Caleb Ray Diehl
Diehl, circa 2015; Ricky Howard
- Missing Since 03/30/2015
- Missing From Nocona, Texas
- Classification Endangered Missing
- Sex Male
- Race White
- Date of Birth 03/15/1997 (26)
- Age 18 years old
- Height and Weight 5'11 - 6'2, 145 pounds
- Associated Vehicle(s) Borrowed pickup truck (accounted for)
- Distinguishing Characteristics Caucasian male. Blond hair, blue eyes. Diehl has previously had orthodontic braces, but they were removed in 2013.
Details of Disappearance
Diehl was last seen in Nocona, Texas on March 30, 2015. He lived with his sister in Grapevine, Texas, but at the time of his disappearance he was visiting his mother in Nocona and had a part-time job there. His own vehicle was in the repair shop, so Diehl borrowed a pickup truck from his employer, Ricky Dale Howard, to go to another job. Howard was also a good friend of Diehl's family. A photo of him is posted with this case summary.
Diehl never returned to his mother's home that night. The truck he was driving was found abandoned at Howard's home two days after his disappearance, with its keys hanging on their usual hook. Authorities aren't sure how it got there. Since his disappearance, Diehl hasn't used his cellular phone or his social media accounts. He didn't take any belongings with him.
Police tracked Diehl's cellular phone signal to Howard's property; this is the last place is is known to have been before it lost signal. Howard told police he had found a broken phone lying on the floor and had thrown it away. Before law enforcement could examine Howard's own phone, he removed the SIM card and destroyed it.
Howard has a prior criminal record for bank fraud and aiding and abetting; he was convicted in 2007 and sentenced to 46 months in federal prison. In May 2015, he was arrested on weapons charges. He gave police investigating Diehl's disappearance permission to search his property, and they found several guns, which as a convicted felon he wasn't allowed to possess.
Howard pleaded guilty to the firearms charges and was sentenced to five years in prison. In 2016, he was charged with four counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child after two boys came forward and said Howard had sexually abused them during the 1990s.
One alleged victim stated Howard began abusing him in 1996, when he was thirteen years old, and the assaults continued for four years; he estimated that he was abused about 500 times. Another alleged victim said Howard had abused him in 1994, when he was twelve. Howard is still awaiting trial on those charges, which will take place after he is released from federal prison in the firearms case.
In 2017, police obtained Howard's desktop computer and found 300 images of child sexual abuse on it, as well as images of Diehl. While none of the photos of Diehl showed him being sexually abused, they did show him in various states of undress.
In 2018, police recovered Howard's laptop computer, which he had given to a relative in Tennessee to help run his business. They found child sexual abuse images on that as well, including images of Howard sexually abusing a nude male minor about 13 to 15 years old. Diehl's family identified the boy in the photos as him.
As a result of these photographs, in October 2018, Howard was charged in state court with possession of child pornography with unknown victims and indecency with a child by exposure and by sexual contact, that child being Diehl. In February 2021 he was charged in federal court with sexual exploitation of a minor, the minor being Diehl.
The first trial ended in a mistrial after a juror was injured and could not be replaced. Afterwards, Howard reached a plea deal with the prosecution, pleading guilty to one count sexual exploitation of a minor. More than 40 other charges, both state and federal, were dropped. In October 2021, he was sentenced to the maximum term of 30 years in prison.
Authorities aren't sure what happened to Diehl and no charges have been filed in his disappearance, but foul play has not been ruled out and they think it's possible Howard was involved in his case.
Diehl was a high school senior at the time of his disappearance, and planned to move to California or Colorado after graduation. His loved ones stated he was close to his family and it's uncharacteristic of him to leave without warning. His case remains unsolved.
- Nocona Police Department 940-825-3281
- Montague County Sheriff's Office 940-825-3281
Updated 4 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated November 17, 2021; details of disappearance updated.