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Friday, May 18, 2018 1:00 am

Court awards $2 million in 'bizarre' case

For child support as man found after 23 years

MATTHEW LEBLANC | The Journal Gazette

A court ruling in Hamilton County awarded nearly $2 million in back child support to a Huntington woman whose husband disappeared in 1993 and was considered dead before he was arrested in Florida in 2016.

Richard J. Hoagland abandoned his family in December 1993 and moved to Florida, where he lived under the name Terry Symanski for more than two decades. He remarried there and purchased property that included at least one airplane, according to news reports and court documents.

He was arrested on a charge of fraudulent use of personal identification after a relative of the real Terry Symanski – who died in 1991 – began studying his family history and discovered someone with the same name living in central Florida, an ABC affiliate reported.

It was a strange case that garnered national attention, including a feature on ABC's “20/20.”

“Bizarre,” Tom Markle, an attorney with Barrett McNagny in Fort Wayne, said Thursday.

Markle represented Linda K. Iseler – known in 1993 as Linda Hoagland – in a case filed in Hamilton County against the man who left her with two children and vanished. Iseler, who lives in Huntington, sought child support for the children dating back to the early 1990s including payment for costs to send the children to college.

A judgment Wednesday from Hamilton County Superior Court Magistrate William P. Greenaway and Judge Jonathan M. Brown says Hoagland owes his ex-wife more than $1.86 million. That includes nearly $1.4 million in interest charged to payments he should have been making starting in 1993, court documents show.

A decision on whether Hoagland should pay back attorneys fees to Iseler is pending. The case was handled in Hamilton Count because that is where Iseler and Hoagland married, Markle said.

“This is a selfish coward,” Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco told the Tampa Bay Times in 2016. “This is a person who has lived his life destroying others.”

The newspaper reported Hoagland lived quietly under his alias in Florida, working odd jobs. Deputies believe he stole Symansky's identity through a complicated scheme in which Hoagland found a copy of the man's death certificate and used it to secure a birth certificate, driver's license and other documentation, according to the newspaper.

Hoagland had been considered dead since 2003, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

Markle said Hoagland was recently released from jail in Florida and is living in Indianapolis. Online court filings list his address as the Citrus County Jail in Lecanto, Florida.

A call to Hoagland's attorney, Paula J. Schaefer of Indianapolis firm Ruppert and Schaefer PC, was not returned Thursday.

The next legal step is to try to collect money from the judgment, Markle said. It's not clear how much Iseler will ever see from the ruling, but he said Hoagland owns “multiple properties in Florida.”

Court officials in Hamilton County also took into account Hoagland's assets.

“Also considered is the fact it was clear Richard was not living in poverty, but had obtained a comfortable lifestyle, had remarried and had children, obtained a pilot's license and owned at least one airplane that was acquired for personal use,” court documents say.

A hearing in the case is scheduled for July 19. 

mleblanc@jg.net