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Melvin Earl Dummar (born August 28, 1944) is a Utah man who earned attention when he claimed to have saved reclusive business tycoon Howard Hughes in a Nevada desert in 1967, and to have been awarded part of Hughes' vast estate. Dummar's story was adapted into the Academy Award winning film Melvin and Howard, in which he was portrayed by Paul Le Mat. As of 2008, Dummar lives in Brigham City, Utah with his wife Bonnie.
While working at a service station in Willard, Utah, Dummar claimed to have discovered a disheveled and lost man lying on the side of a stretch of U.S. Highway 95 about 150 miles (240 km) north of Las Vegas, Nevada, near Lida Junction. Hughes asked Dummar to take him to the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas. Dummar claimed that only in the final minutes of their encounter did Hughes reveal his identity.
After Hughes's death in April 1976, a handwritten will was discovered in the Salt Lake City, Utah headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Though purportedly written by Hughes in 1968, the will had many strange discrepancies. It named Noah Dietrich as an executor, despite the fact that Dietrich had left Hughes' employ on bad terms in the late '50s. The will left approximately $156,000,000 to the LDS Church and although Hughes had employed many LDS workers, he had never been a member of that church. The will left money to his two ex-wives, Ella Rice and Jean Peters, even though both women had alimony settlements that barred claims on Hughes' estate. The will was rife with misspellings, including misspelling the name of Hughes' cousin. It called Hughes' famous flying boat, the Hughes H-4 Hercules, the "spruce goose"—a derisive nickname that Hughes had always despised. Most oddly, the will left one "Melvin DuMar" of Gabbs, Nevada one-sixteenth of Hughes's estate.
The text of the handwritten document known as the "Mormon Will":
Dummar (whose inheritance would have been $156 million) originally claimed that he knew nothing about the will and told his story of picking up Hughes by the side of the road. Afterwards, when authorities discovered Dummar's fingerprint on the envelope, he said that a well-dressed man had left the will in a sealed envelope at Dummar's service station. An enclosed note, Dummar claimed, instructed him to deliver the will to the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which had also been left 1/16 of the estate.
Investigation revealed that Dummar's wife Bonnie Dummar had worked for a magazine called Millionaire that was distributed to wealthy Americans, and that her job had allowed her access to Hughes' memos and Hughes' signature. However, Bonnie Dummar denied forging the will.
The document, which became known as the "Mormon Will", was ruled a forgery by a Nevada jury in June 1978. Dummar received no portion of Hughes' estate, but no criminal charges were filed against him or his wife.
In early 2005, retired FBI agent Gary Magnesen claimed to have found new evidence supporting Dummar's story. Magnesen stated that Hughes's closest employees remembered him entering the Sands early one morning in December 1967 and stating that he had been picked up by Dummar in the desert. Furthermore, Hughes had purchased interests in mines located near the area where Dummar said he found him, and had frequented a brothel near where Dummar said he'd first encountered Hughes. Magnesen documented his findings in his 2005 book, The Investigation: A Former FBI Agent Uncovers the Truth Behind Howard Hughes, Melvin Dummar, and the Most Contested Will in American History.
On June 12, 2006, Dummar filed suit in the United States district court for Utah against William Lummis, the primary beneficiary of the Hughes estate, and Frank Gay, the former chief operating officer of a number of Hughes entities, claiming that the two had conspired to defraud Dummar out of his rightful share of the Hughes estate by presenting perjured testimony and concealing evidence in the 1978 trial. Dummar's complaint demanded the $156 million which he would have received from the estate, plus punitive damages and interest.
On January 9, 2007, U.S. District Judge Bruce Jenkins dismissed Dummar's lawsuit, stating that Dummar's claims had been “fully and fairly litigated” in Las Vegas in 1978, when a jury decided the purported will was invalid.
Melvin Dummar had a brief cameo in the movie Melvin and Howard and was given two lines.