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.
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. 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.
He 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
- Montague County Sheriff's Office
Updated 3 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated March 4, 2021; picture added, details of disappearance updated.