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Ricky Dale Howard

Ricky Dale Howard pleads guilty to sexual exploitation

A Nocona man who is a person of interest in the disappearance of Caleb Diehl pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court to sexual exploitation of a child in a case involving the missing teenager, according to court records.

Ricky Dale Howard, 59, faces 15 to 30 years in federal prison, a fine up to $250,000 and registration as a sex offender, according to court records.

Howard is scheduled for sentencing Oct. 27 at the U.S. Courthouse in Fort Worth.

After his sentencing, other charges against him in this case are to be dismissed as part of a plea bargain, as well as some Montague County charges, according to court records.

The former banker’s decision to plead guilty came hours after a judge declared a mistrial in the case Tuesday in federal court in Fort Worth, federal officials said in a media release. The mistrial is related 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,” Acting U.S. Attorney Prerak Shah said in the media release.

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