This woman was just 8, kirsten myers ruggiano was just 8 years old when her father eric, a devout christian and heir to a real estate fortune, disappeared without a trace. For years she blamed... See More
This woman was just 8, kirsten myers ruggiano was just 8 years old when her father eric, a devout christian and heir to a real estate fortune, disappeared without a trace. For years she blamed herself. So as you grew older, did you feel that dad just doesn't want to be with us, he left us? Yeah. Maybe I wasn't a good enough kid. Reporter: With no father, she says her mother, anne became her world. My mother is one of the most selfless people I've ever met. If either my sister or I called her and said, "i need you here now," she would absolutely drop everything to be by our side as soon as she needed to. Reporter: While anne was stitching together her frayed family together, a much different scene was playing out nearly a thousand miles south in cabo san lucas, mexico. With its warm sand and cold, colorful drinks, it's a great getaway or escape. And it was just that for a newcomer who called himself "roberto." He took odd jobs as a bouncer, a physical trainer with no i.D. Required. No one got close enough to know who he was or why he was there. But "roberto" was actually eric myers. He says he's poverty stricken. He doesn't know where his next meal is going to come from. It's very dramatic. Reporter: The mexican getaway goes on for four months without one phone call home. Then "roberto" heads back stateside, not to phoenix, but to swinging palm springs, california. Hollywood's ritzy desert playground. Everyone from the rat pack to elvis to barbara streisand have had homes here. But why would a poverty-stricken eric, who's now calling himself "robert" land in such an expensive spot? Tonight for the first time on camera, eric myers explains his bizarre odyssey. I just wanted it all to end. I wanted everything to end. Reporter: He says it's a story of pain that came to a head during that business trip in san diego. You get to san diego, and you check into the hotel. Mm-hmm. Reporter: What do you remember about the hotel? I don't remember even checking in. I don't recall checking into any hotel, let alone the one I did, and I don't remember checking out. Reporter: Some would say that maybe you choose not to remember because you don't have to answer to anything. And I'd say it'd be much better for me to have my whole story spelled out than have these gaps. I'm answering honestly that i have gaps. Reporter: Eric says he had an emotional breakdown, and that's when things headed south literally to cabo. I just had to get away. You know, I'm going through justification things along the way 'cause I'm sitting there saying, you can do this and still go back. I wondered about him. I wondered if he'd ever come back. And at some point, it became clear to me that he was never coming back. And that I needed to just move on. Reporter: How much are you thinking about your kids? I would try not to dwell or think down that road, because that would just take me into a very dark place, and again, this isn't a justification. Reporter: But isn't that a selfish way to look at it? Oh, horrible -- Reporter: I mean, you're thinking about yourself and shutting down, and you've got children who are crying themselves to sleep, wondering what happened to their dad? I cannot say anything to deny that it is the most selfish thing in the world, and I will never be painted as a saint. But no one is all good, and no one is all bad. Reporter: If he wasn't thinking about his kids, what was he thinking about? It was this man, sean lung. We were both alone. We felt alone, and we kind of connected because of that, and it was instant. Reporter: You see, eric wasn't just hiding out, he was coming out. At 6 years old I knew I was attrted, drawn very heavily to other people my same sex. Reporter: That's right. The once straight-laced, evangelical family man is gay. Something that has tortured him since adolescence. That was when I started thinking, this isn't right. You know, I want to be with men. And so I'm assuming it's right around mid-12 to mid-13 I had three different suicide events. Reporter: He says he considered taking his life once with a gun, another time perched on the edge of a cliff. I'm on that cliff -- -- just like that. I'm looking at that gun just like that. And I think I'll go to my grave that way. I've let go of being ashamed and that there's anything wrong with it. But remembering the pain brings it back like it was yesterday, yesterday I was on the cliff. Reporter: So young eric joined an evangelical church trying to pray it all away. You were trying to -- get rid of satan. I thought I was possessed. Reporter: When that didn't work, he hoped marrying his friend anne and starting a family might help. But it wasn't until he ran away from that family and met sean, a canadian tourist, that he finally felt right. I remember thinking that I'm not going to be with sean that long, but at a two-week point of our being together, I turned around and said to him, I think I'm falling in love with you. Reporter: And palm springs, with its sunny, gay lifestyle, was the perfect place for that love to flourish. ♪ when sean develops an interest in photography, eric even poses nude for him. Images later exhibited at a local art gallery. But while he was baring all for the cameras, it would take a while for him to reveal his most private parts, for sean to learn the truth about his new love; eric myers. Did he come across as a guy who was on the run? No. Reporter: Ditched his family? Not at all, no. Reporter: You weren't troubled by that? I didn't know that part. Reporter: And eric doesn't know how much his family is hurting. How did you deal with the sadness? How did you cope with those feelings? Badly. I think I was 11 when I first started, like, stealing wine and realized that it made me feel less sad. And then I think that was the beginning of experimenting with self-medicating behavior. Reporter: Kirsten says she struggled with addictions for years and thanks to her mom sobered up and began building a new life. Meantime, her father is building a new life with that new love, sean. The years roll by with two worlds unfolding. Eric is now finding comfort in his gay life. Sean now knows him as a man of many secrets but accepts him anyway. They move to vancouver, canada, where eric creates yet another alias, calling himself "chaz," EVEN CLAIMING TO HAVE A PhD. From princeton. Why did you do that? Well, I definitely believed that I knew how to market. And so I wanted the credentials, which wouldn't be checked out very well, and, in fact, in princeton they don't have a marketing degree. Reporter: While eric is living a lofty ivy league fraud, his former family has a lowly reality back in the desert. Remember, they had declared him legally dead and are trying to put their grief behind them. But anne myers has no clue that a grenade is about to blow her world apart. She says that her first reaction was, oh, my god, the anti-christ has returned. He got away clean, but he came back and destroyed everybody's life in the process. He's a sick, psychotic person who has only ever acted for himself.
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