Transcript for How Missing Indiana Man's Family Found him Alive 23 Years Later
tonight with a mystery that got solved only to lead to another deeper mystery. Why would a seemingly happy husband and father disappear, vanish? Wait until you see what his family learns when they finally find him. Here's ABC's Nick wan. Reporter: Bliss in the American heartland. What did you love about him? He was a lot of fun to be with. Reporter: Then February 10, 1993, Richard vanished. Never came home from his insurance job. Called, said he was sick, going to the hospital. Linda calls the hospital. Not a trace. Her husband had disappeared. Didn't even take his passport. His toothbrush? No. It's still there. He didn't pack any clothes. It was cold. It was in February. He did not take a coat. Reporter: Linda called the cops and mom. She said Rick's gone. I said gone? Where did he go? Reporter: Boy, if she only knew. Son Matthew was 9 at the time, baby brother Doug was 6. One day your dad was there, the next day -- Gone. Reporter: Gone. Initially you think this won't last too long. He'll be back. Reporter: Eventually that hope disappeared, too. How do you walk away from your own children? How do you turn your back? Reporter: Authorities eventually found his car abandoned at Indianapolis airport. A clue? Nope. A dead end. There was no Richard Hoagland that took any flights out of Indianapolis that day. Or after that. Reporter: That summer both boys received a birthday card from pop with 50 bucks slipped inside. Mom kept Doug's card. Maybe some time 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. Those words, the last they ever heard from dad. Now, in the eyes of the law, Linda wasn't so much a victim, maybe a suspect. They were thinking that you may have been either in cahoots with him. Exactly. Reporter: Or you bumped him off? Exactly. And they interrogated me over and over and over. Reporter: They lost the house, the cars, the fancy vacations. He devastated us. He left us with nothing. Absolutely nothing. I was broken. Reporter: Linda's mom swung into action. She's our daughter. And I'm a parent. And I had to help her. Reporter: Silence, endless silence. Ten years pass, Richard Hoagland was officially declared dead. Linda moved on. She remarried. It's like wounds, they heal slowly over time. Reporter: Then just this past summer she got a call from detective Tony Cardillo, Pacifico county sheriff's department, Florida. He asked me if I knew who Richard Hoagland was. And I said, yes, my ex-husband. Reporter: She was actually driving at the time. So she had to pull over. He said we have him in custody. Were you at all glad to hear he was still alive? I don't remember that feeling. Reporter: Richard Hoagland back from the dead. This goes down as one of those cases when you start hearing it, people are going to think this is a made for TV movie. Maybe it will be one day. Reporter: Where had he been the past 23 years? Living on a tropical beach? Caught up with a Colombian cartel? No, Richard Hoagland was pretending to be a dead fisherman, Terry Symanski killed in a freak boating accident in 1991. It was like catch me if you can, not quite as glamorous. Reporter: Everyone tried to wrap their heads around how someone can disappear, live a life for 23 years and get away with it. Here's how. Hoagland fled to Florida and just happened to rent a room from the recently deceased Terry Symanski's father. Found the death certificate. He stole it. I'm using that death certificate, he applies for a birth certificate. He submits this birth certificate to get a drive's license. Once he has that driver's license, he starts establishing his name is Terry Symanski. Reporter: It's that easy? This was some time ago. Reporter: It is not that easy anymore? I hope not. Reporter: Bought this house, married a nice lady named Mary, even had a child. I wonder how he explained to Mary why the rest of the Symanski clan didn't come for Thanksgiving. She said there was always questions but he'd always come up with a reason or an explanation. Reporter: Just enjoying the quiet life in sleepy, sultry zephyr hills, Florida. Warmer than an Indiana winter. Maybe that was a factor. You deal with identity theft all the time. But nothing with this longevity. Owns multiple homes, multiple mortgages, cars, he got married, had a child, has a pilot's license, owns a plane. We talked to some of the tenants there. They said he was a good landlord. Nice guy. Nobody had anything unusual to say about him. Reporter: Nice guy. Who would have thought? I would have never guessed it was him. Reporter: And could have gotten away with it had the real Terry Symanski's nephew not been doing a little online genealogy research. He discovered that poor old uncle Terry died in 1991 apparently got married four years after they buried him. Detective Cardillo came knocking. He provided his Florida driver's license. Terry Symanski, correct date of birth. I asked him again. He said his name was Terry Symanski. I showed him the death certificate that I brought with me. He eventually told me that his real name is Richard Hoagland. Reporter: His unsuspecting new wife and son were home at the time. Blindsided. Obviously, 20 years of marriage was shattered. Reporter: Must be awkward for to you be in the middle of it? Of course. The son came down. He was shocked. It's still his father. You know, it's his blood. But that Symanski name is not his. The emotions that they were feeling between, you know, anger and sadness and the wonder of why. Reporter: Richard Hoagland's wife and child going by the name of a dead fisherman they never knew. Sharing a home with a man pretending to be someone he was not. I believe that he got caught up with the wrong people, carried away and over his head in something. I mean, I wonder if that's because that's a better thing for you to believe than he actually just left you all? No. Yeah. There were rumors that maybe he had stolen a million dollar ds and that's why he left. He was telling me family issues with his wife and children. Like a puzzle right now that's missing pieces. The state versus Richard Hoagland. Reporter: Richard Hoagland is now in jail refusing to talk to us awaiting trial on charges including identity fraud. So he's in a bad place? Yes. Y can't stand to be confined in any one place and now he can't go anywhere. Just kind of tickles me a little bit. I have this ring. This is my dad's ring. That's it. I do wear it for the most part every day, but I think I wear it to remind me of a bad example.
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