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The Mormon will, however, has been taken seriously. It is so nicknamed because it appeared mysteriously, three weeks after Hughes' death, on the desk of a public relations officer in the Salt Lake City headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The scrawled writing on the envelope instructed David O. McKay, president of the Mormons from 1951 to 1970, to deliver it to the clerk of Clark County in Las Vegas—a city whose glitter had attracted Hughes. Handwritten and partly smudged, the document runs for three pages and is filled with misspellings (cildren for children, for example). Purportedly written in 1968, it divides Hughes' estate into shares ranging from one-sixteenth to onequarter. Among the beneficiaries: the Mormon Church, Hughes' medical foundation, ex-Wives Ella Rice and Jean Peters, and "my aids [sic] at the time of my death."
All that seems reasonable enough. But another beneficiary is a Utah service-station operator named Melvin Dummar, who claims that he found a thin, raggedly dressed old man sprawled alongside a remote desert road in southern Nevada one night in 1968 and drove the old fellow back to Las Vegas. Dummar says that when his passenger got out, he claimed that he was Howard Hughes and borrowed 250 from him.
Another peculiarity of the Mormon will is that it names as executor Noah Dietrich, Hughes' onetime chief lieutenant. Hughes had a severe falling-out with Dietrich in 1957, and the two men never patched up their relationship. Even so, Beverly Hills Attorney Harold Rhoden, who represents Dietrich on the case, has submitted the will to eight noted handwriting experts who have declared that the handwriting is Hughes'.
The Summa Corp. and Hughes' assorted relatives all contend that the Mormon will is a fake. Summa is run by a triumvirate: Frank William Gay, 55, who is president and chief executive officer; Nadine Henley, 70, one of Hughes' earliest assistants, who is senior vice president; and Chester Davis, 66, an abrasive Wall Street lawyer, who is Summa's legal strategist. Hughes' maternal nephew, William Lummis, 47, joined Summa as chairman to avoid a struggle for the spoils between the company and the relatives.
Meanwhile, with their customary secretiveness, Summa executives and Hughes' former aides and doctors are ducking subpoena servers sent out by Rhoden. Among other things, the lawyer is trying to establish whether Hughes actually could have left the Desert Inn and ended up some 150 miles from Las Vegas, where Dummar says he found him. So far, Rhoden has managed to collar only two executive assistants for depositions. Testifying under oath, the two gave contradictory accounts.
John Holmes, the senior aide, swore that no logs were kept to record Hughes' movements. Ray Crawford, a key aide until 1970, said detailed accounts were kept. Holmes testified that Hughes wore a neat Vandyke. Crawford describes Hughes as having a long, scraggly beard and hair that reached below his shoulders.
Under questioning, Holmes made an admission that may haunt the Summa lawyers once the trial begins. Holmes recalled that Hughes told him that he had written a holographic will, a last testament whose unwitnessed authenticity rests on identifying the handwriting of the author.