A family is probably the most important people you could have in your lives. They are the people whom you will grow old with and the people who will see you at your best and at your worst but still love you for who you are. But what will you do if they turned their back on you? Just like this heartbreaking story.
This is the sad story of Linda Iseler and her family. In 1993, Richard Hoagland, the patriarch of the family suddenly disappeared and was never seen again. Linda and their two young sons were left behind with no money or any clue to help pick up the pieces. She was forced to raise her sons alone. The police consequently eyed Linda with suspicion and spied on her family. But 23 years later something happened that nobody would have expected. Read on to find out what happened in this mind-boggling story!
12. A Strange Story
The love story of Linda and Richard Hoagland is one strange and sad tale. The two had a happy marriage, to begin with, and Linda gave birth to two wonderful sons. They settled in Indianapolis, Indiana where everything seemed to be going well for the happy family.
The couple had typical, everyday activities with the occasional argument over money or the children, but nothing too extreme. When their sons, Matthew and Douglas, turned nine and six years old, the happy family’s life turned upside down. Something was very wrong in the household, and only one person knew about the secret chaos.
It turned out that Richard Hoagland was hiding a terrible secret. As the days passed he withdrew more and more from his family. His wife, Linda, noticed his odd behavior but made up excuses in her own mind. The happy family quickly started to crumble.
The poor boys remained unaware that their life was about to change. Evidently, this was an issue that Richard felt could not be fixed or even talked about. In hindsight, it seems that the entire time Richard was withdrawing at home with his family, he was quietly planning something that no one could have seen coming.
11. Left Without A Trace
In February 1993, Linda went to work like she usually does. She worked at a medical office, and one afternoon at work, Richard gave Linda a call. He said that he had to go to the emergency room because he wasn’t feeling well.
Linda offered to meet Richard at the hospital if she wanted him but he said that he “couldn’t wait.” Linda had no idea their family’s life was about to change. She went about her day and picked up younger son Douglas from daycare after work. She got home at 5:25 P.M. and was shocked when she discovered that Matthew had been left home alone.
Linda called all the local hospitals but no one had any record of Richard ever being there. Richard even left no sign that he was leaving, his toothbrush remained in the bathroom, his clothes in the closet, his passport was untouched. Linda recalled, “It was cold. It was in February. He didn’t take a coat.”
In one moment, their happy and successful life together crumbled. Richard had said he found love again after a previous divorce. He was successful in business and took his family on luxurious vacations. He couldn’t just pack up and leave such a wonderful life like his, could he?
Less than an hour later, the family was officially shattered with a quick phone call from Richard. All that he said was, “I can’t live this way anymore. I feel you would be better off without me.” He quickly hung up, not even allowing Linda to respond.
A few hours later he called back with one more strange message, he said, “I don’t want to go to jail. I’m never coming back.” Within a 24-hour period, Richard had successfully destroyed his family and turned their life upside down. He disappeared on that day, February 10, 1993.
A few days after his last call, Richard’s car was discovered abandoned. Several airlines and their flight records were searched. His name was never found on any flights. Richard called twice more and he always called collect. After Linda checked the phone records, it showed that his calls came once from Venezuela and another time from Aruba.
With the head of the family vanishing into thin air, it seemed like things couldn’t get much worse. As Linda and her two sons tried to cope with the loss of their husband and father, police started to investigate Richard’s mysterious disappearance.
9. Hidden Financial Crisis?
That spring Richard contacted his son Matthew for his 10th birthday when he sent a card with a fifty-dollar bill. A few months later, he did the same for his son Douglas’ seventh birthday. This was the last time they ever heard from him.
It appears that, before he left town, Richard had been struggling financially unknowingly to the family. He almost maxed out their credit cards and even forged Linda’s signature on a bank loan. Linda filed for divorce, and in the decree, the judge ordered Richard to pay unpaid taxes, various loans and debts, and twenty-six credit cards.
In the cards he sent to his sons, Richard wrote, “I love you and miss seeing you. Let your mom help spend this money, you might want to put some away. Maybe sometime soon we will get to see each other. I bet I won’t even know you it has been so long. Mind your mother. Bye, Dad.”
Little did they know, those would be the last words Richard’s sons would ever see from him. “Initially, you think: ‘OK, this won’t last long. He’ll be back,” Matthew Hoagland told ABC. Matthew’s mother, Linda, also said, “He devastated us. He left us with nothing, absolutely nothing. I was very broken.”
8. Financial Struggle
Linda was not able to pay their mortgage and car loans and it seemed that the walls were closing in on the family. It was then that the police started to question Linda about Richard’s disappearance. They proposed that Linda knew where he had gone or that she knew what actually happened to him.
Linda continuously told police she had no idea about where Richard had gone. She told them that he had called her and said that he was never returning. Police continued to suspect her and subjected her to many police interrogations but Linda never once wavered.
Eventually one of the police officers, a detective, actually claimed that Linda knew where her husband had disappeared to. He claimed that it was a big financial hoax and that Linda was planning to take her children and eventually meet up with Richard. While being repeatedly questioned by police, Linda had even bigger problems to worry about, their finances.
All of the financial damage that Richard had left her with was starting to add up. She could no longer afford to pay her bills and Linda had to declare bankruptcy. This was a nightmare for a woman with two children, especially when her husband had been the primary breadwinner.
7. Something Strange
Instead of staying with his family and dealing with the financial issues that he had created, Richard decided to take the easy way out and disappear. As a consequence, he left his family in complete and total ruin. Linda ended up depending on her parents to get by during this desperate time.
She also started to notice a variety of strange things that suggested that she was being watched and she became more and more sure of it. She would notice strange people that seemed to be following her, cars parked outside, her mail was opened and re-sealed, and things in her house seemed as though they were moved.
One February, her father even found a recording device attached to her phone line. Linda was convinced that Richard had been involved with unwanted people that’s why he left town. She said, “When you’re in that situation, you become very paranoid.” The bank eventually foreclosed the family’s home and almost repossessed her vehicle.
That October, Linda, and family decided to go into hiding in McCordsville, Indiana. She was desperate to keep herself and her children safe, especially if Richard had been involved in something fishy. Linda ensured all of the bills were in her parents’ names, so they couldn’t track to her. She also had her boys catch the school bus from the home of a friend, in order to prevent anyone from finding out where they lived.
6. Truth Will Always Prevail
Linda and her family stayed in hiding for over six months, but the fear did not go away. The family continued to be fearful and paranoid for years. But the troubles didn’t stop there. Linda was still being watched by the police. It seemed like Linda and her family was destined to live in a constant state of suffering after the departure of her husband.
How could Richard do this to people that he claimed to love? Luckily, Linda still had her parents to help her at the time. In an interview with ABC, Linda’s elderly mother recalled how painful the entire situation had been.
In 2016, the truth was finally uncovered. A detective named Anthony Cardillo of the Pasco County Sheriff’s Department in Florida called Linda. He asked, “Do you know who Richard Hoagland is?” Linda could hardly believe what she was hearing after all of these years.
Apparently, throughout all of her family’s struggle, Richard had settled down again in West Palm Beach, Florida. He was alive, content, and happily remarried. He even had another child with his new wife, a son. Detective Cardillo told Linda that they had Richard in custody. He had been arrested for using the identity of a dead man.
5. Stolen Identity
After Richard left his family, he rented a home and found a death certificate in the house. It belonged to a man named Terry Symansky who had died in 1991. At this point, Richard decided to make the crucial decision to cut all ties with his family and assume another person’s identity.
Richard Hoagland decided to become Terry Symansky. From there, Terry started a new life, he got a job, a home, and even found love again. He loved his life in West Palm Beach. But none of his new loved ones in his new life were aware of anything unusual.
The man that Hoagland rented a home from was Edward Symansky, who was still mourning the death of his son Terry. Because of the close proximity, he was often there to listen to Edward reminisce about his son, but little did he know, Richard would take advantage of this information, especially after finding Terry’s birth certificate.
Cynthia Bujnak, Terry’s sister, told People after Hoagland’s arrest, “My dad was grieving and pouring his heart out… My dad was the victim. Even after 23 years, the truth will always come out.”
4. Finally Caught
Everything started to fall apart for Richard when Terry Symansky’s real nephew was doing some research on ancestry.com. The nephew found something in his research that seemed out of place. His uncle, who had been dead for many years, had somehow been listed as getting remarried and even getting his pilot’s license.
The nephew contacted authorities and from there the truth was revealed. In July 2016, the same month as his son Douglas’ birthday, the police went to Terry Symansky’s house and arrested Richard Hoagland. He was put in jail at the Pasco County jail on a $25,000 bond.
After all of these years, Richard was finally held accountable for all of the wrong he had committed, both legally and morally. Sadly, prosecutors were unable to file charges for theft against Richard from back in Indiana. The authorities couldn’t find an affidavit that contained the original allegations.
Of course, this included the forged loan document where he had signed Linda’s name and stolen credit cards. The state of Indiana maintains a statute of limitations on a theft that is five years. So while he couldn’t be held accountable for the crimes of his past he could still be charged with stealing a dead man’s identity.
3. Two Families
While living as Terry Symansky, Richard had remarried and had another son who is now 19-years-old. Richard’s two families have never met, including the brothers. Linda said, “My heart goes out to them. We know what they are going through. We do express our sympathy and empathy to them. I’m sorry.”
Richard has now successfully torn apart not one but two families that he has claimed to love with his selfish actions. In the meantime, Linda’s attorney, Tom Markle, is attempting to get some kind of reparations by demanding that Richard pays almost $2 million dollars in unpaid child support. Richard will more than likely have to pay compensation for making a living as Terry Symansky.
While posing as Terry Symansky, Richard remarried a woman named Mary Hossler Hickman in 1995 and the newlyweds settled in Zephyrhills, Florida. They even had a son together, who was just a teenager by the time his father was caught and arrested.
While Hoagland’s Florida family has remained generally quiet throughout the whole situation, the Tampa Bay Times reported that Mary later found a briefcase that contained documents about Hoagland’s real identity, as well as a deed to a property in Louisiana, and the key to a storage unit. According to detectives, their son “was shocked. It was still his father. It’s his blood, but that Symansky name is not his. The emotions they were feeling [were] between anger and sadness and the wonder of why.”
2. Bad Role Model
While Richard did send his first sons a few cards over the years, the experience he put his family through cannot be forgotten. His sons, Matthew and Doug, especially were forever harmed by his choices. Matthew became “the rock” for his mother and Doug took his father’s disappearance very hard. Ultimately Doug even has had to serve multiple prison sentences for drug-related charges.
He wrote a letter to his father, that was obtained by People magazine. Doug said that it caused him to have so much anger, and he partially wondered if something was wrong with him. Ultimately, he turned to drugs. Doug said that he forgives his father, but he has one big question for him, “Why?”
Doug’s brother Matthew Hoagland is now thirty-three years old and has his own family. Matthew has had a hard time figuring out how someone could walk away from their own family. Matthew said he initially thought that his father would return, but he has come to believe that his father got caught up in something bad and that’s why he chose to leave.
Matthew wears his father’s ring, and he said he wears it to remember the bad example his father set, so Matthew never makes the same mistake with his own family. Even Linda’s elderly mother said that she “is tickled” that he is now confined since he cannot stand being in any one place.
1. No Explanation
Since the solved mystery, Richard has refused to talk and has not given any explanation about his choice to disappear. He has given no answer that would go along with the claim that he was in a deep financial struggle or why he forged Linda’s name. Terry Symansky’s family was also hurt by Richard’s choices, especially because it seems as though Richard knew Terry’s father.
Terry’s grieving father poured out his heart to Terry, and in response, Richard stole the death certificate of his son. It is unlikely Richard will ever give any reasoning to his abominable actions and why he felt so desperate to leave. But one thing can be sure, the truth will always prevail no matter where you go or what you do to get away from it.
In today’s world and technology, it’s hard to completely disappear. It’s hard for people to slip away unnoticed, and never be discovered. Just like what happened to Richard Hoagland, who eventually paid for his distasteful actions.
Whatever the reason behind why people decide to disappear, we’ll never understand. Everybody goes through difficult times in life but never thinks of running away. We’re just all created differently.