Twenty-Three Years After His Strange Disappearance, The Mystery Was Finally Solved

A Strange Tale

The two love birds had a very happy marriage and soon after they tied the knot, Linda gave birth to their two sons. They settled in Indianapolis. When their sons, Matthew and Douglas, turned nine and six years old, suddenly the happy family’s life turned upside down in the blink of an eye. Something was very wrong in the household, and only one person knew.


A Terrible Secret

It turned out that Richard Hoagland was hiding a terrible secret. As the days passed on he withdrew more and more from his family. His wife, Linda, noticed his behavior but made up excuses for it within her own mind. The happy family façade quickly began to crumble. The poor boys remained blissfully unaware that anything in their life was amiss. Apparently, this was an issue that Richard felt could not be fixed or even talked about. In hindsight it seems that throughout the entire time Richard was at home with his family, he was quietly planning something that no one could have seen coming.


An Unassuming Call

In February of 1993, Linda went to work, just as she did every other day. She worked at a medical office, and on February 10th at 4:45 PM, Richard gave Linda a call at work. He said that he had to go to the emergency room because he wasn’t feeling well. Linda offered to come meet Richard at the hospital, but he said that he “couldn’t wait.” Linda had no idea that everything was about to change. She went about her day and picked up younger son Douglas from daycare after work. She got home at 5:25 P.M. and was shocked when she discovered that Matthew had been left home alone.


A Left-Behind Life

Linda called all the local hospitals but no one had any record of Richard ever being there. Richard had left no sign that he was leaving, his clothes were in the closet, his passport remained untouched. Linda recounted, “It was cold. It was in February. He didn’t take a coat.” Could ha have collapsed somewhere? She was worried. In one moment, their successful life together unraveled. Richard had a previous divorce and claimed to be in love when he met Linda. He was successful in business and took his family on luxurious vacations. He couldn’t just up and leave such a successful life like his, could he?


A Shattered Life

Less than one hour later, her life was in ruins with a simple phone call. The phone rang and at the other end was Richard. HIs voice shaky he croaked “I can’t live this way anymore. I feel you would be better off without me.” He quickly hung up, not even allowing his wife to respond. A few hours later he called back with one more strange message, he said, “I don’t want to go to jail. I’m never coming back.” Within a 24-hour period, Richard had dismantled his family and turned their life upside down with no warning or explanation. He disappeared on that day, February 10, 1993.


Richard Flees

A few days after his last call, Richard Hoagland’s car was discovered abandoned. Various airlines and their flight records were searched. His name was never found, he vanished like a ghost. Richard then popped again and called twice more, but always called collect. After Linda checked the phone records, it showed that his calls came once from Venezuela and another time from Aruba. How strange. With the patriarch of their family disappearing into thin air, it seemed like things couldn’t get much worse. As Linda and her two sons tried to cope with the loss of their husband and father, police began to investigate Richard’s mysterious disappearance.


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 would be the last time they ever heard from him. Apparently, before he left town, Richard had been struggling financially unbeknown 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 at the time of reading this that those would be the last words  they would ever read from their dad. “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 started probing, insinuating 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 changed her story.


Linda Under Suspicion

Eventually one of the police officers, a detective, actually claimed that Linda knew where her husband had disappeared to. He stated that it was a big financial hoax and that Linda was planning to take her children and eventually meet up with Richard. After being continuously questioned by the police up to breaking point, 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. Instead of facing problems he darted as fast as he could without thinking about the consequences. 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 nightmare time. She began to notice a variety of strange things that seemed to suggest that she was being watched. 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 some sort of loan sharks 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 go away during that scary and unsettling time. The family continued to be fearful, and almost paranoid for years. The troubles, didn’t stop there sadly. 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 revealed. The pieces of the puzzle were finally put together. 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.


Stolen Identity

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 that fateful decision that would change their lives, 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 fell in 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.


Taking Advantage

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 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 of course contacted authorities, because he was very confused, 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 caught and 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. Yet how did Linda feel about that?


Two Families Destroyed

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.  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. But would he be able to?


Richard’s New Family

Taking a new identity 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 or forgiven even after the truth came out. His sons, Matthew and Doug, were harmed by his actions. Growing up without a father as a role model, leaving them to struggle and have to go into hiding.  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.  One thing he has taken from his father, how to be an amazing dad and not to follow in those footsteps.


Still No Explanation

Since the solved mystery, Richard has refused to talk and has not given any explanation about his choice to disappear.  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 cut his heart even more by stealing the death certificate of his son. It is unlikely Richard will ever give any reasoning to the unforgivable actions and why he felt so desperate to leave. One thing can be sure, the truth will always come out. You can’t run 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!


More Cases Of A Disappearance

Richard Hoagland wasn’t the first person to try to kill off a life and start another one. Whether they are carrying extreme guilt, regret their choices, or are bored with life, some people decide the best thing to do, is to try to disappear. Read on to hear some of the other mysteries of disappearing people who were eventually found alive, many years later.


Petra Pazsitka

Born and living in Germany, Petra Pazsitka was a 24-year-old woman attending college, studying computer science. She didn’t lead a controversial lifestyle and was considered very much normal. That was why it was so odd and suspicious when she mysteriously disappeared in 1984. After having gone to the dentist one day, she was supposed to arrive to her parents’ house later in the evening to celebrate her brother’s birthday. She gave her keys to a neighbor to take care of her birds and withdrew 4,000 Deutschmarks from her account. But she never showed up at her parents’ house, and the mystery as to her disappearance began.


The Search Begins


Petra’s family was absolutely terrified that something unthinkable had happened to her. Her family continuously searched for answers contacting anyone who they thought might have an answer about her whereabouts. As any worried family would do, they called authorities and the manhunt began to find Petra. Five years went by and the mystery of her disappearance was still unsolved. The family could not live their lives until they found her.



Five years later, Petra’s disappearance was featured on the German crime show Aktenzeichen XY. That’s when police suspected that convicted rapist and murderer by the name of Gunter K was responsible for the murder of Petra. Gunter K had previously been convicted of the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl in the same area that Petra went missing. There were no witnesses or physical evidence to the murder, but Gunter K admitted to killing Petra. Although no body was ever found, in 1989 she was declared dead. In a strange twist, Gunter K later retracted his admission to killing Petra, but still left authorities without a clue. But the tale was not over just yet….



31 Years Later

Over three decades later, a robbery was reported in the city of Düsseldorf, a city known for its classic  art and high fashion. Police knocked on the door of a neighbor to question her about anything she saw or heard regarding the robbery. When they asked for her name, the 56-year-old woman admitted that she had been living under a false identity for many years. When asked what her real name was, she replied, “Petra Pazsitka.” With the crime case having made headlines in Germany, police immediately recognized her name and story. The woman they all thought to be murdered and dead was, in fact, alive and well.



No Contact With Family

Petra admitted to having worked in the city for years, but would not specify what type of work, while doing so under different, false identities. She paid her bills in cash, and didn’t open a bank account, apply for a driver’s license or passport, or leave any paper trail as to her whereabouts. Petra did not offer any explanation as to why she took off. Police investigator Dirk Bosse was one of the men on the case. Although her father had passed away during the time of her disappearance, Bosse phoned Petra’s mother and brother to let them know she was alive. While Bosse believed Petra would want to reunite with them, she refused, leaving her family confused and heartbroken. To this day no one knows the reason for her disappearance.