Caleb Diehl: Has He Been Found? Where is Ricky Dale Howard Now?

Image Credit: CBS News/Diehl Family

Teenager Caleb Diehl was supposed to come home after hanging out with friends one night in March 2015. However, he was never seen after that. The investigation into the disappearance led the police to a man close to Caleb’s family, with disturbing things coming to light years later. The second season of Paramount+’s ‘Never Seen Before’ opens with Caleb’s case, the circumstances surrounding his disappearance, and the person of interest. 

What Happened to Caleb Diehl?

Caleb Diehl had turned 18 just two weeks before his disappearance. He was a high school senior who grew up in Nocona, Texas, with four older siblings. According to Caleb’s mother, Tami, he had an adventurous spirit and loved hanging out with his friends. At the time of the incident, Caleb was a high school senior who lived in Grapevine, Texas, but often visited Nocona. Tragedy struck during one such visit in March 2015.

Image Credit: NBC News

At around 5 PM on March 30, 2015, Caleb left his mother’s house to carry out some odd jobs for a family friend. His sister later stated that he was going to meet a friend and would be back home a little while later. However, the 18-year-old failed to return home, and the family began worrying when calls went straight to his voicemail. Tami reported her son missing on April 2, 2015, after he didn’t attend school the day before.

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Caleb had been working part-time for Ricky Dale Howard, a family friend. Ricky’s children were good friends with Caleb, spending a lot of time together as a result. Ricky, a former bank president, often paid Caleb to work on his properties. At the time of Caleb’s disappearance, he had been driving Ricky’s pickup truck. The authorities then learned that Ricky called Tami after she filed the missing person report saying that the car had reappeared with the keys in their usual place.

The police suspected Ricky from the start, given his behavior. They tracked Caleb’s cellphone to Ricky’s property. The latter then claimed to have found a broken phone on the vehicle’s floor and said he had thrown it away. Not just that, Ricky even cut up his own SIM card into pieces. He told the police that he saw Caleb while working together the weekend before his disappearance. Then, a search of his properties revealed a burn pit with computers destroyed by a fire. At the time, Ricky asserted those were of his dead parents.

But Ricky claimed to have nothing to do with Caleb’s disappearance, and without more clues, the case turned cold. Things changed in 2017 when Tami found a treasure trove of evidence in a cabinet in her bathroom. Apart from a radio with a hidden camera, Tami found notes (in Ricky’s handwriting) of polygraph questions and a tape recorder with Ricky asking himself those questions.

Investigators then reopened the case, taking a closer look at Ricky. He had a criminal history, being convicted of bank fraud and weapons charges in the past. In a disturbing development, in 2001, five men accused Ricky of sexual assault, adding that it happened when they were teenagers. The authorities searched Ricky’s computers and found several pictures depicting child pornography.

Some images had Ricky molesting Caleb when the teenager was between 13 and 15 years old. While Caleb or his remains still haven’t been found, the authorities were able to arrest Ricky, who remains a person of interest in the teen’s disappearance. The family, though, had to contend with even more questions after this new evidence was uncovered, all while trying to understand what happened to Caleb. At the time, Tami believed that what she found in the cabinet was her son collecting evidence against Ricky.

Ricky Dale Howard is Behind Bars Today

In July 2021, a mistrial was declared in Ricky’s federal case after a juror got injured. While he was charged with several sex-related crimes, he agreed to take a deal, pleading guilty to sexual exploitation of a child. When Ricky molested Caleb, he would pick up the teenager from his home for work. In October 2021, Ricky, then 60 years old, was sentenced to 30 years behind bars. Prison records indicate that he remains incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Oklahoma. Ricky will be eligible for release in 2046 and will be placed under supervision for life after that.

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