Richard Hoagland and Linda Iseler had quite a conventional marriage by the looks of it. However, no one knew the tragedy that awaited them in the future. In 1993, Richard Hoagland disappeared mysteriously without a trace. That was the last time Linda and her sons saw him. Unfortunately, he had left them with no money or prospects. Linda was obviously the most promising suspect and the police’s suspicion added to the stress and paranoia. Fast forward 23 years and Linda received the call she had been waiting for. So, where was Richard Hoagland and how did he vanish?
The Family Secret
The couple lived a seemingly blissful life in Indianapolis with their two sons, Matthew and Douglas. Much like any other couple, they had normal disagreements about money and kids. Apart from these healthy arguments, they didn’t seem to have any serious conflicts.
But everything changed when Matthew turned nine and Douglas turned six. Around this time, a family secret came to light. Only one person was privy to the truth. Richard had gotten himself into a very tough situation and he was struggling to hide it. Despite that, this secret would remain hidden for a long time to come.
Keeping It Under Wraps
A week before the disappearance, Richard had started acting peculiarly. Linda noticed the odd behavior straight away. But she had no way of knowing why Richard was being so distant. She just chalked it up to her own paranoia and sensitivity.
Matthew and Douglas were too young to understand what was happening to their family. Richard felt like he was losing control of the situation. He was failing to fix the problem and he couldn’t even share the burden with anyone. No one had anticipated what Richard would do next.
An Odd Phone Call
One fine morning in February of 1993, Linda went to work at the medical office as usual. At 4:45 PM, she got a call from Richard while she was still at work. He informed her that he wasn’t feeling too good and had to go to the emergency room. She offered to visit the ER along with him.
But Richard seemed like he was in a hurry and told her that he had no time to wait. Unbeknownst to Linda, this moment would change her life forever. When her shift ended, she picked up her son from daycare and entered her home at 5:25 PM. She was shocked to find her son, Matthew, alone at home and Richard was nowhere to be found.
Leaving It All Behind
Richard had left his little son unsupervised. This was definitely a worrying situation for Linda who had no idea what was going on. She started calling all the hospitals in their vicinity to ask if Richard had visited the ER. Unfortunately, no one with his name had checked into any of the hospitals.
Her husband’s toiletries and essentials like the passport were all left behind. This pointed towards an unplanned disappearance. Linda later expressed in an interview that he hadn’t even taken his coat. This wasn’t Richard’s first marriage but he seemed to be devoted to his family. Money wasn’t a problem either and they lived quite a comfortable life. So, what could have gone wrong?
A Shattered Family
Less than an hour after Linda stepped foot inside the home, she received a call from Richard. He told Linda that he couldn’t live that way anymore and felt that she would be better off without him. Instead of giving him any chances to respond, he cut the call abruptly.
How could he have cut all ties with his beautiful family without a care in this world? Linda was too shocked to do anything. But just half an hour later she got another call which cleared some of the confusion. This time Richard informed her that he didn’t want to go to jail and that’s why he was running away.
Running From Justice
After this last call, there was radio silence from Richard’s end. His family was left shattered and confused. A few days later, the police even found his car abandoned at the Indianapolis airport. They checked all the flight records but couldn’t find Richard’s name on any of the flights. His last two communications had been collect calls.
Linda checked both of the calls she had gotten and found out that one of them was made from Venezuela and the other from Aruba. All she could do at this point was stand her ground and remain strong for her young boys. At this point, the police had already started investigating the disappearance.
Hidden Financial Troubles
As spring rolled around, Linda and Richard’s son Matthew turned 10. On this birthday, Richard sent him a birthday card with $50 as a little gift. He sent the same thing to Douglas on his seventh birthday. After these two gifts, it seemed like Richard vanished completely.
Richard had seemed to be a successful businessman but behind the scenes, he was struggling financially. He had maxed out all of their credit cards without Linda’s knowledge. Richard had even forged his wife’s signature to acquire a loan. Richard had been ordered by the judge to pay all his outstanding loans, taxes, and debts.
A Shocking Revelation
Richard had included some notes in the birthday cards he sent his sons. He expressed his love for them and said that he missed them. He also added that he might see them soon. These sweet messages filled the young boys’ hearts with renewed hope that their dad would one day return to restore their happy family.
Matthew told ABC in an interview that he initially thought his father’s hiatus wouldn’t last long. They had no idea that this would be the very last time they’d hear from him. Linda expressed that her husband’s disappearance had devastated their family and left them completely broken.
Suddenly Linda was thrown into the life of a single mother. As the only provider for her family, she struggled to pay the car loans and the mortgage. If financial troubles weren’t enough, the police started investigating Linda for Richard’s disappearance. They thought that Linda knew more than she was revealing.
However, Linda stood firm in the face of suspicion from the police. She was adamant that she had no idea of his whereabouts. Linda was honest about the contact Richard had made with them. The police continued to think of her as a prime suspect and interrogated her many times.
The Prime Suspect
According to a detective who was working on the case, Linda was their prime suspect. He believed that she was covering up for her husband and that they were carrying out a financial hoax. The detective even claimed that Linda would probably take her children to meet up with him eventually.
Linda had no time for all their silly suspicions. She was drowning in a mountain of bills. The financial damage was so severe that she had to declare bankruptcy. Without a primary breadwinner, Linda could not handle the burden alone.
Richard made a cowardly move by running away when the financial troubles got too much. Instead of supporting his family in this tough time, he left a huge mess for them to deal with. Linda turned to her parents for financial assistance.
During all this chaos, Linda had a strange feeling that she was being followed. Weird things started happening to them. Someone was parking outside their house, going through their mail and sealing it back up again. She also had a suspicion that her furniture was being moved around in her absence.
Hiding From Unseen Forces
Around this time, Linda’s father found a strange device attached to their phone line. It turned out to be a recording device for monitoring conversations. That’s when Linda knew that Richard had been involved with the wrong kind of people.
Now those people were after Linda and her family. The pressure was mounting as the bank had repossessed her car and the family home. Around October, Linda decided to go into hiding in McCordsville for her kids’ safety. They took all the precautionary measures they could to stay out of the limelight.
The Paranoia Increases
After six months in hiding, Linda thought it was time to reintegrate back into society. She thought that time would be enough to get rid of her paranoia. Unfortunately, she was very wrong. The police seemed to be tracking her every move and she still felt watched.
She couldn’t understand why her husband, who claimed to love them, would throw them under the bus like this. Luckily, her parents turned out to be her guardian angels during the whole ordeal. Their support really helped the family stay afloat.
In 2016, a detective from Pasco County Sheriff’s Department, Anthony Cardillo, called Linda with groundbreaking news. His first question was if she knew who Richard Hoagland was. After all these years, hearing Richard’s name was a shock to Linda.
She found out that while the family was struggling to make ends meet, Richard had run away to West Palm Beach, Florida. There, he had settled and remarried. He even had a child with his new wife and existed under a fake identity. The detective had taken him in for identity fraud.
After abandoning his family, Richard rented a home where he discovered the death certificate of a man. The man was named Terry Symansky and had passed away back in 1991. This is when he decided to change his identity and become a whole new person.
He became Terry Symansky and started building a new life for himself. This included getting a job, a new residence, and even falling in love with another woman. Once again, he created the perfect illusion. A happy family, a good job, and stable finances. His new family was completely in the dark about the skeletons in his closet.
The Old Man
Richard had rented a place from an older man named Edward Symansky. This elderly man was mourning the death of his son Terry. Richard listened to every little detail about Terry’s life from his grieving father.
Edward was happy to share his pain with a friend. He had no idea what Richard was capable of and what he would do with all this information. Richard started scheming as soon as he found the death certificate. According to Terry’s sister, her dad was simply pouring his heart out and was a victim. She seemed satisfied that Richard’s treachery had been revealed.
And That’s How It Went Down
Things started going downhill for Richard when Terry’s nephew ended up on ancestry.com. the nephew was simply doing some research on his family and realized that something wasn’t right. He noticed that his uncle Terry had been dead for many years now. However, the listing claimed that he was married and had a pilot’s license.
This raised alarm bells in his head and prompted him to contact the authorities. In July 2016, police took Richard by surprise by showing up at his family home. They arrested him for identity fraud and he was put in Pasco County jail with a $25,000 bond.
Facing the Music
The affidavit that contained all the allegations had gotten lost somehow. This important document contained all the forged loan requests where Richard had faked Linda’s signature and all his stolen credit cards.
But Richard lucked out again as the statute of limitations for his crimes was up. The only charge that held up was identity fraud.
Two Devastated Families
After deceiving his old family, he went on to build another one with a new woman. The son he had with his other wife is now 19 years old. While the two families have never met, Linda seems empathetic towards their struggle. She knows firsthand what a husband’s betrayal could do to a family.
Linda got in touch with an attorney and discussed how they could legally get compensation from Richard. He owes Linda almost $2 million in child support. Before he can pay her support, he has to pay off his identity fraud charges as well.
The New Family
Richard married a new woman, Terry, in 1995. Just two years after he had abandoned his family. He and his new wife, Mary Hossler Hickman, settled down in Zephyrhills, Florida. They had a son together who was a teenager when Richard got arrested.
His new family has mostly stayed out of the limelight over all the years. They prefer to stay under the radar for the most part. It was later revealed that Mary had found a briefcase containing evidence of her husband’s real identity. His son was understandably broken and confused about this betrayal.
The Sons’ Struggles
Richard had only managed to send his sons cards for one birthday. After that, he had vanished from their young lives. A single card does not remove the years of grief, trauma, and confusion he caused them. The kids were too young to understand it all at the time but they took his absence quite hard.
Douglas suffered the worst while Matthew gathered the strength to become the man of his family. This dysfunctional home life led Douglas into a lot of trouble. He served multiple prison sentences due to his association with drugs. Douglas even wrote heart-wrenching letters to his father detailing all the frustration and anger he had felt at the betrayal. Ultimately, he was able to forgive his father.
Douglas’ Turbulent Life
Douglas was serving a sentence in Indiana jail when he heard about his father’s arrest. Due to drug-related charges, he had been in and out of jails for a while now. Speaking to Indianapolis Star, he expressed that an injury had left him addicted to narcotics.
One day in jail, he overheard the news of a family man living with a false identity. He saw the mugshot and immediately recognized his father. He couldn’t believe that his father was not only alive and well but also living with a fake name.
A Bad Influence
The other son, Matthew, is in his 30s and has started a family of his own. He was put through a lot of trials in his young years. He had to fight off the trauma and bad influence of his dad to become a better person than him.
Matthew still wears his father’s ring to this day. it’s a reminder for him to be a better father and husband. Linda’s mother, who witnessed her pain and misery, is delighted that Richard is behind bars. She remembers that Richard hated being confined to one place so staying inside a small cell must be torture for him. According to her, it is well deserved.
No Explanations Given
Despite the story blowing up on media, Richard has refused to provide any explanations for his behavior. He hasn’t given any reason for his abandonment. He hasn’t even confirmed rumors of his financial issues or why he forged signatures for bank loans.
In all this fiasco, Richard managed to hurt three families. Terry Symanky’s family is also a victim of his deception. Edward told him everything in a moment of vulnerability and he used all of it to create a fake identity. Unfortunately, we may never know why Richard did all this.
Reuniting With the Sons
Richard isn’t too forthcoming with information but people expected him to at least have some remorse. Unfortunately, he seems to be at peace with everything he has done. After he was released, Douglas went to one of the court hearings for Richard.
This was the first time he had seen his dad since 1993. He expected some show of emotion from his estranged father. To his surprise, Richard appeared completely emotionless. It didn’t seem like he was happy or sad to see his son after nearly two decades.
This 20-Year-Old Suddenly Disappeared and a Suspect Was Found Only Two Years Later
Some criminal cases are more shocking than others, while some are shrouded in mystery. When Branson Perry, a 20-year-old Missouri local, disappeared from outside his home in Skidmore on April 11, 2001, it left the community shocked.
Branson was going about his day as usual when he ventured outside his home to return jumper cables to a shed. Without warning, he vanished in thin air. For two years, Branson’s family, friends, and neighbors were desperate for answers, until a likely suspect entered the narrative. Although Branson has never been found, the authorities refuse to give up on the case.
Branson Perry Is Brought Into the World
Every tragic story has a seemingly normal beginning. Branson Kayne Perry was born on February 24, 1981, and spent his childhood in Missouri, attending Nodaway Holt High School. Branson grew up to be a young man with short blond hair, blue eyes, and a few small scars.
When Branson’s parents got divorced, the young man chose to settle down with his father, Bob Perry. Branson suffered from tachycardia, a heart condition, and preferred to live a quiet life. Despite his health concerns, Branson enjoyed being active, harvesting a particular interest in lifting weights. He even had a black belt in hapkido. Branson worked several jobs after graduating, including with the traveling petting zoo, but was unemployed at the time of his disappearance. As they say, idle hands are the devil's workshop.
An Uncomfortable Experience With His Neighbor
As you can imagine, spending so much time at home without any work to keep you busy introduces the opportunity for trouble. Shortly before his disappearance, on April 7, 2001, Branson Perry knocked on the door of his neighbor’s home. Jason Biermann lived next door to the Perrys and was a bit of a suspicious character.
Jason allegedly gave Branson an unidentified drug that had a disastrous effect on his psyche. Instead of having a happy, clean time, the drug prompted Branson to strip naked and dance around the home. Branson then shaved off his pubic hair and “participated in sexual activity” with Jason. When he sobered up and realized what had happened, he was gutted.
Coming Clean With His Dad
If you’ve ever gotten carried away at a party, then you’ll understand the challenge of dealing with a hangover the next day. Not only are headaches, nausea, and exhaustion common symptoms, but the feeling of shame can be overwhelming. That’s exactly how Branson Perry felt when he realized what had happened the day after his rendezvous with his neighbor.
To cope with his humiliation, Branson decided to explain the situation to his father and Bob Perry responded with fury. There were always suspicions that Branson was gay, but Bob’s anger was directed at Jason for taking advantage of his boy by “drugging, then using” him. The protective father was so enraged with his neighbor that he even considered “teaching him a lesson.”
No Confrontation Took Place
It’s the job of every parent to protect their children, putting their needs above their own. When Bob Perry heard about the way that Jason had drugged and used his son, he was burning red, threatening to confront his neighbor. However, this never happened.
If Bob had challenged Jason, then there may have been a suspect in Branson’s disappearance. However, as there was no confrontation between Bob and Jason, the light was never shone on the neighbor as a suspect. But did that mean that he was innocent?
Events on the Day Branson Went Missing
No one is really certain about what happened on the day of Branson Perry’s murder. There are only a few facts that are known, and the missing pieces can only be speculated. At the time of Branson’s disappearance, Bob Perry was in the hospital, leaving his adult son to fend for himself - but not entirely.
There were two mechanics on the Perry property, replacing Bob Perry’s alternator. Also on the scene was Jena Crawford, Branson Perry’s friend. As one of Branson’s close friends, Jena offered to help him do a few chores around the home. Despite these individuals on the property, there was no witness to confirm what happened to Branson on the day he went missing.
Jena Crawford’s Account of What Happened
Jena was one of the few people at the Perry household when Branson went missing. According to her, everything was completely normal when Branson suddenly jumped up, grabbed something from the cabinet, and went outside.
He then returned but didn’t tell Jena where he went (or what he had in his hand). Shrugging it off, Jena jumped into the shower. Once dressed, she set her mind to cleaning the home when she got a shock.
One of the mechanics was inside the kitchen, rummaging through a cabinet. Jena challenged him, but he retreated in silence and went back outside. After a full day of helping her friend, Jena kicked up her feet and peered out of the window at approximately 3 pm.
The Jumper Cables Come Into the Picture
Jena was resting after a full morning of helping Branson with chores when she looked out of the upstairs window and spotted him outside. In his hands was a pair of jumper cables. Knitting her brows together, Jena called out, asking, “Branson, what are you doing?”
In response, Branson yelled back, “I’m going to put away the jumper cables, then run out for a bit. I’ll be back in a few minutes.” However, he didn't come back, and no one ever saw him again.
The Family Raises the Alarm
Bob Perry had planned to be at the hospital for a few days, leaving Branson to care for himself. On April 12, Branson’s grandmother, Jo-Ann Stinnett, popped by the hospital to check in on her son and was surprised to discover that Branson had failed to visit his father the night before.
Bob and Branson were close, and Branson had come to the hospital every day to visit his pops. At first, Jo-Ann shrugged off his absence but decided to drop by the Perry household to check in on her grandson. When she arrived, she found the doors open. Branson was nowhere to be found.
With No Sight of Branson, Police Suspected Foul Play
Days rolled by and Branson’s whereabouts remained a mystery. Although he was an adult, it was unlike him to disappear without warning. Not only was it out of character for Branson to vanish without a trace, but he had left all of his personal belongings behind. On April 16, 2001, the family escalated their concern and filed a missing person’s report.
Police agreed that something was amiss and instantly suspected foul play. One of the first steps taken was to track down Branson’s new “drug acquaintances” and see if they had anything to do with his disappearance, but their questions reached a dead end. So, they kicked their efforts up a notch.
A Search Begins to Find Branson Perry
Police had no idea where Branson Perry had gone, and they didn't have any leads. So, they decided to expand their efforts and launch a search party. Led by Nodaway County Sheriff, Ben Espey, authorities made their way across the 15-mile perimeter of Skidmore, hoping for a clue on Branson’s whereabouts.
During the search, authorities interviewed hundreds of people, doing their best to glean as much information as possible. Branson’s “drug acquaintances” were of particular interest, but they all passed lie detector tests and were cleared. It seemed as though no one had an inkling about Branson’s whereabouts, so Jena’s account was revisited.
Jena Reveals a Little Bit More Than Before
The search for Branson extended over the course of six weeks. Police pulled out all of the stops, interviewing hundreds of people and working through the small town with a fine-tooth comb. As they investigated, they learned about the mechanics working on the Perry property earlier that day, raising their eyebrows when hearing that the tradesman never saw anything of value. Could they have been hiding something?
Jena was also questioned, considered a valuable witness for the events that unfolded on that fateful day. When speaking to the police, Jena admitted that she and Branson had been experimenting with drugs. Armed with the knowledge that Branson was dabbling in marijuana and methamphetamines, police suspected that his disappearance was drug-related. This was the theory for quite some time until a big break was made.
A Gruesome, New Clue Emerges
Two years passed with no real progress being made on Branson’s missing person’s case. Then in 2003, a gruesome clue bubbled to the surface and police shifted their focus to a new suspect named Jack Wayne Rogers.
Jack Rogers was a former Presbyterian minister and Boy Scouts leader, but he was far from a role model or mentor. Instead, he had been put on the police radar after being arrested for separate crimes. As investigators dug deeper, they found disturbing online posts, written by Jack Rogers.
In the posts, he described the rape, torture, and murder of a blonde, male hitchhiker in great detail. The description of the individual was a perfect match with Branson Perry.
What Put Jack Wayne Rogers on Police Radar?
On paper, Jack Wayne Rogers seemed like a model citizen, however, his actions were ghastly and grotesque. His sinister nature was first highlighted when he was charged with first-degree assault and practicing medicine without a license. The exact crime? He attempted to perform sex reassignment surgery on a trans woman and failed to stop the bleeding.
With Jack Rogers in custody, police started to search his belongings for evidence and found far more than they bargained for on his computer, leaving them in shock.
A Shocking Discovery Is Made on Jack’s Computer
When authorities started investigating Jack Rogers, they knew that they were dealing with a devious individual. However, they never could’ve anticipated the shocking content on his computer.
Jack Rogers had a large amount of child pornography on his digital device, as well as several concerning posts shared under the username “BuggerButt”. These posts went into detail about the rape, torture, and murder of several men. In more extreme cases, Jack even spoke about eating the genitals after mutilating them. Within this disturbing content, police noticed a shocking description of one of Jack's victims, eerily similar to that of Branson Perry.
Who Was the Blonde Hitchhiker?
It takes a perverted individual to commit such heinous crimes. Even more disturbing is when the individual chooses to document their shocking acts. Considering that the stored information can be used as evidence against them if they are ever caught, the criminal must have a very strong connection to their crime to persuade them to keep the evidence around.
In the case of Jack Rogers, the post about murdering a blonde hitchhiker put him in hot water. In the post, Jack raped, tortured, and killed the young man before burying him in the Ozarks. After discovering the post, police questioned Jack about the victim, but he was prepared with a response.
Jack claimed that the post was simply a work of fiction and that he had never meet Branson Perry in his life.
More Evidence Emerged - But Could It Be Proved?
With Jack Rogers in custody, police were convinced that they had made a huge break in Branson Perry’s case. However, Jack was adamant that he didn’t know Branson Perry and refused to admit to being involved in his disappearance. Then, police found another piece of evidence.
When searching Jack’s car, police uncovered a turtle claw necklace. It’s not every day that you find such a unique object, and they were alarmed to discover that Branson had a necklace eerily similar. Unfortunately, the similarity of necklaces wasn’t considered to be hard evidence.
Jack Rogers Is Convicted
While there was no slam dunk conviction of Jack’s involvement in Branson’s disappearance, there was a mountain of evidence for different crimes. In 2004, Jack Rogers had his sentence read and was convicted of assault, illegal surgery, child pornography, and obscenity.
As punishment for his crimes, Jack was given a series of prison sentences. He was sentenced to 17 years for assault, seven years for illegal surgery, and 30 years for child pornography and obscenity. Jack Rogers was going to spend a long time behind bars, but not even that could loosen his tongue.
Branson Perry’s Mother Was His Biggest Advocate
Branson may have been living with his father at the time of his disappearance, but his mother, Rebecca Klino, was still concerned about the safety of her son. She continued to hold a candle for him, advocating for his return. Rebecca waited patiently for answers, hoping that police would make a major break. When Jack Rogers was presented as a suspect, she was hopeful.
However, Rebecca eventually discarded the possibility of Jack being involved in her son’s disappearance. She said, “In my heart, I don’t believe this suspect is responsible.” Even so, that doesn’t mean that she gave up on finding answers.
Two Decades Have Passed With No Closure
More than 20 years have passed since Branson Perry was last seen by his family and friends. Those left behind have been hanging on to hope, without much progress to keep them going. There have been several dead-ends, rumors, and life events that have only added to the confusion.
In addition to the sheriff’s department, there are several organizations that continue to work for justice and bring Branson home. For example, Monica Caison, the founder of the Community United Effort Center for Missing Children, continues to search for Branson.
A New Sheriff Takes Over the Case
Although Branson has not been found, the Nodaway County Sheriff’s office has kept his case open. Today, Sheriff Randy Strong is involved in the hunt for the missing man, confirming that he believes drug-related business and foul play to be involved.
He says, “There have been some really good detectives that have worked on it in the past. I know most of them from the highway patrol and different agencies that have come in and looked. They’ve laid a really good foundation and I think they’re on target, and it’s up to us to pick up the ball and see if we can take it and finish.” The sheriff’s office has received several leads in the past and continues to welcome any tips.
Branson’s Family Have Largely Passed Away
Even if these leads prove to be substantial, there’s a sadness attached to the case. Over the past two decades, several members of Branson Perry’s family have passed away, including his parents. In 2004, Bob Perry died, not ever receiving the answers about what happened to his son.
Rebecca followed in 2011, passing away after struggling with melanoma. Tragically, both parents have died without any closure. They never got to say goodbye to their son, or hold him and tell them that they love him one last time. However, they never gave up.
A Final Gesture of Hope
It’s a sad truth to know that Branson’s parents died without answers, but that doesn’t mean that they gave up on finding their son. Rebecca even reserved an empty plot next to her grave for Branson. She hoped that authorities would eventually find her son and lay him to rest alongside her.
Even with Branson’s parents passing away, law enforcement is still dedicated to the case. Missouri State Highway Patrol Sergeant Roger Phillips says, “Just because she is not here doesn’t mean this train is not going to keep moving. It’s about getting to the truth.” Sheriff Randy Strong echoes these sentiments.
Randy Strong Won’t Give Up
Sheriff Randy Strong and the Nodaway County Sheriff’s office continue to work the case. Sheriff Strong says, “You go back through and you review the reports and see if we’ve missed anything. The individuals involved continue to be a threat to the community. Second, it’s the right thing to do. If it was a family member of mine or yours, you’d want us to work on it much as we could.”
He continued, “I think it was, he was with a group of individuals that he knew when he was murdered and it’s pretty simple as that. The sticking point on this I believe is that we are dealing with drug culture. They’re not willing to give much information and we don’t know where is the body is.” We can only hope that Branson will be found - dead or alive - and that justice will be served.