Twenty-Three Years After His Disappearance The Mystery Was Solved!
Hidden Financial Issues
That Spring, Richard contacted his son Matthew for his 10th birthday when he sent a card that contained a fifty-dollar bill. A few months later, he did the same for his son Douglas’ seventh birthday. This became the last time they ever heard from their father.
Apparently, before he left town, Richard had been struggling financially unbeknownst to the family. He almost maxed out all of their credit cards and even forged Linda’s signature on a bank loan. Linda filed for divorce, and in the decree, the judge ordered Richard to pay unpaid taxes, various loans and debts, and 26 credit cards.
A Family In Shock
In the cards he sent to his sons, 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.”
Little did they know, those would be the last words Richard’s sons would ever see from him. “Initially, you think: ‘OK, this won’t last long. He’ll be back,’” Matthew Hoagland told ABC. Matthew’s mother, Linda, also said, “He devastated us. He left us with nothing, absolutely nothing. I was very broken.”
Struggling on Their Own
Linda was unable to pay their mortgage and car loans and it seemed as though the walls were closing in on the family. It was then that the police began to question Linda on Richard’s disappearance. They insinuated that Linda knew where he had gone or that she knew what actually happened to him.
Linda continuously told police she had no idea about where Richard had gone. She told them that he had called her and said that he was never returning. Police continued to suspect her and subjected her to numerous police interrogations but Linda never once wavered on the story.
Linda Under Suspicion
Eventually one of the police officers, a detective, actually claimed that Linda knew where her husband had disappeared to. He claimed that it was a big financial hoax and that Linda was planning to take her children and eventually meet up with Richard. While being repeatedly questioned by police, Linda had even bigger problems to worry about – her finances.
All of the financial damage that Richard had left her with was starting to add up. No longer able to pay her bills, Linda had to declare bankruptcy. This was a nightmare scenario for a woman with two children, especially when her husband had been the primary breadwinner.
The Family Was Followed
Instead of staying with his family and dealing with the financial issues that he had created, Richard decided to take the easy way out and disappear. In return, he left his family’s lives in complete and total ruin. Linda ended up depending on her parents to get by during this dire time.
She began to notice a variety of strange things that seemed to suggest that she was being watched and she became more and more sure of it. She would notice strange people that seemed to be following her, cars parked outside, her mail was opened and re-sealed, and items in her house seemed as though they were being moved.
Family Goes into Hiding
One February, her father even found a recording device attached to her phone line. Linda was convinced that Richard had been involved with unsavory individuals and that’s why he left town. She said, “When you’re in that situation, you become very paranoid.” The bank eventually came and foreclosed on the family’s home and almost simultaneously repossessed her vehicle.
That October, Linda and family decided to go into hiding in McCordsville, Indiana. She was desperate to keep herself and her children safe, especially if Richard had been involved in something shady. Linda ensured all of the bills were in her parents’ names, so they couldn’t be tracked to her. She also had her boys catch the school bus from the home of a friend, all in order to prevent anyone from finding out where she lived.
Linda and her family stayed in hiding for over six months, but the fear did not drop away then. The family continued to be fearful, and almost paranoid for years. The troubles, sadly, didn’t stop there. Linda was still being watched by the police department. It seemed like Linda and her family were destined to live in a constant state of suffering after the departure of her husband.
How could Richard do this to people that he claimed to love? Luckily, Linda still had her parents to help her at the time. In an interview with ABC, Linda’s elderly mother recounted how painful the entire situation had been.
Richard Hoagland Resurfaces
In 2016, the truth was finally uncovered. A detective named Anthony Cardillo of the Pasco County Sheriff’s Department in Florida called Linda. He asked, “Do you know who Richard Hoagland is?” Linda could hardly believe what she was hearing after all of these years.
Apparently, throughout all of her family’s strife, Richard had settled down again in West Palm Beach, Florida. He was alive, content, and happily remarried. He even had another child with his new wife, a son. Detective Cardillo told Linda that they had Richard in custody. He had been arrested for using the identity of a dead man.
After Richard left his family he rented a home and found a death certificate in the house. It belonged to a man named Terry Symansky who had died in 1991. At this point, Richard decided to make the fateful decision to cut all ties to his family and assume another person’s identity.
Richard Hoagland decided to become Terry Symansky. From there, the new Terry embarked on a new life, he got a job, a home, and even found love again. He seemingly loved his life in West Palm Beach. None of his new loved ones in his new life were aware of anything amiss.
The man that Hoagland rented a home from was Edward Symansky, who was still lamenting the death of his son Terry. Hoagland was renting an efficiency apartment that was in Symansky’s home in Port St. Lucie, Florida. Because of the close proximity, Hoagland was often there to listen to Symansky reminisce about his son, but little did he know, Hoagland would take advantage of this information, especially after finding Terry’s birth certificate.
Cynthia Bujnak, Terry’s sister, told People after Hoagland’s arrest, “My dad was grieving and pouring his heart out… My dad was the victim. Even after 23 years, the truth will always come out.”
A Final Arrest
Everything began to crumble for Richard when Terry Symansky’s real nephew was doing some research on ancestry.com. The nephew found something in his research that seemed out of place. His uncle, who had been dead for many years, had somehow been listed as getting remarried and even getting his pilot’s license.
The nephew contacted authorities and from there the truth began to unravel. In July of 2016, the same month as his son Douglas’ birthday, the 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.
Repercussions For His Actions
After all of these years, Richard was finally being held accountable for all of the wrongs he had committed, both legally and morally. Sadly, prosecutors were unable to file charges for theft against Richard from back in Indiana. The authorities couldn’t find affidavit that contained the original allegations.
Of course, this included the forged loan document where he had signed Linda’s name and stolen credit cards. The state of Indiana maintains a statute of limitations on a theft that is five years. So while he couldn’t be held accountable for the crimes of his past he could still be charged with stealing a dead man’s identity.
Two Destroyed Families
While living as Terry Symansky, Richard had remarried and had another son who is now 19 years old. Richard’s two families have never met, including the 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 has now successfully torn apart not one but two families that he has claimed to love with his atrocious actions. In the meantime, Linda’s attorney, Tom Markle, is attempting to get some kind of reparations by demanding that Richard pays almost $2 million dollars in unpaid child support. Richard will more than likely have to pay restitution for making a living as Terry Symansky.
Richard’s New Family
Posing as Terry Symansky, Richard remarried a woman named Mary Hossler Hickman in 1995 and the newlyweds settled in Zephyrhills, Florida. They even had a son together, who was just a teenager by the time his father was caught and arrested.
While Hoagland’s Florida family has remained generally quiet throughout the whole situation, the Tampa Bay Times reported that Mary later found a briefcase that contained documents about Hoagland’s real identity, as well as a deed to a property in Louisiana, and the key to a storage unit. According to detectives, their son “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.”
A Son’s Struggle
While Richard did send his first sons a few cards over the years, the experience he put his family through cannot be forgotten. His sons, Matthew and Doug, especially were irrevocably harmed by his actions. Matthew became “the rock” for his mother and Doug took his father’s disappearance very hard. Ultimately Doug even has had to serve multiple prison sentences for drug-related charges.
He wrote a letter to his father, that was obtained by People magazine. Doug said that it caused him to have so much anger, and he partially wondered if something was wrong with him. Ultimately, he turned to drugs. Doug said that he forgives his father, but he has one big question for him, “Why?”
A Bad Example
Doug’s brother Matthew Hoagland is now 33 years old and has his own family. Matthew has had a hard time figuring out how someone could walk away from their own family. Matthew said he initially thought that his father would return, but he has come to believe that his father got caught up in something bad and that’s why he chose to leave.
Matthew wears his father’s ring, and he said he wears it to remember the bad example his father set, so Matthew never makes the same mistake with his own family. Even Linda’s elderly mother said that she “is tickled” that he is now confined since he cannot stand being in any one place.
Still No Explanation
Since the solved mystery, Richard has refused to talk and has not given any explanation about his choice to disappear. He has given no response that would go along with the claim that he was in financial dire straits, or account for why he forged Linda’s name. Terry Symansky’s family was also hurt by Richard’s choices, especially because it seems as though Richard knew Terry’s father.
Terry’s grieving father poured out his heart to Richard, and in response, he stole the death certificate of his son. It is unlikely Richard will ever give any reasoning to atrocious actions and why he felt so desperate to leave. One thing can be sure, the truth will always prevail no matter where you go or what you do to get away from it. If you thought this story was unbelievable, you won’t believe the story of a girl who was kidnapped just eight hours after she was born!