Nocona man pleads guilty to sexual exploitation of a child

Published: Jul. 21, 2021 at 11:28 AM CDT
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NOCONA, Texas (KAUZ) - A Nocona man who was named a person of interest in an 18-year-old’s disappearance in 2015 has pleaded guilty to sexual exploitation of a minor.

Ricky Dale Howard pleaded guilty just hours after the court declared a mistrial due to a juror’s injury.

“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,” said Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Prerak Shah. “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.”

The U.S. Attorney’s office said according to evidence presented in court, several of Howard’s computers were obtained during an investigation into Caleb Diehl’s disappearance. Investigators found sexually explicit images of the teen.

An officer also reported seeing a burn pit with several incinerated computers on Howard’s property after the teen disappeared.

The U.S. Attorney’s office said Howard admitted to enticing the teen into engaging in sexually explicit conduct.

Law enforcement officers testified during the trial that Howard told them the last time he had seen the victim was the weekend before he went missing.

Howard faces up to 30 years in federal prison.

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