A missing Indiana father and husband was found 23 years later in Florida—with a new family and identity. Richard Hoagland had suddenly left his wife, Linda, and two boys, Matthew and Doug, one day in 1993.
With no sign of him, Hoagland was eventually declared dead, and Linda was left to pick up the pieces of her family on her own. She turned to her faith and relied on her boys, then just nine and six.
But it was not an easy transition to make, and now that it’s been discovered that Hoagland didn’t die, but simply left his family, it’s been even harder on the family.
Linda said Matthew, now 33 and married, was her “rock,” and that it was Doug who struggled the most with his dad’s disappearance.
Doug struggled so much that he turned to drugs, and while his father is in jail for identity fraud, Doug is also in jail for possession of a controlled drug.
While in jail, Doug allowed this letter to be published by PEOPLE magazine, hoping that his father will see it. The letter is an abandoned little boy’s plea to his father, asking why he left and describing the pain that he endured in the aftermath of the disappearance.
Doug writes, “At a very young age, I lost a person that I thought loved me. So for a long time I wondered what was wrong with me that would warrant someone being able to just walk away.”
“At first I turned to anger, and later on I started using painkillers all the way to shootin’ heroin. I became a full-blown addict. I stopped maturing like a normal person and could never let go of these things that seemed to always haunt me. I had a very low self-esteem, and that affected my drug use even more. I used drugs to get my confidence, since at times I felt less than I really was.”
But in the end, it is Doug who has conquered his demons and is able to forgive his father—even if he doesn’t understand why. “I’m sure the big underlying question for everyone is WHY? What was so bad that you had to disappear? It’s been over 23 years and I know for a fact that the day you left is still fresh in everyone’s minds.”
“I hope that you have found peace with yourself, and even though I am not happy with how you dealt with us as a family and left us, I have forgiven you.”
Hoagland remains in Pasco County jail in Florida at $25,000 bond. His youngest son Doug has served a handful of drug-related sentences since 2006. He expects to be released later this month.