From the outside, married couple Linda Iseler and Richard Hoagland seemed to have a perfect life. They had two happy, healthy sons and they lived quite comfortably. In 1993, Richard disappeared without a trace. Linda and her two sons were left with no source of income. They had to find for themselves. The police suspected that Linda may have had something to do with Richard's disappearance, even though she and her sons were worse of now that he was gone.
Linda and her family lived in a constant state of anxiety, confusion, and distress until 23 years later when the mystery of what happened to Richard was finally solved.
Their Life Seemed Completely Normal
Linda and Richard had a normal, middle-class American family. The couple lived in Indianapolis, Indiana. Their two sons, Matthew and Douglas, were born in Indianapolis and the family lived a comfortable life. Occasionally, Linda and Richard would argue, as most couples do, but these arguments never got heated or too intense.
The year that Matthew turned nine and Douglas turned six, a dark family secret came to light. Richard Hoagland was definitely hiding something big.
Richard's Dark Secret
That year, Richard started exhibiting some strange behavior. He would isolate himself in his room and remove himself from family conversations. Linda noticed that Richard was acting differently, but she thought he was just stressed about work.
Mathew and Douglas had no idea that anything was wrong. They still believed that they were part of a normal, happy family. In hindsight, it seemed like Richard was secretly plotting something. He had never been this quiet and reserved before.
A Very Strange Phone Call
On February 10th, 1993, Linda went to work at a medical office just like she did every weekday. At 4:45 PM, Richard called Linda at work. He told her that he was on his way to the emergency room because he wasn't feeling well. Linda said that she would leave work and meet Richard at the hospital, but Richard said that he "couldn't wait."
Linda picked up Douglas from daycare and got home at 5:25 PM. When she got home she realized that Richard had left Matthew home alone.
Where Could Richard Have Gone?
Linda was furious that Richard had left his son home alone, but she was also worried that something serious may have happened to him. Linda called all the hospitals in her area, but none of them had any record of Richard ever being there.
Linda searched her house and saw that Richard's belongings were still where they always were. His toothbrush was in the bathroom and all of his clothes were in his closet. His passport was still in the house, as was his coat. Linda said, “It was cold. It was in February. He didn’t take a coat.”
The Life He Left Behind
Linda was starting to get very worried. Less than an hour after she got home, she got a phone call that left her completely shattered. Richard called his wife and said, “I can’t live this way anymore. I feel you would be better off without me.” He hung up without even giving Linda time to respond.
A few hours later, he called Linda again and said, “I don’t want to go to jail. I’m never coming back.”
He Abandoned His Car
Richard's car was discovered abandoned a few days after he made that final call to Linda. Linda had various airlines search their records to see if Richard had left the country, but nobody could find any evidence that he purchased a plane ticket. Richard called Linda two more times but he didn't speak to her. He always called collect and phone records showed that he was calling from places such as Venezuela and Aruba
Linda asked the police to help her investigate Richard's strange disappearance.
He Contacted Matthew On His Birthday
A few months later, Richard sent a card back to his family for Matthew's 10th birthday. When Douglas turned seven several months later, he also received a card from Richard. That was the last time the family ever got written correspondence from Richard. T
Apparently, Richard hadn't been honest with Linda about their financial situation. He had maxed out all of their credit cards and even forged Linda's signature on a bank loan. Linda filed for divorce and Richard was ordered to pay unpaid taxes, various loans and debts, and 26 credit cards.
What Richard Wrote In The Cards
In the birthday cards 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."
"Initially, you think: 'OK, this won't last long. He'll be back,'" Matthew Hoagland told ABC. Linda added, "He devastated us. He left us with nothing, absolutely nothing. I was very broken."
What Happened To Linda
After Richard left, Linda was in real financial trouble. She was unable to pay her mortgage or her car loans. When she was starting to feel like all hope was lost, the police began to question Linda about Richard’s disappearance. They made it seem like Linda might know where Richard was hiding.
Linda told the police that she was the victim in this case and that she had no idea where Richard had gone. Still, the police continued to interrogate her.
Linda Declared Bankruptcy
The police wouldn't stop questioning Linda about Richard. They seemed to be under the impression that Richard and Linda were in cahoots and this was some elaborate financial scam.
Linda didn't have time to deal with the police because she was so busy worrying about how she would be able to provide for her children. She couldn't pay her bills, so she had to declare bankruptcy. It was the last thing Linda wanted to do, but she had no choice.
Was Linda Being Watched?
Linda decided that Richard was a coward. Instead of facing his financial issues head-on, he decided to take off and leave his family with the problems that he created. Linda and her sons had to move in with Linda's parents while they tried to get back on their feet.
Slowly, Linda began noticing that strange people seemed to be following her. There were stranged cars parked outside her parents' house at all hours of the night. She also noticed that somebody was opening and resealing her mail.
She Moved To Keep Her Children Safe
Things got scary when Linda found a recording device on her phone. She thought that perhaps Richard had made some deals he couldn't keep with some pretty dangerous people, so she decided to leave town to keep her family safe. She said, "When you're in that situation, you become very paranoid.”
Linda, Matthew, and Douglas moved to McCordsville, Indiana and went into hiding. Linda made sure that all of her bills were in her parents' names so that nobody could track her down.
A Sense Of Paranoia
Linda and the boys stayed in hiding for over six months. Even though things started to get better, she and her family still lived in fear. Linda was still being watched by the police department and she felt like she didn't have any support.
In an interview with ABC, Linda’s elderly mother recounted how painful the entire situation was for her whole family. She couldn't believe what Richard had done to her daughter and her grandsons.
23 Years Later, Richard Was Found
Richard was off the grid until 2016 when a detective named Anthony Cardillo of the Pasco County Sheriff’s Department in Florida made an astonishing discovery. He called Linda and asked, “Do you know who Richard Hoagland is?” Linda was completely shocked to be hearing that name again.
Apparently, while she and her sons were struggling, Richard moved to West Palm Beach, Florida. He remarried and had another son with his new wife. The detective told Linda that he arrested Richard for assuming the identity of a dead man.
The Man Richard Wasn't
Richard ran away from his family and rented a house while he figured out his next steps. In that rented house, he found a death certificate that belonged to a man named Terry Smansky who died in 1991. Richard took on Terry's identity and cut ties with everyone he knew in Indianapolis.
Richard, now Terry, got a whole new life. He got a new job, eventually bought a new home, and created a new family.
Richard Took Advantage Of A Grieving Father
The owner of the home that Richard rented back when he first left his wife belonged to Terry Symansky's father, Edward Symansky. Edward was still mourning the death of his son, and he often told Richard stories about his son's life.
Richard took advantage of a grieving father by stealing his dead son's identity. He took advantage of Edward's honesty and desire for closeness. Cynthia Bujnak, Terry's sister, told People, "My dad was grieving and pouring his heart out... My dad was the victim. Even after 23 years, the truth will always come out."
Richard Was Finally Arrested
The real Terry Smansky's nephew was doing some research on Ancestry.com when he noticed something very strange. His uncle, who had been dead for over two decades, was somehow listed as getting remaired and getting his pilot's license. This nephew immediately contacted authorities, which led to Richard's arrest.
In July of 2016, 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.
Paying For His Crimes
Richard was finally formally charged for all of the crimes he committed in Indiana all those years ago. He was also charged with stealing a dead man's identity. Some of his crimes had exceeded the statute of limitations, but Richard definitely did not get off scot-free.
He had made many peoples lives miserable and he had abandoned his own two children. There was no way for him to escape what he had done any longer.
Another Family Broken
Richard's new wife and son had no idea that he left his family and took on a dead man's identity. Richards third son is now an adult and he still hasn't met his half 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 owes money to both of his ex-wives. Linda's lawyer is claiming that Richard owes Linda $2 million in child support.
How Richard's New Family Felt
Richard's second wife (though she actually married "Terry Symansky") is Mary Hossler Hickman. She married Terry in 1995.
After Richard was arrested, Mary found a briefcase that contained documents about her husband's real identity. It also contained a deed to a property in Louisiana and the key to a storage unit. Richard's third son was completely shocked that his last name was not really his and that his father wasn't who he said he was.
How Matthew And Douglas Coped With Their Father's Disappearing Act
Matthew and Douglas never really recovered from what their father did to them. Matthew had to become "the man of the house" at a very young age. He had to support his mother while she dealt with Richard's actions.
Douglas ended up serving multiple prison sentences for drug-related offenses. In a letter he wrote to his father, Douglas said that he forgives Richard and doesn't blame him for his own substance abuse issues. He still wonders why he left, though.
Moving On From The Past
Matthew Hoagland is now 33 years old. He is married and he has children of his own now. He doesn't understand how a father could walk away from his own children. Matthew said that when he was younger, he had hope that his father would come back for him and his mother and brother. He now knows that all the hoping in the world couldn't have brought his father back.
Matthew now wears his father's wedding ring as a reminder of the person he never wants to become.
Why Did He Do It?
Richards children both have the same question. Why? Richard has refused to give any explanation for his heinous actions. He hasn't said that he felt overwhelmed financially or that he didn't know how to care for his family.
Terry Symansky’s family was also hurt by Richard’s actions. We still don't know why Richard thought it was acceptable to take advantage of another person's kindness. Richard is now serving time in prison. Hopefully, he'll use that time to truly reflect on the pain that he has caused.
Meet Petra Pazsitka
Petra Pazsitka was born in Germany. As far as she knew, she had lived there all her life. In 1984, she was a normal 24-year-old woman studying computer science at a German college. One day, she went to the dentist and then had plans to take the bus to her parents' house.
She gave her keys to her neighbors so they could take care of her birds for the day and off she went. She took 4,000 Deutschmarks out of her bank account and she never showed up to her parents' house. Pretty soon, she was reported as a missing person.
Everyone Was Looking For Petra
Petra’s family thought that something terrible may have happened to Petra. They tried contacting her friends and her teachers. They talked to everybody who was in contact with her. They also called the police, and pretty soon, there was a full out manhunt for Petra Pazsitka.
The police were unable to find her and five years later, the mystery remained unsolved. German police suspected the worst, and many people started to believe that Petra was dead.
A Chilling Confession
Five years went by and then out of the blue, Petra's case was featured on a German crime show called Aktenzeichen XY. Police suspected that a convicted rapist and murderer by the name of Gunter K could have killed Petra Pazsitka. He had already been convicted of murdering a 14 year old girl in the same area that Petra was last seen.
Gunter K actually ended up confessing to killing Petra even though no body was ever found and Gunter couldn't provide any concrete proof of her death. Police took this admission of guilt at face value and Petra was declared dead in 1989.
31 Years Later Petra Reappeared
It was over thirty years later when police were investigating a robbery in Düsseldorf. The police knocked on the door of the apartment next to the one that had been robbed to ask the neighbors if they had heard or seen anything out of the ordinary. The neighbor who answered the door was a 56-year-old woman who admitted that she had been living under a false identity.
She said that her real name was Petra Pazsitka, and police immediately knew that she was the girl from the news stories all those years ago.
She Doesn't Want To See Her Family
Petra made a living by working different jobs under different identities. She never opened a bank account and she paid all of her bills in cash. She didn't apply for a driver's license or a passport or any identifying documents. Petra wouldn't tell the police why she decided to leave her old life behind.
Bosse, the detective who took over Petra's case, phoned Petra's mother and brother (her father had passed away) to let them know that Petra was alive. Petra refused to meet with her family even though they very much wanted to see her.
The Strange Case Of Philip Sessarego
Philip Sessarego was born in Britain. He served in the Royal Artillery when he was young and he had always dreamed of becoming a member of Britain's Special Air Service. He trained hard to serve at that elite level, but he failed to get into the program. Twice.
Philip couldn't take the rejection, so he decided to become somebody else. If Philip couldn't be a SAS member, maybe he could become somebody who could.
He Faked His Own Death
If he was going to become somebody else, he first had to kill off his old identity. Phillip Sessarego had a full life. He was married to a lovely woman named Diane and he had a son and a daughter. He decided that he no longer wanted to be a husband and a father. Documentary-maker James Ross said, “No matter what he achieved in life, this notion of being in the SAS remained the pinnacle of everything he wanted to do.”
Philip concocted a plan to make it seem like he had been killed by a car bomb in Croatia.
The New Tom Carew
Philip took on the identity of SAS member Tom Carew. "Tom" didn't go into hiding. Instead, he (feeling very confident) wrote a book about the secret operations he was involved in as an SAS fighter in Afghanistan. The book, titled Jihad! The Secret War in Afghanistan. The book did very well. it made several bestseller lists and sold over 40,000 copies.
By 2001, Tom Carew was a public figure who engaged in public speaking and appeared on daytime talk shows. He spoke about his (false) experiences with the SAS in the Middle East.
Not The Man We Thought He Was
Two years later, the BBC exposed Tom Carew as a fraud. The staff of Newsnight had a feeling that Carew wasn't telling the whole truth. They started researching his life and his military service only to find that nobody by the name of Tom Carew had ever served in the SAS.
During an interview, BBC reporter George Eykyn asked Carew a question that a member of the SAS should have been able to answer. Tom couldn't answer the question so he became very defensive and then tried to leave the interview.
Phillip Was Pronounced Dead For Real This Time
It came as a real shock for Philip's wife, Diane to see him on television posing as somebody else. She had been mourning her husband's death for years now. Even after he was exposed, Philip made no attempt to contact his family. He went back into hiding and in the winter of 2009, his body was found in a rented garage in Antwerp.
Investigators believe that Philip died while hiding from people who were very angry about what he had done.
Arthur Jones Liked To Gamble
Arthur Jones lived in Chicago with his wife of twenty years and his three children. He made his living as a commodities broker. He also had a gambling addiction and he had lost a large about of money gambling (unbeknownst to his wife).
Arthur tried to pay off $210,000 of debt by selling his seat on the board of trade. Then he disappeared without a trace. Arthur told his wife he was late for a business meeting and walked out the front door. His wife never saw him again.
Arthur Became A Missing Person
Arthur's wife, Joanne reported Arthur missing. Police started investigated and they quickly found his Buick at the O'Hare International Airport. They also found a pair of his sunglasses. They couldn't find Arthur, though. The case went totally cold. Joanne and her three children were left without answers. A while later, the police finally declared Arthur dead.
It would be 32 years before Joanne and her kids would learn what really happened to their father.
He Was In Vegas The Whole Time
Of course, a man with a gambling addiction would find his way to Sin City. In July of 2011, Arthur Jones was found working under a false name as a bookie in Las Vegas. He stole the social security number of a living person by the name of Joseph Sandelli.
He created false documents including a driver's license and a voting card. Arthur was charged with four felony counts, including identity theft and fraud.
Julian Hernandez Was Taken From His Mother
Bobby Hernandez's son, Julian Hernandez, lived with his mother in Alabama. In August of 2002, Bobby went to visit his son, but he and his girlfriend at the time got into a fight. He told Julian's mother that he would take Julian if she ever broke up with him. They did break up and they got into a complicated custody battle.
Bobby decided to take the law into his own hands. He kidnapped his son and took him far away from his mother. It would be 13 years before Julian ever saw his mother again.
A Fake Identity For Julian
Bobby drove his son to Cleveland, Ohio. He got a new Ohio driver's license under the name Jonathan Mangina. He also got a fake ID for his son. Julian was now known as "J.J."
It wasn't until "J.J." was 18 years old and applying to colleges that he noticed that something was off. He had to fill out a lot of official paperwork for college applications and some of those documents required a social security number.
How Bobby Got Caught
When "J.J." was applying for colleges, his guidance counselor let him know that his name and his social security number weren't matching up. After some investigating, "J.J." found out that his real name was Julian Hernandez. He also found out that he was on the list of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Julian was shocked to find out about what his father did, especially because his father had always been a supportive and encouraging figure in his life. Bobby was arrested shortly after authorities confirmed Julian's true identity.
Reuniting With His Mother
Julian's mother was overwhelmed and overjoyed when police called her to inform her that her son had been found. Police Lt. Johnny Evans told The Washington Post, "Once she finally realized it was him, she was excited — she was ecstatic."
In a statement, she said, "Our family was overjoyed this week to locate Julian and learn that he is safe. We want to thank everyone for their prayers and support during Julian’s disappearance.” Julian traveled to Alabama and had Thanksgiving dinner with his mother for the first time in 13 years.