The Beginning of Haupt’s Criminal and Legal Ordeal
Much of this website has chronicled Thomas Dillard’s impact on the life of Howard L. Haupt. We’ll go into more detail here.
Howard Haupt was a quiet man living a quiet life in the San Diego area before he got sucked into the vortex of being accused of abducting and murdering a 7-year-old boy. Imagine how dramatically that would affect your life — having to fight those charges.
And after all the evidence, all the testimony, all the time and effort that Thomas Dillard, his partner Robert Leonard and Las Vegas Metro police spent trying to manufacture ways to convict him, Howard Haupt was found not guilty on all counts against him. Turns out, Haupt was a victim of circumstances. Nearly half a million dollars in legal and court costs later, after spending years in the public eye as the accused abductor and murderer in a very high-profile case, after spending time in jail, after presenting eight witnesses who provided alibis for him, we see that Haupt happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. He happened to be registered at the same place at the same time the abduction and murder occurred, and he happened to loosely fit the general description of witnesses who said they saw a man leaving the arcade holding onto the wrist of a young boy.
It was a long, arduous and costly process to reach that not guilty verdict.
For months, the police and the FBI investigated Haupt. They staked out his home; they followed him as he drove around the San Diego area; they checked him out at his place of employment, even going so far as to arrange “tours” of where he worked so they could take potential eye witnesses through his work space to see if they could positively identify him.
And then one day, as Haupt was leaving work, an FBI agent asked to speak with him and come into their San Diego headquarters for questioning. Haupt thought it would be a brief visit because he had heard of the case and the investigation and tought it wouldn’t take long to convince the police he didn’t have anything to do with it. He had contacted authorities after he received a letter (two, letters, actually; the first one he ignored because he didn’t know anything about the murder, the second one he responded to because there was a note requesting his response — he was the only potential suspect to receive such a letter) asking him to contact them about what he knew about the crime.
Well, when he got to the FBI offices, driven there by an FBI agent, he saw his other vehicle, a pickup truck, parked there. It was then that Haupt thought that this whole thing might end up worse than he imagined. Then he was led into a room that was filled with files — three-ring binders with his name on it, blown-up photos of him and his house. Then he was led into another room and met Las Vegas Metro PD detectives Thomas Dillard and Robert Leonard for the first time. And the questioning began. Four hours of questioning. And then they arrested him. His bail was set at two million dollars. That was Feb. 19, 1988.
Ten days later, after an arraignment hearing, Haupt’s bail was reduced to $350,000. He was able to make bail and put up the $350,000 by borrowing from his father, who cashed in his life savings to bail out his son. Over the course of the trial Haupt spent more, well into the six figures, to defend himself.When a conviction could lead to a seat in line on death row, you go to those lengths. When you’re an innocent man, you go to those lengths.
This is just the beginning of Haupt’s story. We’ll detail more about Haupt and other Dillard victims in future updates.