On February 10, 1993, Richard Hoagland called his wife, Linda Iseler, and told her he was feeling sick. He said he was heading to the emergency room, but insisted Iseler didn’t need to come with him. He was never seen again — until 23 years later, when he emerged alive, safe, and with a completely new family, according to ABC News.
Hoagland had left everything at home in Indiana, from his coat to his toothbrush to even his passport. He left behind a wife and two sons, only 9 and 6 years old. Police found his car at the airport, but there was no record of a man named Richard Hoagland taking any flight. The last anyone heard from him is when he sent his sons a birthday card, with a message to “mind your mother.”
“He devastated us. He left us with nothing, absolutely nothing. I was very broken,” Iseler said. They had to give up their house and cars and rely on help from family. Hoagland was pronounced dead after 10 years, and Iseler ended up getting remarried.
But this year, Hoagland was found. It turns out that he went to Florida and stole the identity of a man named Terry Symansky, who was killed in 1991. He even got married to another woman and had a child, with his new wife, Mary, none the wiser. But here’s the craziest part: Hoagland (now Symansky) ended up getting caught when the actual Terry Symansky’s nephew looked up the family tree and realized that the man he knew had died had gotten married several years later, and even had a pilot’s license.
Hoagland was arrested in July for fraudulent use of personal identification, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Police think that he pulled off the scheme because when he fled to Florida, he briefly lived with the real Symansky’s father in Florida. He then found Terry’s death certificate, used it to get a birth certificate, and used that to get a driver’s license.
His new family was shocked. “Obviously their 20 years of marriage [was] shattered,” detective Anthony Cardillo said. “The son came down. He 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.”
So why did he pull off the identity theft? According to the Indianapolis Star, Iseler had told police that he embezzled from his boss and was likely on the run from the law. But Hoagland said the reason was more personal: Iseler, who was his second wife, wanted a divorce, and he didn’t think he could go through with a divorce again. He is now in jail awaiting trial, and has pleaded not guilty. Authorities were looking into various other accusations against him, too, so more charges may be ahead.