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Return of the Patriarch

Updated: Dec 30, 2023

In 2021, there were an estimated 500,000 reported missing persons cases in the United States. They involve every demographic of person in the country, with children representing an overwhelming reporting of 2,300 daily. To help reduce these drastic numbers, understanding what drives disappearances is necessary. While a criminal element is often present, there are many who intentionally go missing, pushed to the brink by some aspect of their lives. Researchers studied the connection of voluntarily going missing in 2012 and discovered that among the 661,000 reported cases that year, 659,000 were very quickly cancelled, meaning they were found safe or located deceased. Everyone has stressors in their life, family, work, or finances. But where is the tipping point, the divide where a decision is made to leave your known life behind, no matter the cost? This is the story of such a journey, the life of man who awoke one day and vanished without a trace.

Robert “Hoagy” Hoagland was born on June 9, 1963. There is no available information from his early life. As an adult, Robert lived a quiet, happy life, residing with his wife Lori and their son Max in Newtown, Connecticut. They had two other adult sons that lived on their own. Lori worked as a culinary arts teacher at the local high school and Robert worked as a property appraiser. He had previously had a career in the food industry working as a chef, but after many years, he decided to leave that career behind to spend more time at home with Lori and his boys.

On the morning of July 28, 2013, Robert woke up as he normally did on the weekend and got ready to head to the local gas station. He filled his cars’ tank and bought a map of the eastern United States. He stopped at a local bagel shop and picked up bagels for him and his son. He then made his way home. His wife Lori was on a trip in Europe with her friends. After sharing breakfast with his son, Robert went outside to mow the lawn, as he wanted it done before Lori returned home from her trip. Max, seeing his father outside mowing, asked to borrow the family car. Robert agreed to this, and that was the last time Max would see his father. When Max returned later that night, the home was empty. When Max woke up the morning after, the house was still empty, though he had no idea that something was amiss. Meanwhile, Lori was on a flight back from Europe to JFK airport. She was anxiously waiting to see her husband, as he was supposed to meet her at the airport once she landed that afternoon.

When Lori finally arrived at the airport, she quickly realized Robert was nowhere to be found. She was often communicating with Robert via email, as telephone calls were too expensive to make. When he had not responded, she tried calling him, but he did not answer. She waited for a couple hours, and Robert did not show. Instead of trying to make her way home she went to a nearby relative’s home. Lori got in touch with Robert’s employer, who informed her of Robert’s absence that day. She was puzzled. When she finally arrived home days later, on July 30th, she discovered the family car missing. Despite his absence, she initially assumed Robert was out with the vehicle, until she entered her home and noticed Robert’s keys, phone, medication, and his usual footwear in the home. She would receive a phone call shortly from the Bridgeport Connecticut police department informing her that her son Max had been arrested the night before and had been charged with trespassing. He was found to be around a location where frequent drug sales were being dealt. Max was also in possession of the family car. Lori informed the police that her husband Robert was missing. After realizing Max was the last person to see Robert the police questioned him, but he told them he hadn’t seen his father since the morning he was mowing the lawn of the family home.

The Newtown police department took over Robert’s missing person case. They learned about Robert’s last stop at the gas station on the morning of July 28th. The police found it suspicious that he purchased a map. Lori would explain that purchase away because he had planned a hiking trip with Max on The Appalachian Trail that summer. Max was unfortunately battling a drug addiction and Lori and Robert agreed that taking this trip might be able to steer him in the right direction. The family wondered if it was possible Robert would decide to take the trip on his own. That possibility was soon diminished, as Lori found Robert’s wallet hidden in their bedroom. How could he take a trip on the spur of the moment, without his keys, medication for his blood pressure and now his wallet? One theory that was explored was the connection between Robert’s disappearance and Max’s arrest. While Lori was away on vacation, Robert had informed her that he had hidden the family laptops in the trunk of her car. He did this to keep from Max from finding them to possibly sell or trade them off for drugs. However, Max had borrowed the car to go to Bridgeport to meet up with friends to do drugs. Max stated that when he showed up to the abandoned building, he went to retrieve something from the trunk, when he did, he seen the laptops. He decided to bring them into the building to hide them. When Max was leaving, he realized the computers he hid were gone. When he came home, he told his father that the laptops had been stolen. Robert drove to Bridgeport with Max to try and find the laptops. Arriving at the abandoned location Robert confronted his son’s associates who all denied finding or stealing the laptops. Robert was not able to recover the laptops and told Lori about the event that took place. Lori recalled the day Robert had sent her the email about the laptops and how he was not able to find them. Police discovered Robert took 600 dollars out of the ATM the day before he disappeared, they wondered if he was going to use that money to buy the laptops back from someone. Did Robert attempt to buy back the stolen laptops or did someone come to him, and could this have caused his disappearance?

Eventually, leads in the police investigation would dry up, and without any trace of Robert in the coming weeks, the police and family formed a search and distributed missing persons flyers around the local area. Police also informed The National Park Service to be on the lookout for a person matching Roberts’ description especially on or near the Appalachian trail. In September of 2013 police would receive two individual tips both stating they spotted Robert in Rhode Island, the next state over from Connecticut. Police were unable to locate the man witnesses claimed resembled Robert. In the fall of 2013 Lori would head another search party in wooded areas around Sandy Hook. The Newtown police would bring in search dogs as well as use sonar equipment to search nearby lakes. Lori stated these searches were about “eliminating possibilities”. Sadly, none of these searches turned up any sign of Robert.

So, what became of Robert Hoagland on the morning of July 28th, 2013? His son Max last saw him at the family home, doing the normal task of mowing the lawn. Did Robert buy the map at the gas station that morning for his upcoming trip with his son Max? Did he buy the map to take a trip of his own? Why did he take 600 dollars out of the ATM the day before? Did Robert go back to Bridgeport to buy back the family laptops? And fall into trouble? Did his son know more than he told the police? Robert’s family and friends have openly stated they believe something happened to him, that someone took him and that his case should be looked at as having the possibility of criminal activity. Lori said their marriage was a good one and she did not believe he would leave his children. He also didn’t take anything with him. What happened to Robert Hoagland, the typical family man?

The Rediscovery

On July 28, 2013, Robert Hoagland disappeared from the family home. His wife Lori was away on a vacation and Robert was supposed to pick her up at JFK airport on July 29. When Robert did not show up and he was not home for a couple days Lori reported her husband missing. Robert was never seen again, or was he?

On Monday, December 5, 2022, police in Rock Hill, New York responded to an emergency call of a man in cardiac arrest. David, the caller, was the primary resident, and told dispatchers he hadn’t seen his roommate Richard since that Friday. David worked at a local high school and Richard was a real estate appraiser. That weekend David was away in New York City for a music gig. When he returned home, David found it odd that Richard’s car was still in the garage. Typically, Richard was ready and gone for the day before David. Assuming Richard took the day off work, David proceeded with his day as normal. When David returned home, everything was still the same as when he left in the morning. Now curious, David decided to review the home security footage from Friday night. The camera footage showed his roommate and friend Richard coming home Friday night and depicted Richard in distress and holding his back as he entered the home. David became more concerned when Richard didn’t emerge from his room for their normal Sunday dinner. As Monday morning approached, Richard’s car was still parked in the garage, and despite having a feeling something may be wrong, David decided to go to work. However, while at work David tried calling and texting Richard, all of which went unanswered. Now in a panic David drove home and went into Richard’s bedroom. He found his friend lying on his bed with his eye mask on and his hands crossed on his chest. Richard wasn’t breathing and David attempted CPR, but it was clear he was already gone. When the police arrived, they saw no signs of foul play but deemed his death unattended, per protocol. Being that the death was deemed unattended, police began searching for some type of identification, however, could not find anything with the name Richard King on it as David knew him. David informed the police that Richard had previously received some mail that was in a different name. Locating the paperwork that came in the mail the name on it was Robert Hoagland. David never wanted to pry into his friend’s life when didn’t question when he told him he would be receiving mail with a different name on it. But now David was sitting with the name Robert Hoagland. A simple Google search left him in complete shock, as he learned the man that had been living with him for years as Richard King, had been missing from Connecticut for nearly a decade.

In late 2013 David put an ad on Craigslist, in search of a roommate. David had just gone through a divorce. Trying to put his life back together, he received a response from the ad, the message from Richard King. King stated he had just separated from his wife and needed a new start as well. David decided to meet King. Their first meeting King explained he had no identification, which David thought was odd. However, King was quick to explain it away, stating that he left everything behind. King was already employed in the area as an appraiser for a firm in the Catskills, and they would become roommates. For several years, King stayed with David in his first home. In 2020 David would go on to purchase a new home and happily asked King if he would like to continue living together. David trusted King. He was a great roommate and always paid what he was expected to. They even developed a personal relationship and both David and King would have Sunday dinners together to which David claims King taught him many great recipes. Even though they did not celebrate birthdays together they did spend other holidays together such as Christmas and would exchange gifts. Approximately 6 months prior to King’s death he told David that he had seen a doctor and that the doctor told him he had to change his eating habits. Their Sunday dinners changed from “steaks and BBQ to seafood and grilled vegetables”. Reflecting, David considered that was the reason for Richard receiving the mail in his late name as he may have been trying to obtain medical care for his declining health. However, it seems as though King’s health caught up with him before he could obtain proper health care or change his habits enough to have a fighting chance.

We now know what became of Robert Hoagland. Despite his untimely death, there are still many unanswered questions regarding his story. Why did he walk away? It is clear he wasn’t having an affair, as he lived with David almost the entire time of his disappearance. He left literally everything behind and walked away from his wife and children. Was the pressure of being a family man too much to handle for Robert? We can speculate, but unfortunately, Robert took each answer we would have asked along with him. This family man, seemingly content with life, evaporated into thin air without a goodbye. Then as a phoenix rises from its ashes, the patriarch returned as Richard King, forging a new life until his final days. Despite the mystery surrounding his case, one thing remains clear, the roots of family borrow deep, and they are hard to walk away from forever.

My heart goes out to Robert's Hoagland's family and friends, as I can't imagine what they are going through. I can only hope one day they will be able to heal from this devastating and confusing revelation. To Max especially, the world doubted you and your actions, you can now let that burden off your shoulders, and I hope you find peace.

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