SALT LAKE CITY — It’s not over for Melvin Dummar, the frozen-meat deliveryman who insists he rescued the late billionaire Howard Hughes from a Nevada ditch and was left $156 million in a handwritten will.
A lawyer for the Brigham City, Utah, resident is asking a Nevada state court for a new trial regarding Dummar’s claims that he was denied his rightful share of the Hughes estate.
The case was tried before a Las Vegas jury that rejected the will as a fake in 1978. Last year, Dummar sought to reopen it based on the account of a new witness, a pilot who said he routinely flew Hughes to brothels in rural Nevada and who confirmed parts of Dummar’s story.
But a Utah federal judge rejected Dummar’s petition in January, ruling the dispute had been “fully and fairly litigated” in Las Vegas in 1978.
U.S. District Judge Bruce Jenkins refused to rule on the merits of the claims and told Dummar’s lawyers they should be “rapping at the door” of District Court in Nevada.
Now Dummar’s lawyer is doing just that, alleging the jury trial was rigged by false testimony by Hughes associates who said their boss never left the Desert Inn between 1966 and 1970.
Dummar has said he found a bloodied Hughes facedown in a ditch in 1967. The spot was six miles from the brothel where Roberto Deiro, who was director of aviation facilities for Hughes Tool Co., said he delivered Hughes for a tryst with a diamond-toothed prostitute.
Deiro said he lost track of Hughes that night and flew back to Las Vegas on his own, leaving open the possibility Dummar had driven Hughes back to Las Vegas.
Dummar’s attorney, Stuart Stein, filed papers Monday in Clark County District Court seeking a new trial, just ahead of a statute of limitations deadline Friday on Dummar’s fraud claims.
The clock on the statute of limitations started three years ago, when Deiro came forward with his account while breaking a confidentiality pact with his former employer.
Deiro said his memory was jogged by a Review-Journal story that revisited Dummar’s story with a detail about Lida Junction, the place where Dummar said he found Hughes roughed up in a ditch.
Stein is asking the state court to set aside the 1978 verdict that denied Dummar a share of the Hughes estate.
He asked a federal court in Las Vegas for time to file a fraud case pending the state court’s decision.
Stein also asked the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Denver to relinquish an appeal he filed of Jenkins’ decision. That step is necessary before any federal court could take up Dummar’s latest claims.
Dummar would be unable to ask any court to reopen the distribution of the Hughes estate “because all the money is gone,” Stein said.
Instead, Dummar sued Hughes cousin William Lummis, a major beneficiary of the Hughes estate, and Frank Gay, who was chief operating officer of Summa Corp., which controlled Hughes’ major assets. Both are living in Texas.
Dummar, who was making delivery rounds Wednesday, couldn’t be reached for comment.