The Infamous Disappearance and Reappearance of Indianapolis' Richard Hoagland

Shenba

The story of an average family man’s secret life that ultimately destroyed lives

Richard Hoagland was a typical family man from Indianapolis. His business thrived, and he led a comfortable life with his loving wife and two sons. His accomplices are dubbed as an energetic man who’s friendly, funny, and kind.

However, in the early ’90s, Richard started acting strange. He would stay in his room alone for hours. His wife, Linda, believed that he was fighting depression. She assumed it was common for middle-aged family men to be stressed with work, family, large bills, etc. She thought that if she gave him enough time, he’d be okay.

Yet, nothing went okay for the Hoaglands.

Gone in an ‘Emergency’

On February 10, 1993, Linda was at work when she received a call from Richard. He claimed to have a medical emergency and was going to the hospital. Linda offered to accompany him, but Richard didn’t want to wait.

During the day, Linda was anxiously waiting for some information from Richard. However, she received none. She assumed something worse had happened to him. Worried, Linda called several hospitals to check whether Richard was admitted there. But it was a dead end.

At this point, Linda was really concerned. It bothered her that maybe Richard met with a major accident; the hospital admitted him as John Doe in some hospital. Her thoughts kept running wild, with undesirable outcomes.

With no information, Linda felt helpless. So, she looked into Richard’s belongings for clues, maybe a friend she could contact or some sign indicating where he might be.

While checking Richard’s possessions, Linda noticed that all of Richard’s items were there. He hadn’t even taken his jacket on a cold February evening. She knew something was wrong, and it puzzled her.

The Bizarre Phone Calls

After a while, Linda finally gets a call from Richard. Relieved that Richard was alive, Linda picked up her phone, only to get more bad news.

Richard called to tell her he couldn’t live with her anymore, and so he left. Before Linda could process his statement and react, Richard hung up. After a few hours, he called again and told her, “I don’t want to go to jail. I’m not coming back.” Once again, he hung up before Linda could respond.

Fazed by the phone calls, Linda didn’t know what to do. She didn’t even know if it was really Richard. However, Linda couldn’t just sit there. So, she went to the police station and filed a formal complaint.

Over the next week, Richard called Linda several times. He only told her what he wanted to say and hung up. Linda never got an opportunity to ask him those burning questions she had. The police tracked these calls and found that they were from different places. One was from Venezuela, one from Aruba, and another from Florida. It baffled everyone how he was traveling.

Months passed by with no information. In May 1993, Richard sent a birthday card to his son, Matthew. A few months later, he sent another birthday card and 50 dollars to his other son, Douglas.

And that letter was the last time he ever contacted.

The Crumbling Life

Soon after Linda filed a complaint, the police started searching for Richard. They first found his abandoned car with no signs of foul play.

Upon investigating Richard’s life, the police found he was under severe financial duress. And since Richard was the breadwinner of the family, it was hard for Linda and the boys to cope. She didn’t know why he would leave them in such an awful state.

Linda was broken both emotionally and financially. Never in her life had she thought that she’d have to take care of the boys on her own. She couldn’t keep up with the mortgage payments, car payments, credit card bills, education, etc. Plus, with the financial burden that Richard had left them in, Linda couldn’t move forward.

To ease some financial strain, Linda and her kids moved in with her parents. She also filed for a divorce. The judge granted her divorce and ordered Richard to pay off his debts. However, he never returned to do it.

The Aftermath

As Linda struggled with her life, the police were investigating several aspects of Richard’s life. It was hard for them to accept that Richard uprooted his life unannounced. They suspected foul play and assumed that Linda was also a part of the conspiracy.

The police theorized that Linda and Richard had planned the incident to escape the financial burden. They speculated Richard disappeared first, and Linda and the kids would follow later. The police also suspected that Richard was involved in some illegal business transaction, and they were trying to save him. However, Linda had nothing to do with this. It frustrated her that the police kept coming back to her.

At around this point, Linda started getting paranoid. She felt like someone was following her. Her posts were delivered open, and her belongings were scattered. She even spotted a recording device in her room. Linda speculated that either the police were looking into her or Richard’s secret life was targeting her.

She no longer felt safe at her parent’s house. So, she and her kids moved to McCordsville, Indiana.

While Linda felt much safer at McCordsville, the damage was done. For several years, Linda lived in constant anxiety and paranoia. She constantly kept checking her surroundings, had all her bills sent to her parent’s place, and even asked her kids to board their school bus from their friend’s place.

It took about ten years for Linda to feel relaxed. By then, she’d sorted her life and was in a much stabler position. In 2003, the state declared Richard dead as there was no information on him.

While Linda moved on to remarry, the kids didn’t take their father’s disappearance well. Douglas got addicted to drugs in high school. He was convicted multiple times and had even served jail time. His father’s actions affected him gravely, and his resulting low self-esteem caused numerous problems.

Yet, the family still strived to move ahead when a phone call turned their world upside down.

Terry Symansky

In 2016, 23 years after he disappeared, a detective contacted her about Richard.

Initially, it annoyed Linda that the police were digging the past she desperately wanted to forget. But then, the detective told her they found him. It was time for her to get the answers she deserved.

In 1993, after Richard left home, he made it to Florida. He rented a room from a grieving man, Edward Symansky. Edward had lost his son, Terry, to a fishing accident. Edward had poured his soul to Richard, and he told him everything about Terry and their life.

Besides lending his shoulder to Edward, Richard used this story to his advantage. He found Terry’s death certificate in a drawer and used it to create an identity for himself.

Let me remind you that this was in the 1990s when digital records were almost non-existent. So, while it’s unknown how Richard used Terry’s death certificate to get a birth certificate, according to the investigators, Richard stole Terry’s identity like this:

Hoagland once lived with Terry Symansky’s father in Palm Beach. Hoagland found a copy of Terry Symansky’s 1991 death certificate and used it to obtain a birth certificate from Ohio. With the birth certificate in hand, he then applied by mail for an Alabama driver’s license and used that to obtain a Florida driver’s license. That’s how deputies think Hoagland came to spend more than two decades living in Florida as Terry Symansky.

In 1995, as Terry Symansky, Richard married a woman, Mary Hickman, and even had a son. They lived in Zephyrhills, Florida. He owned multiple properties there and even got a private pilot’s license.

He had settled well as Terry Symansky for almost 20 years.

Ancestry.com

In 2013, the real Terry’s nephew wanted to know about his family. So, he started searching for his relatives on ancestry.com, an online site for finding information about your lineage.

On that website, he found records about Terry Symansky. But he knew Terry had died in 1991. He realized that someone was impersonating his dead uncle. However, he and his family were scared that the perpetrator would harm them, so they kept silent.

By 2016, this nephew didn’t want to stay quiet anymore. He went to the police and told them everything. The police arrested Richard Hoagland in July 2016, 23 years after he went missing.

The Investigation, Trial, and Verdict

Initially, Richard feigned ignorance. He adamantly kept telling people he was Terry Symansky. However, he knew the police had him when they showed him the original Terry’s death certificate.

However, the biggest question everyone had was ‘why.’ Why did Richard Hoagland become Terry Symansky? Why did he give up everything in Indianapolis to move to Florida?

Initially, the police thought that Richard had run away to avoid financial burden. And from his phone calls with his wife, they assumed he got dragged into some illegal business, and the only way out was to go away. However, the reason Richard gave when they questioned him was different.

Richard said that he didn’t want to live with his family anymore. But instead of getting a divorce and paying alimony, he packed up and left.

The police wanted to charge Richard for all the crimes he had committed: identity theft, loan defaults, etc. They even set his bail at US$25,000. However, after reviewing the case, the police realized they couldn’t charge him for most of these crimes because of statute limitations. He had committed those crimes over 20 years ago.

Eventually, the police charged Richard with identity theft. In 2017, the judge sentenced Richard to only two years in prison for impersonation and identity fraud. Linda felt the sentence was unfair for the level of agony she had to go through.

So, Linda sued Richard for US$1.8 million for unpaid child support, mental stress, and divorce proceedings, and she won. However, since Richard has no wealth or job now, it’s unclear how he would repay her.

Lastly

Even though many regarded Richard Hoagland as a narcissist who managed to destroy two families, he never felt the need to apologize to anyone. Neither Linda, Mary, nor his kids. He accepted his punishment without regret. Currently, he is out of jail and is working to pay off the money he owes Linda.

Mary Hickman, Richard’s other wife, fought to retain the properties she bought with Terry. While she kept most of them, her life was uprooted and destroyed. It was terrible to recognize that 20 years of her life was a lie. She fell for a fraudulent man, and that affected her.

As for Linda’s family, they still believe that Richard ran away to evade some dubious dealings. But they are relieved to get some closure. In an interview, Linda exclaimed,

“I was glad that we finally had made it to that point where he would be held accountable for his behavior.” — Linda Iseler

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