sic] among the key men of the company's [sic] I own at the time of my death.
I appoint Noah Dietrich as the executer [sic] of this will -
Signed the 19 [sic] day of March 1968
Howard R. Hughes

1978 Probate trial of the "Mormon Will"

Dummar (whose inheritance would have been $156 million) originally claimed that he knew nothing about the will and told his story of picking up Hughes by the side of the road. Afterwards, when authorities discovered Dummar's fingerprint on the envelope, he said that a well-dressed man had left the will in a sealed envelope at Dummar's service station. An enclosed note, Dummar claimed, instructed him to deliver the will to the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which had also been left 1/16th of the estate.[2]

Investigation revealed that Dummar's wife Bonnie Dummar had worked for a magazine called Millionaire that was distributed to wealthy Americans, and that her job had allowed her access to Hughes' memos and Hughes' signature. However, Bonnie Dummar denied forging the will.[3]

The document, which became known as the "Mormon Will", was ruled a forgery by a Nevada jury in June 1978. Dummar received no portion of Hughes' estate, but no criminal charges were filed against him or his wife.

2005 investigation by FBI agent Gary Magnesen

In early 2005, retired FBI agent Gary Magnesen claimed to have found new evidence supporting Dummar's story. Magnesen stated that Hughes's closest employees remembered him entering the Sands early one morning in December 1967 and stating that he had been picked up by Dummar in the desert. Furthermore, Hughes had purchased interests in mines located near the area where Dummar said he found him, and had frequented a brothel near where Dummar said he'd first encountered Hughes.[4][5] Magnesen documented his findings in his 2005 book, The Investigation: A Former FBI Agent Uncovers the Truth Behind Howard Hughes, Melvin Dummar, and the Most Contested Will in American History.

2006 suit against Lummis and Gay

On June 12, 2006, Dummar filed suit in the United States district court for Utah against William Lummis, the primary beneficiary of the Hughes estate, and Frank Gay, the former chief operating officer of a number of Hughes entities, claiming that the two had conspired to defraud Dummar out of his rightful share of the Hughes estate by presenting perjured testimony and concealing evidence in the 1978 trial. Dummar's complaint demanded the $156 million which he would have received from the estate, plus punitive damages and interest.

On January 9, 2007, Judge Bruce Jenkins of Federal District Court dismissed Dummar's lawsuit, stating that Dummar's claims had been “fully and fairly litigated” in Las Vegas in 1978, when a jury decided the purported will was invalid.[6]

Trivia

Dummar's sister, Chloe married British New Wave singer Billy Mackenzie. Some claim the marriage was meant to prevent then-17 year old MacKenzie's deportation from the United States, though Chloe has stated that the short-lived marriage was made for love. Mackenzie commited suicide in Scotland in 1997.[7]

References

  • Hack, Richard. Hughes: The Private Diaries, Memos and Letters. The Definitive Biography of the First American Billionaire. New Millennium Press, Beverly Hills, 2001.

External links








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