Sometimes real life is far more surprising than anything you can read in books or see in any thriller movie. One Indianapolis woman’s experience is testament to that.
A PERFECT LIFE
Linda Iseler and Richard Hoagland had a wonderful life in their Indianapolis home. He was divorced, and had been relieved to find love with her again.
According to Iseler, her husband was spontaneous and had had a successful career.
«He was a lot of fun to be with,» she told ABC News.
The couple lived in a huge house, had a steady income and enjoyed exotic vacations. Everything was going perfectly in their life, until one day in 1993 when something unusual happened after 11 years of marriage.
Iseler recalled that she had been working at a doctor’s office in Greenfield that day and received a call from Richard. He told her he was sick and was on his way to the emergency room. Concerned, she asked him to wait until she could get off work to accompany him.
However, Richard had declined her offer; he told her he didn’t have time to wait. When she didn’t hear from him, Iseler called area hospitals and discovered that he hadn’t been there. He had simply disappeared.
Richard’s toothbrush was at home, as were all his clothes. He never packed anything. It was February 10, 1993, and he hadn’t even put on a coat to protect himself from the cold. He hadn’t even taken his passport with him.
At the time, Richard’s oldest son, Matthew, was nine years old, and his youngest son, Doug, was only six.
«How do you walk away from your own children, how do you turn your back on them?» wondered Iseler.
Soon after, authorities searched and found Richard’s car abandoned at Indianapolis International Airport. But when they checked flight records, they discovered that he had not boarded a plane that day.
Things got stranger when, in the summer of 1993, Matthew and Doug received birthday cards from their father, each containing $50. The two boys hoped their father would finally return, but that was the last they heard from him.
A SPECIAL MESSAGE
Doug’s card had a special message from his father, which read:
«Maybe we can see each other soon. I bet I won’t even recognize you. It’s been so long. Take care of your mother. Bye, Dad.»
When police began investigating Richard’s strange disappearance, his family became suspects. Iseler claims that investigators questioned her repeatedly, thinking she was in cahoots with her missing husband.
But according to her, she had no idea of her husband’s whereabouts. In the months following Richard’s disappearance, Iseler lost the house, the cars and found herself in a financial crisis. So she called her mother for help.
Iseler told IndyStar that she had felt she was being followed after Richard’s disappearance. The mother of two explained that her emails appeared to have been opened, and that her house had signs that someone had checked it.
Meanwhile, there was no sign of Richard, and after ten years, he was pronounced dead. Although devastated, Iseler decided to start over and remarried. She believed she had left behind the past where her husband had abandoned her and her children.
But in the summer of 2016, she received a call from Detective Anthony Cardillo of the Pasco County Sheriff’s Department in Florida. He asked her if she knew Richard, and when she said he was her ex-husband, what followed next unsettled her.
AN UNEXPECTED PHONE CALL
Iseler learned that Richard was in custody for allegedly living a lie for two decades. According to police, he had fled to West Palm Beach, Florida, where he assumed the identity of Terry Symansky, a fisherman who had died in a boating accident in 1991.
Richard had rented a room from Symansky’s father, found his death certificate and stole it. He subsequently used it to apply for a birth certificate and even obtained a driver’s license.
Cardillo told Iseler that Richard started a new life in Florida, remarried and had a son. He bought a new house, registered vehicles and even got a pilot’s license. If anyone suspected him, he always had an explanation ready.
Richard got away with his false identity for some time until Symansky’s real family began researching his family history using Ancestry.com. A nephew of the deceased discovered that his uncle had married two years after his death in 1991.
The Symansky family called the police, who tracked Richard down with the help of Cardillo. When the detective confronted him, he denied everything, but eventually accepted what he had done after seeing Terry’s death certificate.
The shocking revelation baffled Richard’s new wife and son, who had been living a lie along with him. He said he had been in trouble with his wife and children when asked why he assumed the identity of a dead man.
At the same time, Cardillo’s call and learning the truth deeply disturbed Iseler.
«I’ve had a real turmoil of feelings and emotions. Some of these things that I thought I was done with have come back,» he expressed, as collected by People.
Richard was arrested in late 2016 on charges including identity fraud. He pleaded not guilty to the charges and was jailed on $25,000 bail.
In sharing his father’s story, Matthew commented that he wore his father’s ring to remind him of his bad example. Iseler and his children have mixed feelings and unresolved grief from their ordeal.