To the world, they seemed like they had it all. To the family, they couldn’t be happier. Yet, little did his wife know that there was something brewing under the surface – something that would break up their family forever and be the cause of the entire family’s pain and suffering for the next 23 years.
One day, her husband that she had loved so much just disappeared from her life. It took her decades to find out why, and when she did, she was devastated.
To this day, discussing what happened to their family is a nearly impossible task. It still gives all of them the chills.
To think that a loving father would just get up and leave their lives all of a sudden is unbelievable, especially for the ones who loved him the most.
For 23 years, their minds were plagued incessantly with questions, doubts, and hidden fears.
“Would he ever come back? Would we ever see him again? Was he being held captive?”, and the hardest one of all to swallow:” Did he ever really love us?”
After years of torment, his wife finally uncovered the truth.
While initially she couldn’t believe that her husband of so many years was nothing like the man he presented himself to be, her feelings of shock quickly turned to rage, because, in her heart, she knew that she had been married to a coward.
However, life could have never signaled to Linda Iseler when she met Richard Hoagland in the 1980s that she would have been making the worst decision of her life.
There were no signs in the early days. Not a whisper. Not a word of caution from a family member. They all seemed to like him, and he appeared to be the perfect man for her.
She had fallen in love with a man who she believed shared her every hope and desire.
She couldn’t believe that there was someone out there who truly understood her and who she, in turn, understood like she had known him her entire life. There was only one thing left…
To those around them, it was clear that they were made for each other. Therefore, in the early 80s, Linda and Richard got married, had a wedding, and enjoyed the early days of their marriage.
It didn’t take long for them to solidify their union in a way that so many couples across the world do.
In no time, Linda and Richard got a home in Minneapolis, Indiana, and settled there. Not too long afterward, they had two children, Matthew and Douglass.
To Linda, she had made the right decision. It was natural, after all, to start a family with the man she had loved so deeply. Years later, she would grow to regret this decision…
To any and everyone who knew them, the Hoagland family seemed like they were perfect. The two parents had had two sons and were pretty well off financially.
While Linda wasn’t the breadwinner of the family, she didn’t know of her husband to have any financial problems, and all seemed well.
Linda and Richard were the type of married couple who loved to invite their friends and family over to have lunch and dinner. Their house was always the center of some get-together that the two had orchestrated.
They enjoyed having people around, and it showed in their hospitality and willingness to share their private space with those they loved the most.
What’s more, Linda and Richard also had an affinity for going outdoors and enjoying nature. At times, they would camp in the woods with their two sons Matthew and Douglass, sometimes spending a weekend there just to be one with nature.
Linda believed that their marriage would last forever and that he really was the man of her dreams. Then, she would come to understand that things really weren’t as they seemed …
All it took was one call to change Linda’s life upside down.
However, as she later told interviewers, nothing that day could have betrayed that she was about to experience the worst thing that would ever happen to her in life, something that would forever change her family and two sons for good.
Linda was at work when it happened. Approaching her lunch hour, she got a call from her husband, Richard. When she saw his name pop up on the caller ID, she wasn’t surprised.
He usually called her throughout the day to find out how she was doing and to ensure that she was having a good day at work. However, she would soon discover that this call was out of the ordinary, to say the least …
It was a fairly normal day in February 1993 when Linda got the news that would haunt her for the next 23 years of her life. Her husband, Richard, had called her to tell her that he wasn’t feeling well and that he was fearing for his health.
Apparently, he was feeling incredibly ill and had to rush to the emergency room. If only Linda knew …
Immediately, Linda was stricken with fear. She felt her heart drop to the soles of her feet as the news weighed in. Her husband’s life was in danger, and she just couldn’t wrap her head around it.
Just that morning, she had kissed him goodbye and went to work. Now he was calling to say that he felt incredibly ill. What was going on?
At that moment, Linda couldn’t think properly. Instead, she did the natural thing that any partner would do, which was to offer assistance.
She stated that she would have left work that very minute to find him the help that he needed. She was prepared to head to the emergency room with him. Instead, she got a disturbing reply on the other line …
To Linda’s horror, her requests fell on deaf ears. Instead, her husband told her not to worry herself, and that she should stay at work. This made no sense to Linda.
There he was telling her that he felt incredibly ill, now he’s saying that she doesn’t need to escort him to the emergency room. That wasn’t the most surprising thing …
Linda was even more surprised when her husband told her that when she knocks off of work, she should go home to their son, as he was at home unattended. Linda couldn’t understand what was happening.
On one hand, her husband was now unwell, and instead of wanting her to be a support system for her, he’s asking her to stay away. It made no sense …
To Linda’s shock, before she could get another word out, Richard quickly stated that he was headed to the emergency room and, with that, ended the call.
Now, she was left alone with some distressing news and an even more distressing request – not to follow him. It was all so odd to her. Yet, she did the natural thing.
Linda was not prepared to sit idly while her husband was in poor health.
Therefore, she took half-day at work and went home shortly thereafter to meet her son at home.
After ensuring that her son was doing well at home, she proceeded to call Richard to find out where he was. He didn’t answer.
Now, she had another predicament. He told her he was going to the emergency room, yet she had no idea which emergency room he had gone to. Where could he be?
With no time to waste, Linda went through the directory and called every emergency room in the area she could find, yet no leads were brought.
None of the hospitals had received a check-in for Richard. She was worried sick. Then, she got a call that changed everything …
Just as she was getting wrought with worry, in came a call from Richard. Before she could get a word in, he had stated to her that he couldn’t live like this before hanging up the phone.
It was then that Linda knew that he hadn’t gone to an emergency room …
While the phone in her hand, Linda tried her best to process what was happening.
It was clear that her husband had lied to her, but just what was going on? Did he run away? Was he having a midlife crisis? Then, she got another call that got her even more worried than she was before …
Linda didn’t have to wait long before she got another peculiar call from her husband, Richard.
This time, he made a chilling statement: “I don’t want to go to jail,” before hanging up. Now, Linda knew something was up.
Linda was trying desperately to understand what was going on.
It was strange: what was her husband talking about? Did he commit a crime? If so, was it murder, or…?
Linda struggled to come to grips with what was happening. It didn’t make sense to her.
However, she would soon get a rude awakening, one that she would have never expected.
Before she could even get her bearings together to file a missing person’s report, Linda was greeted at her home by a few men who presented themselves as police officers.
Now, she was fearful. What was happening?
In one day, Linda’s entire life and dream had shattered. Yet, she had no time to pick up the pieces.
Instead, she found herself at a police station being questioned by officers about all types of crimes she had never even heard of – but all of them had one similarity …
To her dismay, she was being forcefully questioned about money laundering incidents, almost as if she were implicated in the matter. What was going on?
Linda was completely shell-shocked as nothing made any sense to her. In need of answers, as soon as she was released from the officers’ custody, she decided that it was time that she got answers …
Confused and in need of answers, Linda contacted an attorney to help her make sense of what was happening in her life.
It didn’t take long for the lawyer to get back to her with some chilling news …
The attorney revealed that her husband had been having serious financial challenges. He had maxed out a series of credit cards, and when he wasn’t able to get any more, he forged Linda’s signature.
Now, she was implicated in his money fraud schemes.
Linda couldn’t come to grips with what she was hearing. Her husband had never suggested that they were having financial difficulties.
While she did work, Richard had undertaken all financial responsibilities within the home. Now, she was stuck with fraudulent transactions that she had no part in.
Emotionally hurt and psychologically traumatized, Linda was beside herself. She tried desperately to get in touch with Richard, but he refused to answer her calls.
It had been weeks and she and her family had been abandoned by the man who kissed her goodbye every morning and who loved his two sons Matthew and Douglass to bits. But still, she had no time to internalize anything: she had to do something that she never imagined she would ever do.
As per the advice from her legal consultant, Linda filed for a divorce.
At least that way, she would not bear responsibility for the charges her husband had made as, being divorced, she would not share his assets or debt. Yet, there was a major hurdle that Linda had to jump over…
The difficulty that Linda was having was that through forgery, her name had been associated with the fraudulent transactions committed by her husband.
How was she going to clear that debt from her name?
Luckily, Linda’s lawyer was no amateur, so she was able to get divorced without any transferral of Richard’s debt to her name. The lawyer had argued that Linda had not declared enough earnings to claim any of the debt that was racked up and that it had to be Richard who had to take responsibility.
Yet, while that nightmare was over, there were others that Linda still had to face …
Worse than the allegations that were brought against her, Linda and her family were devastated by Richard’s sudden absence.
For years, they struggled emotionally to get through it. Of course, Linda took it terribly, having felt like she was living a lie for so many years of her life. Yet, the ones who took it even worse were her two sons …
When they were growing up, Matthew and Douglass were too young to understand why their father had abandoned them.
To them, while he had legal problems, he shouldn’t have just deserted them. They felt unwanted and unloved. That caused immense personal issues for them growing up …
While the entire family was devastated by the sudden disappearance of Richard in their lives, Douglass was the one who took it the hardest.
He was the younger of the two sons, and at such an impressionable age, he couldn’t deal with the pain. He ended up turning to the worst …
Unable to deal with the hurt at the loss of his father from his life, Douglass ended up becoming a bit of a problematic child, eventually growing up into becoming a drug dealer who got eight years in prison.
Those closest to him said that he wasn’t the same after his father left and that that pain is what caused him to go down the wrong road. Linda was another who was permanently scarred …
In as much as it was difficult for Linda to watch her son go down the wrong path, Linda was battling her own pain and suffering. She had her own hurt to deal with.
The man whom she had loved and started a family with just got up and left her at a moment’s notice. What’s more, through the years that followed, Linda and her family had scary things to worry about …
The years following Richard’s sudden departure was marked by fear for the family. Linda would return home to find items in her house that had been shifted around.
Her mail would be opened and then resealed. She even found a recording device attached to her phone in the kitchen. She got the feeling that she was being watched, and she couldn’t put her family through that.
When Linda had decided that enough was enough, she took her two sons and moved cities, establishing a new life. She only told her parents and one close friend from her hometown where she was moving to.
She didn’t want to risk being followed. There, she had hoped to start fresh.
One day, a police officer based in Miami got into contact with her and asked her whether she knew who Richard was.
When she responded affirmatively, he indicated to her that they had had him in their possession, twenty-three years after he had been on the run.
Through conversing with the police officer, she got to know that Richard had been living in Miami, Florida, where he had acquired a fake ID of a dead Miami citizen, changed his name, and adopted a new identity.
What’s more, he had married another woman and had kids. Still, that left the question: how did he get caught?
His cover was blown when a family member of the dead Miami citizen whose ID Richard had robbed decided to search for his ancestral tree, and, upon discovering Richard’s new identity, raised the issue to his family who subsequently contacted the police.
He was later arrested and tried at court. However, would he be charged considering that it had been several years since he’d committed those heinous crimes?
To Linda’s dismay, she could not claim any money that he had stolen from her nor could she claim anything in emotional distress as five years had lapsed on her case.
However, he could not escape the charges to be brought to him for falsifying his identity. For that, he was sentenced to prison. However, there was a lot to be said on the matter, especially from a convict himself …
When Doug got wind about his father’s reappearance, he was still in jail. Yet, that didn’t stop him from penning a letter to his dad pouring his heart out and letting him know how his life had been damaged for years because of him.
It was a tragic yet healing moment for Doug as he was finally able to get stuff off of his shoulders …
Linda couldn’t deal with it. Here he was, a man that she had once loved, now a former shell of himself, and exposed to the world for the hurt that he had caused. All she could do was express her sympathy to Richard’s new family and try to move on with her new husband and two sons.
Years later, Linda looks back at the tragedy that had befallen her and her family with disbelief. Now, Doug is out of prison and everyone is trying to pick up the pieces of their lives following Richard’s sudden reappearance.
Still, none of them can truly get over the pain that was caused, nor will his arrest and incarceration undo the years that he was absent in their lives …