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Abandoned Son Writes Letter to Dad Who Was Discovered After 23 Years with New Wife and Name

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A man’s secret life is finally exposed, decades after his disappearance left his wife broke and under suspicion. For much more, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands on Friday.

After Richard Hoagland abruptly abandoned his wife, Linda Iseler, and their two sons in 1993, she was left alone to rebuild a new life.

“I had to go into survival mode,” she recalls in an interview with PEOPLE in this week’s issue, on newsstands Friday. “Life goes on. You can’t quit.”

Iseler leaned heavily on her faith to get her through some of her darkest moments, she says. But she also turned to her sons, Matthew and Doug, who were 9 and 6 when Hoagland walked out of their lives forever.

While Matthew, now 33 and married, was her “rock,” Doug struggled with his dad’s sudden disappearance.

“The impact of [my dad’s] actions has affected all of us over the years,” Matthew tells PEOPLE, “and we still deal with it and carry it on a daily basis.”

• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.

Courtesy Linda Iseler
Courtesy Linda Iseler

Doug has served a handful of prison sentences for drug-related charges since 2006, according to the Indiana Department of Corrections. He is now in prison for possession of a controlled substance and expects to be released later this month.

In an exclusive email obtained by PEOPLE, Doug writes to Hoagland — the man who abandoned him and who is in jail himself, on an allegation of identity theft. Hoagland was discovered 23 years after vanishing, living with a new wife and a dead man’s name.

“[A]t a very young age, I lost a person that I thought loved me,” Doug writes to his dad. “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,” Doug continues. “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.”

Jim Wright
Jim Wright

In the letter, Doug does not blame Hoagland for his actions. He asks a familiar question, and he offers sympathy.

“I’m sure the big underlying question for everyone is WHY? What was so bad that you had to disappear?” he writes. “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 declined PEOPLE’s request for comment. He remains in the Pasco County jail in Florida on $25,000 bond and has pleaded not guilty.