One day, a woman was at work when her husband called and said he was unwell and needed to go to the hospital. She didn't see him for over two decades until one day; she received a life-altering phone call from a detective.
Mysteries might sound intriguing to some, but they might inspire mixed feelings based on their context. Some people prefer mystery books and movies for their gripping plot twists, but sometimes, such scenarios might unfold in real life too.
Shockingly, something similar happened to an Indianapolis woman when she least expected it. She was shocked and heartbroken as she mustered the strength to pick up the pieces and start over.
[Left] Richard Hoagland pictured with his two sons; [Right] Richard pictured with his second wife, Linda Isler. | Source: YouTube.com/ABC News
A PICTURE-PERFECT LIFE
Linda Iseler and Richard Hoagland had a wonderful life in their Fishers' home in Indianapolis. Richard had divorced earlier but was relieved to find love again with Iseler. According to Iseler, her husband was spontaneous and had a successful career making deals.
"He was a lot of fun to be with," expressed Iseler. The couple lived in an enormous house, had a steady income, and enjoyed exotic vacations. Everything was perfect in their life, until one day in 1993, something unusual happened after 11 years of marriage.
Iseler recalled working at a medical office in Greenfield when Richard called her. He stated he was ill and was headed to the emergency. Iseler became worried and told her husband to wait so she could leave work and accompany him.
Linda Iseler. | Source: YouTube.com/ABC News
THE LAST CONVERSATION
However, Richard declined her offer and said he didn't have time to wait. When she didn't hear from him, Iseler called the hospitals in the area and discovered no trace of Richard ever being there. He had indeed disappeared.
Like Matthew and Doug, a little girl battled unimaginable pain when she learned her mom left her and never returned.
Richard's toothbrush was at home, including his clothes, because he never packed any. It was February 10, 1993, and he never took a coat to shield himself from the cold weather. Iseler stated that he didn't even take his passport.
Linda Iseler and Richard Hoagland. | Source: YouTube.com/ABC News
THE STRANGE DISAPPEARANCE
At the time, Richard's older son, Matthew Hoagland, was nine, and his youngest son, Doug Hoagland, was only six. "How do you walk away from your own children? How do you turn your back?" expressed Iseler while talking to ABC News.
Soon afterward, authorities searched and found Richard's car abandoned at Indianapolis International Airport. But when they checked the flight records, they discovered that he didn't board any plane the day he disappeared.
Things continued to get more bizarre when in summer 1993, Matthew and Doug received birthday cards from their father, each containing $50. The two boys hoped their dad would eventually be back, but it was the last they ever heard from him.
[From left to right] Matthew Hoagland and Doug Hoagland. | Source: YouTube.com/ABC News
A SPECIAL MESSAGE
Doug's card had a special message from Richard, which said: "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."
As police began looking into Richard's strange disappearance, his family became an obvious suspect. Iseler stated that the investigators interrogated her repeatedly, thinking she was in cahoots with her missing husband.
But according to Iseler, she was clueless regarding her husband's whereabouts. Following the months after Richard's disappearance, Iseler lost the house the cars and found herself in financial crisis. Then, she called her mother to help.
The last birthday card Doug received from his father. | Source: YouTube.com/ABC News
Iseler told IndyStar that she felt she was being followed after Richard vanished. The mother-of-two said her mails were opened and sealed back, and her house looked like someone had been inside and snooped around.
In the meantime, there was no sign from Richard, and after ten years, he was declared dead. A devastated Iseler decided to start over and remarried. She thought she had moved on from her past life where her husband turned his back on her and his children.
But in summer 2016, she received a call from detective Anthony Cardillo of the Pasco County Sheriff's Department in Florida. Cardillo asked Iseler if she knew Richard, and when she said he was her ex-husband, what followed next made her uneasy.
[From left to right] Richard Hoagland and Terry Symansky. | Source: YouTube.com/ABC News
A LIFE-CHANGING CALL
Iseler then learned that Richard was in custody for allegedly living a lie for two decades. According to the police, Richard had fled to West Palm Beach, Florida, where he assumed the identity of Terry Symansky, a fisherman who died in a boating accident in 1991.
Richard rented a room from Symansky's father, found his death certificate, and stole it. Richard used that death certificate to apply for a birth certificate and even got a driver's license.
Cardillo told Iseler that Richard began a new life in Florida, married a woman, and had a child. He bought a new house, registered for vehicles, and even got a pilot's license. Whenever somebody suspected him, he always had an explanation ready.
Matthew Hoagland. | Source: YouTube.com/ABC News
ASSUMING A NEW IDENTITY
Richard got away with his fake identity for some time until the real Symansky's family started looking into their family history using Ancestry.com. The drop scene was when Symansky's nephew discovered that his uncle married two years after his death in 1991.
The Symansky family called the cops, who tracked down Richard with Cardillo's help. When Cardillo confronted Richard, he initially refused, but he accepted what he had done after seeing Symansky's death certificate.
The shocking revelation broke Richard's new wife and son, who had lived a lie alongside him. Richard said he had issues with his wife and children when asked why he assumed a dead man's identity.
A BAD EXAMPLE
At the same time, Cardillo's call and learning the truth deeply upset Iseler. "I've had a real upheaval of feelings and emotions. Some of this stuff that I thought I was over — it has come back," expressed Iseler.
Richard was taken into custody in late 2016 on charges including identity fraud. He pleaded not guilty to the charges and was imprisoned on a $25,000 bond. While recalling Richard's actions, Matthew shared he wore his dad's ring to remind himself of a bad example.
Indeed, Iseler and her sons were left with mixed feelings and unresolved grief, given what they endured. Like Matthew and Doug, a little girl battled unimaginable pain when she learned her mom left her and never returned. You can read her complete story here.