By M.P. Pellicer | Eerie.News
Missing is a word that usually precedes a case that may end in tragedy where the person has committed suicide or has been the victim of foul play. When nothing is forthcoming, it's a double edged sword for the family; not knowing provides a measure of comfort, but allows the imagination to run wild.
It all started in 2013, when the last sighting of Robert Hoagland, 49, was captured on a security camera at a Mobil gas station. Hoagland's wallet, meds, cell-phone and vehicles were at his home. He didn't go to work or pick up his wife at the airport.
"Hoagie" as he was known to family and friends had nothing in his past to indicate he would disappear, commit suicide or have been the victim of a crime. He worked from home as a real estate appraiser.
The last banking activity was when he withdrew $600 from an account, and that was it.
He had raised three sons with his wife. One of them Max, 23, battled drug addiction earlier in 2013, and had been in rehab. Before his disappearance, his wife had left on a two week trip to Turkey with friends. During this time two laptop computers were stolen from the home. Hoagland thought perhaps his son had taken them in order to buy drugs.
On the same day Hoagland disappeared his son was arrested by police for trespassing at a building known for drug sales and prostitution.
Initially the Hoagland family was not alarmed. They told authorities he might have gone on his own to hike the Appalachian Trail. Eventually wooded areas around Sandy Hook where they lived was searched, including bringing in dogs. Nothing was found.
Time failed to produce any clue of what happened to Robert Hoagland. Family and friends believed foul play was involved, police concluded he had left on his own.
Several sightings in the following years led to a dead end. Could he have been the victim of foul play as a result of his son's drug problem?
The story was featured on an episode of Disappeared in 2016, and this failed to produce any results.
The trail went cold. Was he missing or dead?
The answer to the question was revealed almost ten years later when a man found his roommate dead on December 5, 2022, inside the apartment they shared. The name he was using was Richard King.
EMT responded to a call for cardiac arrest, but there was nothing to be done.
Police found paperwork among his belongings with his real name. Robert Hoagland had been living in Rock Hill, New York about 100 miles from his home since four months after he disappeared in 2013. Not much is known about where he went in the first months after he disappeared or how he made a living.
Why he decided to leave everything and everyone behind perhaps is a mystery he took to the grave.
However he is not the only one that just leaves friends, family and everything that is a part of their lives to start somewhere fresh and anonymously. These are stories that people have reported:
My grandmother's brother disappeared from Montreal. Had a wife and two children. Years and years later, my aunt saw an obituary for a man with the same name in St. Catherine's Ontario. There was a wife listed in the obit. So my aunt contacted the woman and went to visit her. It was definitely him. At least my grandmother died knowing what happened to him.
What happens when someone disappears and their family fails to report it to police? Is this a sign of duplicity or frustration and hopelessness?
In September, 1961, was the last time neighbors in the Surrey, British Columbia neighborhood saw Lucy Ann Johnson, however none seem to think anything was wrong, or if they did no one contacted the authorities.
Lucy was originally from Alaska and had married Marvin Johnson in 1954. He did not report her missing until May 14, 1965. Immediately suspicion fell on him. His only admission was that she had left him and their two children over three years before. The yard where he lived was dug up, but yielded nothing.
The years moved forward, and DNA from Lucy's children were compared to Jane Doe's in the hope a match could be made.
Marvin Johnson remarried, and died in the 1990s of natural causes. By then the case was more than three decades old, and as cold as ever.
Lucy's daughter Linda, despite the probability that her mother was dead, never gave up hope. In 2013, she put ads in newspapers in northern British Columbia where her mother had ties to. Only a few weeks before Lucy Johnson's disappearance was part of Surrey RCMP's "Missing of the Month" series which highlighted cold cases.
Then police received message from a woman living in Yukon named Rhonda. She recognized the picture in the ad, because this woman was her mother as well. Lucy Johnson, now in her 70s said she had left because Marvin was abusive, and would not have let her leave with their children. She remarried and had four children. Eventually she was reunited with her daughter Linda.
Theodore John Conrad was a 20-year-old bank teller who stole $215,000 in cash (equivalent to $1.59 million, present-day) from a Cleveland bank in 1969.
It all started when he became a teller at the National Bank in Cleveland in January, 1969. One of the things he first noticed was how lax the security was.
To mark his 20th birthday in July he walked out on a Friday afternoon with a paper bag stuffed with cash from the vault.
Not until Monday was the theft discovered, and by then he had flown the coop. Letters to his then girlfriend indicated he stopped in Washington D.C. and Los Angeles within the first week.
He thought the crime had a 7-year statute of limitation after which he could return, but this turned out not to be accurate.
After this Conrad cut ties with all his family, so strictly that eventually some believed he was dead. The last possible sighting of him was in October, 1969, when a Cleveland couple met a man in Hawaii who they thought looked very much like Conrad.
In something that was not unusual in those years, Conrad went to a social security office in Boston and asked for a social security number to be issued to him, with a different name, and a birthdate making him two years older then he actually was. The name he used was Thomas Rendele.
This opened the door for him to establish a new life.
Thomas Randele went on to become a manager in a country club outside Boston. During the decade of the 70s he worked as an assistant golf pro, who none would suspected was a wanted man in one of Cleveland's biggest bank heists. The crime got little coverage in the news, since this was the same week Apollo 11 made their historic flight to the moon.
Thomas Randele married in 1982, and later a daughter, Ashley was born to them. He also worked as a car salesman in Land Rover and Volvo dealerships in the area, retiring after 40 years of working in the business.
Besides the mystery of his disappearance, another question that remained unanswered was why he had done it. A high school friend said that once he stole a deck of cards just to prove he could do it.
Authorities believed he was inspired by the 1968 movie, The Thomas Crown Affair, in which Steve McQueen plays a character who gets away with a $2.6 million heist.
A friend who knew him during the 1960s, said he watched the movie at least half-a-dozen times and convinced his grandmother to lend him money to buy a bright red on black MG Midget. To complete the look he bought leather driving gloves.
This same friend recalled that Conrad would comment how easy it would be to take money from the bank.
After the robbery, Conrad went to Boston which coincided where much of the movie was filmed, and perhaps it was no coincidence he took the new name of Thomas, just like the movie's main character.
U.S. Marshall Elliott, was assigned to the case, and he criss-crossed the United States following any leads that would take him to where he could arrest Conrad. Even after he retired in 1990, he continued to check with his son Pete Elliott who had become the top U.S. marshal in Cleveland.
Elliott Sr. died in March 2020, before learning the truth of where the fugitive he had sought for so many years could be found.
As the years passed FBI was said to attend reunions for the Class of 1967. Once a table was put out for Conrad along with a cutout.
His co-workers said they never heard him raise his voice or speak badly about anyone. He wasn't a drinker or a gambler. He knew how to control his emotions, and rarely got upset.
And what happened to the money? Did he lose it through bad investing or gambling? In 2014, Randele, and his wife Kathy filed for bankruptcy. Records showed they owed $160,000 in credit card debt and had few assets.
His family did not know the truth until he made a deathbed confession when he was dying from lung cancer.
After his death his wife has refused to be interviewed.
His friends now in hindsight remember he always sported a beard, and used sunglasses while on the golf course. He didn't like to talk about his family of origin or where he grew up at. They figured his reticence was due to a bad childhood.
It's unknown who brought Randele's obit to the attention of the US Marshals, and they decline to say who it was.
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