Delivery man challenges Howard Hughes' will

A delivery man from Utah has gone to federal court to argue that he is owed a large fortune from the estate of Howard Hughes that he says was promised to him as a reward for rescuing the reclusive billionaire from a bed of dust in the desert more than 40 years ago.

It is a return trip for Melvin Dummar, 63, whose first attempt to lay claim to $156m he said was left to him by Hughes was thrown out by the courts in a lengthy probate trial in 1978. Though he was widely branded a liar at the time, he says he is trying again with a new witness ready to back him up.

His Good Samaritan tale is already well known, not least because it became the inspiration for an Oscar-winning film directed by Jonathan Demme in 1980 named Melvin and Howard.

Mr Dummar still sticks by its every detail. He relates driving from Utah to California in December 1967, stopping at a place called Lida Junction in the middle of Nevada to relieve himself by the side of the road and finding a man face down in the desert scrub. The filthy figure, who he deposited at the Sands Hotel and Casino on the Las Vegas strip, turned out to be none other than Hughes.

It was some time later, according to his version of events, that an aide to Hughes delivered an envelope at the petrol station that Mr Dummar owned in Utah. It contained a hand-scrawled note that purported to be a new will with the provision to bequeath the $156m to him for his good deed.

In a court in Denver last week, Stuart Stein, the lawyer who has taken up the case, argued that associates of Hughes had knowledge of the hand-written will at the time of the first probate trial but withheld it. "The judgment was obtained by fraud," Mr Stein told the three-judge panel. If the claim has more weight today it may be thanks to Robert Diero, a former director of aviation for the Hughes Company and private pilot to the boss. Breaking a confidentiality agreement with his former employers, he has recalled flying Hughes to Lida Junction on the date in question to visit a nearby brothel. He lost track of his charge and flew back to Las Vegas without him.

"This man performed an act of generosity and kindness that I believe saved Hughes' life," he suggested after first coming forward four years ago. "It's a matter of morality. I'm sure it was Hughes' intention to reward Melvin Dummar."

Mr Dummar, now a frozen food delivery man, is suing to reclaim what he believes to be his from two beneficiaries of the will that was approved so many decades ago. They are William Lummis, a cousin of Hughes, and Frank Gay, the former chief executive of the company that controlled much of the aviation pioneer's personal fortune. Mr Gay, however, died last year.

Randy Dryer, representing one of those estates, told the Denver court that the claims of fraud at the first probate trial are mere "speculation and conjecture". He said that even if a jury were to believe Mr Diero's testimony, "it doesn't necessarily follow that the jury would have concluded that the [will] was valid".

He added: "They could have easily concluded that Mr Dummar saw a golden opportunity to reward himself for his good deeds."

The court is expected to rule late this year on whether a new probate trial should be heard.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
News
people
Life and Style
techApp to start sending headlines, TV clips and ads to your phone
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Principal Arboricultural Consultant

£35000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Principal Arboricu...

Trainee Digital Forensic Analyst

£17000 - £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Trainee Digital Fo...

Planning Manager (Training, Learning and Development) - London

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glob...

Asset Finance Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - ASSET FINANCE - An outstanding...

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment