Howard Hughes Mormon Will

Former Hughes Aide Doubts Legitimacy of Purported Will

Associated Press
June 15th, 2006

OGDEN, Utah (AP) -- A former top aide of the late Howard Hughes says the handwritten will secretly placed in Mormon church offices by Melvin Dummar cannot possibly be legitimate.

James Whetton of Ogden worked for Hughes for more than 20 years starting in 1953, eventually becoming his chief of staff. He said his experiences with Hughes led him to discount the will.

The will is called the "Mormon Will" because it named The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as one of the beneficiaries. It also gave money to Dummar, a Willard resident, and to some of Hughes' personal aides -- including Whetton.

"I liked the Mormon Will," Whetton said. "I was in it for about $25 million."

Hughes died in 1976. When the supposed will was found in the church offices, Dummar, who was to receive $156 million, claimed to have no knowledge of it -- until his fingerprint was found on the envelope. His fingerprint also was found on a library book on forged Hughes documents. The book included samples of Hughes' handwriting.

A court ruled that Hughes had died without leaving a will, and his estate was divided among a number of relatives.

Dummar filed a lawsuit in federal court this week claiming that he is entitled to $156 million and that the trial in which the will was held to be a forgery was unfair because of lies told by witnesses.

Whetton told the Standard-Examiner in Ogden that he finds three main faults with the will.

First, it left a percentage to Hughes' cousin, William Lummis. Whetton said Hughes never associated with family.

He said that one time he received a phone call from an uncle of Hughes, and when he attempted to pass along the message, Hughes "was silent for 30 seconds or so. You could hear him tapping his fingers on his desk. Then he said to me, 'As far as I'm concerned, I don't have a living relative on the face of the Earth, period.'"

Second, he said, the will refers specifically to the Spruce Goose, a name given by the media to Hughes' enormous H-4 Hercules flying boat. Hughes hated the nickname.

Whetton said a lawyer from Long Beach, Calif., where the plane was stored, visiting Hughes about renewing the lease on the storage pier. The man was introduced to Hughes and asked about the money for the Spruce Goose.

"Hughes had these deep, penetrating eyes," Whetton said. "He just stared at the attorney until I escorted him out. I told him he'd have to send someone else because Mr. Hughes would never talk to him again."

The third problem with the will, Whetton said, is that it named Noah Dietrich as executor.

"In the mid-'60s, Hughes fired Dietrich," Whetton said. "He called us in and told us Dietrich was gone and we were to change the locks on every door in the building. We changed all the locks. Dietrich was gone, period."

Whetton said Hughes would not have named Dietrich as executor.

Whetton maintained that Hughes was not wandering around the Nevada desert in December 1967, which is when Dummar claims to have given him a ride to Las Vegas.

Hughes occupied the ninth floor of one of the Desert Inn buildings, and his aides and staff were on the eighth floor, Whetton said.

"There was no way Mr. Hughes could leave the hotel without us knowing it," Whetton said. "He also had physical problems at that time, which made it hard for him to leave."

Dummar's lawsuit claims a relative of Hughes and a former Hughes executive got witnesses to lie when they said Hughes never left the hotel.

Dummar and his attorney claim a former Hughes pilot said Hughes was ferried in and out many times between 1966 and 1970. The pilot allegedly said he took Hughes to the Cottontail Ranch brothel at Lida Junction, Nev., the night that Dummar said he met him in the desert.

Melvin still swears by encounter with Howard

Nevadan says finding Howard Hughes on highway changed his life, didn't enrich him


FALLON -- It was a cold December night some 36 years ago when former Fallon resident Melvin Dummar says he stumbled upon a disheveled man lying on a deserted Nevada road.

That man, according to Dummar, was Howard Hughes, the billionaire industrialist, aviator and motion picture producer.

"Finding Mr. Hughes out there in the desert has changed my life forever. I was promised about $156 million in his will for saving his life. But I never got a penny of that money and have wound up scorned, sick and nearly broke," Dummar said.

The discovery of the purported will after Hughes' death in 1976 made headlines. Dummar, 59, appeared countless times on television and even had a small role in a 1980 film titled "Melvin and Howard."

Years later, Dummar insists he found Hughes "laying out there all dirty and messed up in the desert."

Dummar said he did not forge the so-called "Mormon Will," in which Hughes directed that Dummar be given one-sixteenth of his fortune, estimated to be worth up to $2 billion when he died.

The "Mormon Will," so named because it mysteriously appeared on the desk of an official of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City, was declared a fake by a Las Vegas jury in 1978.

Several courts determined that numerous other wills supposedly written by Hughes were fakes. Dummar and those mentioned in the wills never received a cent.

Courts determined the eccentric Hughes never wrote a will. His heirs were identified after lengthy legal battles.

Dummar said he believes the courts were "rigged against me. Many responsible people still believe me, and justice someday will prevail."

Dummar still recalls the day in December 1967 when he found Hughes on a deserted stretch of U.S. Highway 95 about 150 miles north of Las Vegas. Leaving from his job at the Basic Magnesium Corp. mine in Gabbs, Dummar was heading to Southern California to find his wife, who had "run off with another man."

It was 11 p.m., and Dummar said he had just passed the Cottontail Ranch brothel at Lida Junction when he pulled over to go to the bathroom.

"There lying in the dirt was a man about 6 feet tall wearing a shirt, baggy pants and tennis shoes. He had dirty long hair that came to his waist and looked like he hadn't shaved in a few days," Dummar said.

The man was mumbling something, and Dummar said he asked if he could help him.

"He asked me to drive him to Las Vegas; and since I was going that way anyway, I put him in my Chevy, where he sort of lay down on the seat next to me," Dummar said.

The two spoke a bit, Dummar recalled, mostly "idle chitchat."

When they arrived in Las Vegas, the man told Dummar to drop him off behind the Sands hotel-casino.

Since the man said he had no money. Dummar said he gave him some spare change. Before they parted, the man identified himself as Howard Hughes.

"When I let him off at the hotel, he thanked me very politely and walked away. I've never seen or heard from him again," Dummar said.

Dummar continued on to California, where he found his wife and persuaded her to return to Gabbs. He continued working at the mine, and his wife got a job as a waitress at the El Capitan Club in Hawthorne.

When the "Mormon Will" was made public nine years later, Dummar denied having written it. He also said he had never seen it.

But later he changed his story, saying a "mysterious man" gave him the will. Afterward Dummar said he took the will and deposited it on the Mormon official's desk.

"As God is my witness, I found Mr. Hughes in the desert. I'm telling the truth. You must believe me," Dummar said.

Today, Dummar lives quietly in western Utah. He has several jobs "to make ends meet." One requires him to leave his home one week a month to deliver fish, meat and pies to several customers in Utah and Nevada.

Hawthorne is a stop along his delivery route.

In the years since his infamous encounter, Dummar has undergone bone marrow transplants, radiation treatments and the removal of cancerous growths from his neck and abdomen.

"It wasn't fun, I can tell you; but I'm now in remission and feeling somewhat better," Dummar said.

He is "barely scraping by these days" and his battle with cancer makes him constantly tired. "But I know that someday it'll be shown I didn't lie."