Melvin Dummar, the Utah filling station operator listed as multimillion-dollar beneficiary in the so-called "Mormon will' of the late Howard Hughes, has acknowledged be lied about essential details of the will's discovery, lawyers in the case said today.
According to accounts by two of the five attorneys who sat in on eight hours of questioning of Dummar contradicted his previous statements by admitting Wednesday, he was the person who delivered the controversial document to the Mormon Church headquarters in Salt Lake City where it was found last April 27. In addition, Dummar admitted during the session in his lawyer's Odgen, Utah, office that he steamed open an inner envelope and read the will before leaving the document at the church headquarters and that he wrote out the not found with the will, the attorneys said.
But Dummar insisted that he had not written the will, according to Harold Rhoden, a Los Angeles attorney who conducted the questioning Wednesday.
Rhoden is the attorney for Noah Dietrich, a former Hughes aide who was named as executor in the so-called "Mormon will."
The 31-year-old gas station operator from Willard, Utah, who has been described by his own attorney as having no money, stands to inherit about $150 million if the will is genuine.
Dummar was not available for comment.
Rhoden, in a press conference in his office here, said Dummar had offered two conflicting accounts of where the will originated during the questioning.
"Melvin Dummar is still engaging in deception," said Rhoden. "If he gives the court the same story he gave us he'll go to jail for perjury."
Rhoden said Dummar had agreed to "give up" his portion of the inheritance from the will to testify under oath on his part in its discovery in an effort to lessen the possibility of criminal prosecution. The Nevada attorney general's office is conducting a criminal investigation into the authenticity of the will and officials involved in that investigation said that if the will is proved to be phony, as many as 20 crimes may have been committed.
Dummar's attorney, Roger Dutson, said in a telephone interview that he did not believe Dummar had admitted to anything illegal and that details of Dummar's statement were being checked out by his office.
"We're shocked and trying to find out just what did happen," said Dutson. "We have no information the will is not genuine and no one else, family or friends of Dummar, were involved as far as we know."
The acknowledgement by Dummar appeared to add more fuel to the growing suspicion about the authenticity of the Mormon will, the only one of 36 "Hughes wills" filed with Nevada authorities that officials had given much of a chance of being found to be legitimate.
Las month investigations discovered Dummar's fingerprints on a book and magazine that contained samples of Hughes' handwriting. The book and magazine were found in the library of Weber State College where Dummar had been attending night classes.
At the press conference here today Rhoden said Dummar told the attorneys he steamed open the envelope containing the will and read it, leaving his fingerprints all over the document. Then he said he wrote out an accompanying letter and left it with the will at Morman headquarters when he got there and couldn't find anyone to accept it.
"Dummar wore no disguises and no wig," said Rhoden. "He went there in his ordinary street clothes."
The note Dummart left with the will said, "This was found by Joseph Smith house in 1972. Thought you would be interested."
Dummar said he concealed his part in the discovery of the will, according to Rhoden, because "he was afraid if he told the truth and told anyone he was the one who left it at the headquarters everyone would suspect he wrote it since he's named in it."
Rhoden, as Dietrich's attorney, has been active in trying to prove the will's authenticity.
Removal from the case would cost Dietrich a multimillion-dollar executor's fee and there was some question today over Rhoden's enthusiasm to discredit the document.
Other sources involved in the dispute over the estate noted that Dietrich would gain a substantial portion of Hughes' estate if a will allegedly signed by the billionaire in 1938 but which is now missing if located. The will was allegedly filed in a Texas bank which lost it after a merger.