Overview of Caleb Diehl
Caleb Diehl is described by his family as adventurous and fearless. In interviews with the media, Caleb’s mother Tami smiles fondly and laughs sharing that Caleb would climb everything while being “afriad of nothing.” Growing up the youngest of 4 siblings, Courtney, one of Caleb’s sisters, says that Caleb was “a Momma’s boy, but he never acted like he was the baby.” Caleb also did everything he could to keep up with his older brothers and sisters — like riding dirt bikes at a very young age. The family also shares that Caleb was always incredibly thoughtful and that he gave “the best gifts.”
At 18-years-old at the time of his disappearance, Caleb had a typical independent communication style with his family. They say he didn’t need to share every little detail about his day-to-day with the family, so it wasn’t uncommon for a few days to stretch by before everyone caught up again.
Early on, the Diehl family grew close to a neighboring family, the Howards. The Diehl family recounts how the Howard boys were around the same age as the two Diehl boys, and so the families grew close and connected — they even vacationed together. Caleb was interested in the Howard family properties considering they were cattle farmers, so, while in middle school, Ricky Dale Howard, the father of the family, hired Caleb to do odd jobs around the farm. At the time, the Diehl family was all entirely unaware of Ricky’s checkered past.
Ricky Dale Howard was 53 years old. The two families had vacationed together, and their kids had all got on fine. Caleb worked for Howard, who had many properties and had interests in cattle farming. So him driving a vehicle owned by Howard was normal enough. Diehl said that most days, he could be found with his friends, the Howard brothers. “Our two sons were the same age as her two sons, so it seemed to work for us to do things together.” As Caleb got older, he routinely helped Ricky check on various land leases and work his herd of cattle.
When Caleb disappeared
Caleb was last seen at his mother’s house around 5 pm on Sunday, March 29, 2015. His sister, Courtney, told Caleb that he needed to be home that evening so he wouldn’t miss any more school. Caleb was a senior and couldn’t afford to miss any more classes otherwise, it could jeopardize his chances of graduating. At the time, Caleb’s truck was in need of repair. Therefore, he had borrowed Ricky Dale Howard’s truck, because he was in the shop. According to Caleb’s cell phone records, his phone mysteriously stopped working the last night he was seen, and all of his social media accounts went quiet.
Two days later, on Tuesday, April 1, 2015, Caleb’s mother, Tami got a call from the school counselor stating that Caleb was not present that day. However, at this time, Tami had just assumed he skipped school, but promised the counselor that she would talk to her son. That evening, Caleb didn’t return home. But the family didn’t worry yet because Caleb lived with his sister in Grapevine, and it was common for them to not see each other because of their work schedules.
By Wednesday morning, Tami started calling around Caleb’s friends, including Christian who Caleb said he was hanging out on Monday. Strangely, Christian told Tami that he and Caleb did not actually have plans that day because Christian was out of town. That afternoon, Tami filed a missing persons report for Caleb.
Tami contacted Howard to let him know that Caleb was missing and that the police would be calling for the license plate of the champagne chevy 2500 for the police report. Tami never spoke to Howard, instead she left a message but when Howard returned Tami’s call, she was informed by Howard that his truck was at his place of business.
When authorities went to Howard’s place of business, they found the truck was parked and the keys had been returned in their usual spot. Howard did corporate with authorities and let him search his vehicle and the property. Law enforcement found 3 one hundred dollar bills zip tied to the steering wheel. A smashed cell was found on the floor of Howard’s garage, but Howard said he threw it away.
It wasn’t long before law enforcement accessed Howard’s sex offender treatment notes where the therapist informed officers that Howard was a “very smart man” who tried to “manipulate the test”. The therapist also informed law enforcement that “there was no question in his professional opinion that Howard had a sexual interest in underage men”.
Howard has a long record involving multiple counts of bank fraud from when he was a manager at First National Bank. In 2007, he was convicted of bank fraud when documents were discovered that overstated the number of cattle Howard had owned for loan collateral applications. This led investigators to uncover allegations of sexual assault among five young teens. According to court documents, it is believed he used he had access to the victims as a direct result of his position as manager, where he granted their families loans.
Howard claims he suffered an electrocution injury which led to memory loss, and he told his lawyer he had no recollection of being a banker. In 2006, a polygraph was administered and revealed strong deception.
On April 11, 2015, police executed a warrant to search Howard’s property where they discovered Howard owned firearms, which is illegal because he is a convicted felon. There were three charges brought against Howard, he was arrested on May 18, 2015, but released on $4,000 bond.
During this same time, authorities found a fire pit that contained the remains of three computer towers that belonged to Howard. When asked, he claimed they belonged to his deceased parents.
In December 2015, Howard is arrested again, on four charges of aggravated sexual assault of a child involving two males. These individuals came forward with allegations from 1996-2000. One of the victims was only 13 at the time.
By January 12, 2016, there were two more complaints of aggravated sexual assault after another victim came forward. He was 12 at the time. The next day, he posts bond. By June 29, 2016, Howard pleaded guilty to 11 counts of unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon, and was sentenced to 5 years of prison which is to be served concurrently. Howard was still denying any allegations of sexual assault brought against him.
A family’s discovery
In 2017, the Diehl family found evidence against Howard. While Tami was cleaning out a bathroom closet, she found an alarm clock with a hidden camera, several handwritten notes and a small handheld recorder. The recorder contained audio of Ricky asking himself polygraph questions pertaining to his sexual interest in young boys. The handwritten notes included details about these questions.
According to interviews with KFDX/KJTL, the family believes Caleb was gathering evidence against Ricky to blackmail him and get him to stop the abuse of him and the other kids. Instead of taking the blackmail, the family believes Ricky took matters into his own hands, and did something to Caleb.
Where the case stands today
Currently, Ricky Dale Howard has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for sexual exploitation of a minor charges. In July 2021, Howard did plead guilty to the charges. However, there have been no arrests or charges in connection with Caleb’s disappearance. Caleb’s case remains unsolved and no remains have been found. Many believe that if Howard’s other victims come forward it could result in a stronger charge and possibly one step closer to justice.