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Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Melvin Dummar exits Moss Federal Courthouse in Salt Lake City on Nov. 2, 2006.

PAHRUMP, Nev. — A Utah man who repeatedly made headlines around the world in the 1970s has died.

Melvin Dummar was a gas station operator in Box Elder County in 1976 when he suddenly seemed to be on the verge of becoming a multimillionaire. He was named an heir to the fortune of eccentric and secretive billionaire Howard Hughes.

Dummar's name was contained in a handwritten will discovered in the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City.

Deseret News archives
Melvin Dummar

The document became known as the "Mormon Will" because someone had mysteriously dropped it off at the church's headquarters. The purported will divided the Hughes estate into 16 equal shares, with one share designated for the church itself and another sixteenth for "Melvin DuMar."

Dummar's story — told in the Oscar-winning film "Melvin and Howard" — is that years before Hughes died, Dummar found him injured, lying in a remote Nevada desert. Dummar said he drove Hughes to Las Vegas, dropped him off and gave the billionaire a quarter to use a pay phone.

He said he didn't believe it was actually Hughes at the time, but "thought he was a bum."

The discovery of the will created a worldwide sensation. Dummar later acknowledged he was the one who delivered the will to the church after his fingerprint was found on the envelope that contained the will. He claimed he got the document from a mysterious stranger who brought it to his gas station.

Dummar said he read the will and didn't know if it was real or a hoax. Not knowing what to do, he drove to the Church Office Building and dropped it on a desk.

That story was legally discredited when a Las Vegas jury concluded that the will was a hoax.

But many people still believe it.

Late in life, Dummar's story was championed by retired FBI agent Gary Magnesen who investigated the case and wrote two books in Dummar's defense. Magnesen confirmed Dummar's death to the Deseret News and said Dummar "absolutely" stuck to his story right to the end.

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"I wouldn't have had a chance even if God himself had delivered the will," Dummar said in 2005. "So many people thought I was a con artist or a scammer. And they treated me like a criminal."

Dummar was 74 and lived most recently in Pahrump, Nevada.

Ray Dummar told the Las Vegas Review-Journal Monday that he believes his brother's account of that night.

“He picked him up. I know that part happened,” Ray Dummar said. “From then on, it was kind of a fight.”

He told the newspaper he thinks his younger brother will ultimately be remembered as “a hard-working guy.” He said his brother was in the midst of his third bout with cancer but he was still working.