The story of Linda Iseler and her family is a truly strange tale. In 1993, Richard disappeared and was never seen again. Richard abandoned his family, and his wife Linda and their two young sons were left with nothing and no money to pick up the pieces. The police subsequently eyed Linda with suspicion, her family was followed, and she was forced to raise her sons alone. Twenty-three years later something happened that would never have been expected and solved the mystery once and for all. Click through the slides to find out what happened in this unbelievable story!
A Strange Tale
The story of Linda and Richard Hoagland is one strange and sordid tale. The two had a happy marriage and Linda gave birth to their two sons. They settled in Indianapolis, Indiana where everything seemed to be going well for the happy family.
The couple took part in normal, everyday activities with the occasional argument over money or the children, but nothing to the extreme. When their sons, Matthew and Douglas, turned nine and six years old, respectively, the happy family’s life turned upside down. Something was very wrong in the household, and only one person knew about the secretive tumult.
A Terrible Secret
It turned out that Richard Hoagland was hiding a terrible secret. As the days passed on he withdrew more and more from his family. His wife, Linda, noticed his behavior but made up excuses for it within her own mind. The happy family façade quickly began to crumble.
The poor boys remained blissfully unaware that anything in their life was amiss. Apparently, this was an issue that Richard felt could not be fixed or even talked about. In hindsight it seems that throughout the entire time Richard was at home with his family, he was quietly planning something that no one could have seen coming.
An Unassuming Call
In February of 1993, Linda went to work like she did every other day. She worked at a medical office, and on February 10th at 4:45 PM, Richard gave Linda a call at work. He said that he had to go to the emergency room because he wasn’t feeling well.
Linda offered to come meet Richard at the hospital if she wanted him to but he said that he “couldn’t wait.” Linda had no idea that everything was about to change. She went about her day and picked up younger son Douglas from daycare after work. She got home at 5:25 P.M. and was shocked when she discovered that Matthew had been left home alone.
A Left-Behind Life
Linda called all the local hospitals but no one had any record of Richard ever being there. Richard had left no sign that he was leaving, his toothbrush remained in the bathroom, his clothes in the closet, his passport remained untouched. Linda recounted, “It was cold. It was in February. He didn’t take a coat.”
In one moment, their successful life together unraveled. Richard had a previous divorce and claimed to be in love when he met Linda. He was successful in business and took his family on luxurious vacations. He couldn’t just up and leave such a successful life like his, could he?
A Shattered Life
Less than one hour later the family was officially shattered with a simple phone call. The phone rang and at the other end was Richard. All that he said was, “I can’t live this way anymore. I feel you would be better off without me.” He quickly hung up, not even allowing his wife to respond.
A few hours later he called back with one more strange message, he said, “I don’t want to go to jail. I’m never coming back.” Within a 24-hour period, Richard had successfully dismantled his family and turned his life upside down. He disappeared on that day, February 10, 1993.
A few days after his last call, Richard Hoagland’s car was discovered abandoned. Various airlines and their flight records were searched. His name was never found on any flights. Richard called twice more and he always called collect. After Linda checked the phone records, it showed that his calls came once from Venezuela and another time from Aruba.
With the patriarch of their family disappearing into thin air, it seemed like things couldn’t get much worse. As Linda and her two sons tried to cope with the loss of their husband and father, police began to investigate Richard’s mysterious disappearance.
Hidden Financial Issues
That Spring, Richard contacted his son Matthew for his 10th birthday when he sent a card that contained a fifty-dollar bill. A few months later, he did the same for his son Douglas’ seventh birthday. This became the last time they ever heard from their father.
Apparently, before he left town, Richard had been struggling financially unbeknownst to the family. He almost maxed out all of their credit cards and even forged Linda’s signature on a bank loan. Linda filed for divorce, and in the decree, the judge ordered Richard to pay unpaid taxes, various loans and debts, and 26 credit cards.
A Family In Shock
In the cards he sent to his sons, Richard wrote, “I love you and miss seeing you. Let your mom help spend this money, you might want to put some away. Maybe sometime soon we will get to see each other. I bet I won’t even know you it has been so long. Mind your mother. Bye, Dad.”
Little did they know, those would be the last words Richard’s sons would ever see from him. “Initially, you think: ‘OK, this won’t last long. He’ll be back,'” Matthew Hoagland told ABC. Matthew’s mother, Linda, also said, “He devastated us. He left us with nothing, absolutely nothing. I was very broken.”
Struggling on Their Own
Linda was unable to pay their mortgage and car loans and it seemed as though the walls were closing in on the family. It was then that the police began to question Linda on Richard’s disappearance. They insinuated that Linda knew where he had gone or that she knew what actually happened to him.
Linda continuously told police she had no idea about where Richard had gone. She told them that he had called her and said that he was never returning. Police continued to suspect her and subjected her to numerous police interrogations but Linda never once wavered on the story.
Linda Under Suspicion
Eventually one of the police officers, a detective, actually claimed that Linda knew where her husband had disappeared to. He claimed that it was a big financial hoax and that Linda was planning to take her children and eventually meet up with Richard. While being repeatedly questioned by police, Linda had even bigger problems to worry about – her finances.
All of the financial damage that Richard had left her with was starting to add up. No longer able to pay her bills, Linda had to declare bankruptcy. This was a nightmare scenario for a woman with two children, especially when her husband had been the primary breadwinner.
The Family Was Followed?!
Instead of staying with his family and dealing with the financial issues that he had created, Richard decided to take the easy way out and disappear. In return, he left his family’s lives in complete and total ruin. Linda ended up depending on her parents to get by during this dire time.
She began to notice a variety of strange things that seemed to suggest that she was being watched and she became more and more sure of it. She would notice strange people that seemed to be following her, cars parked outside, her mail was opened and re-sealed, and items in her house seemed as though they were being moved.
Family Goes into Hiding
One February, her father even found a recording device attached to her phone line. Linda was convinced that Richard had been involved with unsavory individuals and that’s why he left town. She said, “When you’re in that situation, you become very paranoid.” The bank eventually came and foreclosed on the family’s home and almost simultaneously repossessed her vehicle.
That October, Linda and family decided to go into hiding in McCordsville, Indiana. She was desperate to keep herself and her children safe, especially if Richard had been involved in something shady. Linda ensured all of the bills were in her parents’ names, so they couldn’t be tracked to her. She also had her boys catch the school bus from the home of a friend, all in order to prevent anyone from finding out where she lived.
Linda and her family stayed in hiding for over six months, but the fear did not drop away then. The family continued to be fearful, and almost paranoid for years. The troubles, sadly, didn’t stop there. Linda was still being watched by the police department. It seemed like Linda and her family were destined to live in a constant state of suffering after the departure of her husband.
How could Richard do this to people that he claimed to love? Luckily, Linda still had her parents to help her at the time. In an interview with ABC, Linda’s elderly mother recounted how painful the entire situation had been.
Richard Hoagland Resurfaces
In 2016, the truth was finally uncovered. A detective named Anthony Cardillo of the Pasco County Sheriff’s Department in Florida called Linda. He asked, “Do you know who Richard Hoagland is?” Linda could hardly believe what she was hearing after all of these years.
Apparently, throughout all of her family’s strife, Richard had settled down again in West Palm Beach, Florida. He was alive, content, and happily remarried. He even had another child with his new wife, a son. Detective Cardillo told Linda that they had Richard in custody. He had been arrested for using the identity of a dead man.
After Richard left his family he rented a home and found a death certificate in the house. It belonged to a man named Terry Symansky who had died in 1991. At this point, Richard decided to make the fateful decision to cut all ties to his family and assume another person’s identity.
Richard Hoagland decided to become Terry Symansky. From there, the new Terry embarked on a new life, he got a job, a home, and even found love again. He seemingly loved his life in West Palm Beach. None of his new loved ones in his new life were aware of anything amiss.
The man that Hoagland rented a home from was Edward Symansky, who was still lamenting the death of his son Terry. Hoagland was renting an efficiency apartment that was in Symansky’s home in Port St. Lucie, Florida. Because of the close proximity, Hoagland was often there to listen to Symansky reminisce about his son, but little did he know, Hoagland would take advantage of this information, especially after finding Terry’s birth certificate.
Cynthia Bujnak, Terry’s sister, told People after Hoagland’s arrest, “My dad was grieving and pouring his heart out… My dad was the victim. Even after 23 years, the truth will always come out.”
A Final Arrest
Everything began to crumble for Richard when Terry Symansky’s real nephew was doing some research on ancestry.com. The nephew found something in his research that seemed out of place. His uncle, who had been dead for many years, had somehow been listed as getting remarried and even getting his pilot’s license.
The nephew contacted authorities and from there the truth began to unravel. In July of 2016, the same month as his son Douglas’ birthday, the police went to Terry Symansky’s house and arrested Richard Hoagland. He was put in jail at the Pasco County jail on a $25,000 bond.
Repercussions For His Actions
After all of these years, Richard was finally being held accountable for all of the wrongs he had committed, both legally and morally. Sadly, prosecutors were unable to file charges for theft against Richard from back in Indiana. The authorities couldn’t find affidavit that contained the original allegations.
Of course, this included the forged loan document where he had signed Linda’s name and stolen credit cards. The state of Indiana maintains a statute of limitations on a theft that is five years. So while he couldn’t be held accountable for the crimes of his past he could still be charged with stealing a dead man’s identity.
Two Families Destroyed
While living as Terry Symansky, Richard had remarried and had another son who is now 19 years old. Richard’s two families have never met, including the brothers. Linda said, “My heart goes out to them. We know what they are going through. We do express our sympathy and empathy to them. I’m sorry.”
Richard has now successfully torn apart not one but two families that he has claimed to love with his atrocious actions. In the meantime, Linda’s attorney, Tom Markle, is attempting to get some kind of reparations by demanding that Richard pays almost $2 million dollars in unpaid child support. Richard will more than likely have to pay restitution for making a living as Terry Symansky.
Richard’s New Family
Posing as Terry Symansky, Richard remarried a woman named Mary Hossler Hickman in 1995 and the newlyweds settled in Zephyrhills, Florida. They even had a son together, who was just a teenager by the time his father was caught and arrested.
While Hoagland’s Florida family has remained generally quiet throughout the whole situation, the Tampa Bay Times reported that Mary later found a briefcase that contained documents about Hoagland’s real identity, as well as a deed to a property in Louisiana, and the key to a storage unit. According to detectives, their son “was shocked. It was still his father. It’s his blood, but that Symansky name is not his. The emotions they were feeling [were] between anger and sadness and the wonder of why.”
A Son’s Struggle
While Richard did send his first sons a few cards over the years, the experience he put his family through cannot be forgotten. His sons, Matthew and Doug, especially were irrevocably harmed by his actions. Matthew became “the rock” for his mother and Doug took his father’s disappearance very hard. Ultimately Doug even has had to serve multiple prison sentences for drug-related charges.
He wrote a letter to his father, that was obtained by People magazine. Doug said that it caused him to have so much anger, and he partially wondered if something was wrong with him. Ultimately, he turned to drugs. Doug said that he forgives his father, but he has one big question for him, “Why?”
A Bad Example
Doug’s brother Matthew Hoagland is now 33 years old and has his own family. Matthew has had a hard time figuring out how someone could walk away from their own family. Matthew said he initially thought that his father would return, but he has come to believe that his father got caught up in something bad and that’s why he chose to leave.
Matthew wears his father’s ring, and he said he wears it to remember the bad example his father set, so Matthew never makes the same mistake with his own family. Even Linda’s elderly mother said that she “is tickled” that he is now confined since he cannot stand being in any one place.
Still No Explanation
Since the solved mystery, Richard has refused to talk and has not given any explanation about his choice to disappear. He has given no response that would go along with the claim that he was in financial dire straits, or account for why he forged Linda’s name. Terry Symansky’s family was also hurt by Richard’s choices, especially because it seems as though Richard knew Terry’s father.
Terry’s grieving father poured out his heart to Richard, and in response, he stole the death certificate of his son. It is unlikely Richard will ever give any reasoning to atrocious actions and why he felt so desperate to leave. One thing can be sure, the truth will always prevail no matter where you go or what you do to get away from it.
If you thought this story was unbelievable, you won’t believe the story of a girl who was kidnapped just eight hours after she was born!
More Cases Of A Disappearance
In today’s world, it’s hard to disappear. From the many people that someone has to come in contact with, even while on the run, combined with the communication and technology we have, it’s hard for people to slip away unnoticed, and never be discovered. Richard Hoagland wasn’t the first person to try to kill off a life and start another one.
Whether they are carrying extreme guilt, aren’t happy with their choices, or are bored with life, some people decide the best thing to do, is to try to disappear. Read on to hear some of the other mysteries of disappearing people who were eventually found alive, many years later.
Born and living in Germany, Petra Pazsitka was a 24-year-old woman attending college, studying computer science. She didn’t lead a controversial lifestyle and was considered very much normal. That was why it was so odd and suspicious when she mysteriously disappeared in 1984.
After having gone to the dentist one day, it was believed that Petra had plans to take public transportation to her parents’ house to celebrate her brother’s birthday. She gave her keys to a neighbor to take care of her birds and withdrew 4,000 Deutschmarks from her account. But she never showed up at her parents’ house, and the mystery as to her disappearance began.
The Search Begins
Petra’s family was absolutely terrified that something horrible had happened to her. Her family continuously searched for answers contacting anyone who they thought might have an answer about her whereabouts. As any worried family would do, they called authorities and the manhunt began to find Petra. Five years went by and the mystery of her disappearance was still unsolved.
Being a young woman with no reason to flee, German police suspected the worst. They believed it was most likely that the young college student had been kidnapped and killed by an attacker. Her family was left grieving with no answers for years.
Gunter K Confesses To Murder
Five years later, Petra’s disappearance was featured on the German crime show Aktenzeichen XY. That’s when police suspected that convicted rapist and murderer by the name of Gunter K was responsible for the murder of Petra. Gunter K had previously been convicted of the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl in the same area that Petra went missing.
Although there were no witnesses or physical evidence to the murder, Gunter K admitted to killing Petra. Although no body was ever found, in 1989 she was declared dead. In a strange twist, Gunter K later retracted his admission to killing Petra, but still left authorities without a clue.
After 31 Years, She’s found
Over three decades later, a robbery was reported in the city of Düsseldorf, a city known for its art and fashion. Police knocked on the door of a neighbor to question her about anything she saw or heard regarding the robbery. When they asked for her name, the 56-year-old woman admitted that she had been living under a false identity for many years.
When asked what her real name was, she replied, “Petra Pazsitka.” With the crime case having made headlines in Germany, police immediately recognized her name and story. The woman they all thought to be murdered and dead was, in fact, alive and well.
Wants No Contact With Family
Petra admitted to having worked in the city for years, doing work she would not specify while doing so under different, false identities. She paid her bills in cash, and didn’t open a bank account, apply for a driver’s license or passport, or leave any paper trail as to her whereabouts. Petra did not offer any explanation as to why she took off.
Police investigator Dirk Bosse was one of the men on the case. Although her father had passed away during the time of her disappearance, Bosse phoned Petra’s mother and brother to let them know she was alive. While Bosse believed Petra would want to reunite with them, she refused, leaving her family confused and heartbroken. Want to hear about an even crazier mystery? Keep reading.
The next story about a disappearance involves a fantasist going too far. Philip Sessarego fooled many people for many years. Born and living in Britain, Philip served in the Royal Artillery as a young man and dreamt of serving at the elite level of the Britain’s Special Air Service. He trained and applied, twice, and failed both times.
That’s when he decided to become someone else. Since his dreams of becoming part of the SAS were destroyed, Philip decided to stop living under his current name and background, and start a new life. He decided that he would fool people as a member of the SAS.
Sessarego Dies In Car Bomb
First, Phillip Sessarego decided to kill off his old identity. Despite having a wife Diane, daughter Claire, and son Paul, Philip decided he no longer wanted to live the life of a husband and father. So, he abandoned his family and decided to fake his death. Documentary-maker James Ross said, “No matter what he achieved in life, this notion of being in the SAS remained the pinnacle of everything he wanted to do.”
Philip’s daughter, Claire
The conman staged his death to make it appear as if he was killed by a car bomb in Croatia. Philip’s wife and young children were told that he was dead.
Best-Selling Author Tom Carew
Philip took on the new persona of SAS member Tom Carew. And he didn’t lay low, whatsoever. Instead, under his new identity, “Tom Carew” Philip wrote a book about the secret operations being a member of the SAS in Afghanistan. The book, titled Jihad! The Secret War in Afghanistan made the best seller’s list, selling over 40,000 copies, and expected to reach 100,000 by the end of the year it was released.
In 2001 Tom Carew became a public persona, appearing on television shows speaking of his (false) 20 years experience on the job in the SAS and commenting on the Middle East.
Tom Carew Exposed As Fraud
Two years after his book was published and hit the best seller’s list, Tom Carew was exposed as a fraud by BBC. The staff of Newsnight had suspicions that Carew wasn’t who he claimed to be, and began researching his background. They discovered that there were no records of Carew having served in the SAS, and had suspicions that he was in fact, a man by the name of Philip Sessarego.
While the cameras rolled, Reporter George Eykyn asked Carew a question that a member of the SAS should be able to answer. When he failed to answer, he stormed out of the interview and punched a BBC camera. He shoved cameraman Paul Francis when they tried to follow him.
Sessarego Found Dead
While it must have been a shock to his ex-wife and children to discover that Philip was alive and posing as someone else, but he made no contact with them, and went back into hiding. In January 2009, Philip Sessarego was found dead in a rented garage in Antwerp, Belgium. His body was decomposed, having laid there for over five months undiscovered. His landlord found him when he stopped by after he hadn’t paid rent.
The 55-year-old died while hiding in the garage among some belongings, including a food cooker and a bed. Investigators believed he was hiding from someone, perhaps one of the many people who hated him for his con work. Another hard-to-believe mystery is up next.
Living in the Chicago suburbs with his wife of 20 years and three children, Arthur Jones worked as a commodities broker in the city. Unknown to his wife, he had surmounted a huge amount of debt due to gambling. He lost $30,000 in a day, betting on a single basketball game. Just a few months before his disappearance, Arthur attempted to pay off $210,000 in debt by selling his seat on the Board of Trade. Soon after, he went missing.
One afternoon he rushed out of the house in casual wear, explaining that he was late for a business meeting and needed to leave. His wife Joanne was immediately suspicious, and rightfully so. It was the last time she would see Arthur.
The next day, Joanne went with her gut and reported him missing. Investigators on the case found his Buick at the O’Hare International Airport. They also found a pair of his sunglasses, but after that, the case went cold. Years went by and nothing was found. Joanne and his children were left without answers, as he was officially declared dead.
32 years went by before Arthur Jones was ever heard from again. As investigators uncovered the information of his whereabouts, his family was stunned to discover that he had deserted them with a huge amount of debt in a selfish act to hit the restart button on his life.
Arthur Found In Vegas
If someone with a gambling problem mysteriously disappears, a good place to check would be Sin City: Las Vegas. And as it turns out that’s exactly where he went. In July of 2011, Arthur Jones was found working under a false name as a bookie in Las Vegas. With the help of some crooked friends, Arthur had stolen the social security number of a living person, Joseph Sandelli, and created false documents to get him by.
He even had a driver’s license, was paying taxes, and voting under his new identity. Arthur was charged with four felony counts, including identity theft and fraud.
People Who Go Missing
It’s worth noting that people go missing for various reasons. In each case, it’s shocking, sad, and leaves the families and friends who are left behind completely distraught and confused, without any closure. In the cases of people who leave their families behind to restart their life, it’s a stinging conclusion when it’s uncovered why they left.
But in the case of children who go missing, it is a gut-wrenching, heart-breaking situation for everyone. The next story is about a boy from Alabama who was taken from his mother when he was just in preschool. For 13 years, she thought he was dead.
Five Year Old Goes Missing
In August of 2002, Bobby Hernandez went to the home where his son lived with his mother in Alabama. The couple wasn’t married and lived separately, however, Bobby threatened the mother of his child that if she ever broke up with him, he’d take the boy. They broke up, and a custody battle ensued between the two parents.
One day Bobby was there to pick-up his son, Julian Hernandez, and take him to preschool. Instead, he decided to take his son and run. He left a note for the boy’s mother, telling her he had taken Julian. It was the last time she would see her son for 13 years, and she soon became depressed and suicidal.
Father Creates Fake Identities
After Bobby took his son, he told him that his mother had abandoned him and they would live on their own now. Bobby drove to Ohio, where the two would live in Cleveland under false identities. Bobby also obtained an Ohio driver’s license and social security card under the name Jonathan Mangina.
He also managed to secure another identity and another social security ID for his son, who was known as “J.J.” around his new neighborhood in Cleveland. Thirteen years after leaving Alabama, young Julian was 18 years old and applying to college. That’s when the young man first realized something was off.
Bobby Hernandez Caught
“J.J.” was a bright student who succeeded in high school and was ready to go to college. He was in a meeting with his college guidance counselor when she let him know that his social security number and his name didn’t match up. After further investigation, they found out what his real name was, and that he was in fact, on the list of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and the story unfolded.
Julian was shocked the hear the truth, as he said his father was a loving and caring person, who took great care of him and encouraged him to do well in his sports and schooling. He had no idea he had been abducted. His father was arrested while at work in a Cleveland factory shortly after.
Heartbroken Mother Overjoyed With The News
Once it was discovered that “J.J” was Julian Hernandez, the police contacted his mother in Alabama with the news. “Really?” she asked the police. “Are you sure? Really?” She asked again. After 13 years, it’s understandable that the distraught mother had all but given up hope that her son was alive and safe. Police Lt. Johnny Evans told The Washington Post, “Once she finally realized it was him, she was excited — she was ecstatic.”
In a statement, she said, “Our family was overjoyed this week to locate Julian and learn that he is safe. We want to thank everyone for their prayers and support during Julian’s disappearance.” For the first time in 13 years, Julian traveled to Alabama to have Thanksgiving dinner with his mother.
Bobby Hernandez Jailed
Julian pleaded with the court not to send his Dad to prison. He told the judge, “Even if other people can’t, I forgive him for what he’s done. I love him and I want him to be a part of my life.” He also told the judge that it was because of his father that he did well in school and is able to get into college today.
Bobby pleaded not guilty to all 32 charges, including kidnapping, forgery, tampering with records, and interference with custody. However, in April of 2016, the jury found him guilty on all 32 counts, and he was sentenced to jail in Ohio. The next story is even more heartbreaking.
A Missing Baby
In 1998, 16-year-old Shanara Mobley gave birth to Kamiyah Mobley in Jacksonville, Florida, but just hours after the birth, Mobley would never see her newborn daughter again. News of the missing newborn made national headlines at the time and because she was taken just hours after her birth, there were no pictures of the baby.
A computer-generated composite of the newborn was created to help find her and there were over 2,000 leads in the case to search for her. For years, she was never found, but Mobley baked a cake every year on the birth date of her missing daughter, telling news stations, “[It] would be the happiest thing in the world for me… to hold my baby and know she’s not going nowhere else.”
Word of the kidnapping became national news shortly after it happened. News crews filmed a 16-year-old Shanara Mobley in tears and clearly distressed over the whole ordeal.
In the video Mobley can be heard saying in between sobs, “She should have never left my arms from the beginning. Please, please bring me my baby back. If you don’t have no kids… if you was faking a pregnancy or, I mean, you just can’t have no kids, I mean, how do you think I feel? …I’m only 16-years-old but I have feelings and that’s my first child.” The Mobley family was heartbroken at the fact that they came home to an empty bassinet and unopened toys.
A Concerned Grandmother
Shanara’s grandmother also had the chance to speak in the 1998 interview. “I worry about the baby’s health,” she began, “What’s the baby going through? And I worry about my granddaughter, because emotionally she’s about to break down. “
Kamiyah’s biological grandmother told the Florida-Times Union in an interview ten years after the abduction that she “remembers passing the woman [that stole Kamiyah] and child while walking into Mobley’s room” and that, “I just feel like if I would have reacted on my feelings … I could have done something. I could have taken that lady out with my bare hands.”
Alexis Kelli Manigo was an unsuspecting 18-year-old living in Walterboro, South Carolina in 2016. She was just a typical teenager who had just graduated from high school and had a steady boyfriend. Manigo and her mother, Gloria Williams, were like best friends.
A family friend of theirs said that they were “always happy, always together… They were like best friends.” A neighbor told reporters that Williams was a very loving and supportive mother who worked as a social worker to provide for her daughter. There was nothing amiss about their relationship. They even would often go out to get their nails done together.
In 2016, two anonymous tips were sent to The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Kamiyah Mobley’s abduction had at this point turned into a cold case, but detectives were sent out to Walterboro, South Carolina to investigate the possibility that the real Kamiyah Mobley was living in that town as a different person.
According to The New York Times, “the investigators found a young woman who had been born on July 10, 1998, just like Kamiyah, but with a different name. Her documents were fraudulent… and ‘interviews with people’ supported the idea that the two women [Kamiyah and Alexis] were one and the same.”
Eighteen Years Later
Eighteen years later, Mobley’s daughter was discovered to be alive and well just a few hours away in South Carolina. Kamiyah Mobley was living in a different state under the name Alexis Manigo. After tips were sent in that Alexis might be the missing Kamiyah Mobley, a DNA test confirmed that this was true.
Soon, Kamiyah was in contact with her birth family, who was relieved to learn that she was still alive. Kamiyah connected with her birth family for the first time over a FaceTime call, after which Kamiyah’s paternal grandmother said, “Nobody works miracles but God. I know now that he heard my prayers.”
How Did This Happen?
The woman who kidnapped Kamiyah was a woman named Gloria Williams. On July 10, 1998—the day that Kamiyah was born—Williams disguised herself as a nurse who befriended the unsuspecting Shanara Mobley during the time she was giving birth.
While the Mobleys thought that Williams was a nurse working for the hospital, the hospital employees thought that Williams was a visiting family member. According to a sheriff’s report, “The suspect remained in the room with the victim and continued helping her and talking with her.” William’s then said she needed to take the baby for some tests, so she took the baby and never returned.
Apparently, Gloria Williams had suffered a late miscarriage at nine months. Before miscarrying, Williams had already had a baby shower, receiving gifts with the name of her new baby on them, who was going to be named Alexis.
According to sources, the miscarriage led Williams to have a nervous breakdown. She then traveled a few hours to the Florida hospital where Kamiyah was born and decided to take the baby and raise her as Alexis Manigo. There was obviously no malintent towards the baby, because, for 18 years, Williams raised Alexis with a happy and healthy life in South Carolina.
Put On Trial
While Kamiyah was reunited with her real family, she still had to deal with the heartbreak of seeing Williams, who she believed was her mother her whole life, go to jail. Williams was incarcerated at the Colleton County Detention Center in Walterboro, South Carolina and was waiting to be extradited to Florida, where she performed the kidnapping.
“I love you, Momma,” Kamiyah-Alexis sobbed as Williams blew her a kiss from behind a mesh screen in jail. Kamiyah wrote on Facebook, “She raised me with everything I needed and most of all everything I wanted. My mother is no felon. The ignorant ones won’t understand that.”
A Happy Reunion
In the midst of all the legal troubles that Kamiyah now finds herself in, her birth parents still traveled to South Carolina to meet her.
In an interview with ABC News, Kamiyah said that she would like to give her birth family a chance and get to know them, saying, “I’m not saying they weren’t going to be good parents. I’m not saying that at all. It would have been a different life. When you find out you have another family out there it’s just more love.” Kamiyah’s birth father, Craig Aiken, told a local news station, “First meeting was beautiful, it was wonderful, couldn’t went no better… she was glad to meet us.”
She Secretly Knew
Apparently, Kamiyah knew of her kidnapping for a couple years before it became national news. When Kamiyah applied for a job at a local restaurant and got hired, she was asked to provide a birth certificate and social security information to her employers.
When she asked Williams for the documents, Williams kept avoiding it. Arika Williams, who grew up believing that Kamiyah was her half-sister Alexis, told People, “Lexy kept being hard on her mother, like, ‘Mama, where is my stuff? I want to get this job.’ Then Miss Gloria just broke down and told her this is why right here, you can’t do this. I kidnapped you.”
Protecting Her Mother
While authorities suspect that Kamiyah knows more about her kidnapping than she let on, news sources say she is careful about what she says in order to protect her mother. Gloria Williams, who kidnapped Kamiyah but raised her well for 18 years, may face life in prison.
Kamiyah told ABC News, “I understand what she did was wrong, but just don’t lock her up and throw away the key like everything she did was awful. She loved me for 18 years. She cared for me for 18 years.” Kamiyah feels like she has to protect her mother because she doesn’t want anything she says to be used against her mother.
Charles Manigo is the man that lived the last 18 years believing he was Kamiyah’s, or rather, Alexis’s father.
In an interview with ABC News, Manigo said, “I named her — a name I had for a year — Alexis Kelli. She was the love of my life… I talk to her every day. The attention is overwhelming to her. She’s still processing everything. It’s a shock to me, it’s a bigger shock to her. One of the hardest tings she said on Friday was, ‘Dad I love you,’ even though she knows what’s going on. She’s still my child, I love her just as much — that’s not going to chance. She’s the love of my life. She’s my child.”
“He Did Nothing”
Shortly after Charles Manigo’s interview went public, a Facebook user who is supposedly Alexis Kelli Manigo, or rather, the victim Kamiyah Mobley, went on a Facebook rant to say that Charles Manigo wasn’t that much of a father figure to her.
She went so far as to say, “WHO WAS THERE, GLORIA WILLIAMS, SO WHAT IS A CHARLES MANIGO. YOU WORK AT A CAR DEALERSHIP AND MY GRANDDADDY STILL GAVE MY FIRST CAR. I CALL MY GRANDADDY DADDY AND HE EARNED IT. YOU WERE NOTHING TO ME MY WHOLE LIFE.” After “Alexis” was born, Manigo and Williams stayed together for a couple years but allegedly shared custody after breaking up.
There Was A Bounty
Kamiyah’s birth mother Shanara sued the University Hospital in Jacksonville after they lost her baby. According to reports, Sharana and her lawyers were paid $1.9 million, with an additional $725,000 to be paid at a rate of $3,000 per month for the rest of her life.
The hospital also set aside $307,000 for Kamiyah in the form of an investment fund, which she was supposed to earn if she was found before her 18th birthday on July 10, 2016. Since Kamiyah was found afterwards, it’s not known if she was still given the funds, which otherwise would have went to Shanara.
Despite The Reunion
Despite the overwhelming joy of discovering her daughter was still alive after 18 years, Shanara Mobley can’t help but feel a little sad over the fact that Kamiyah is set on protecting the “mother” that kidnapped her all those years ago.
On her Facebook page, Mobley wrote, “I'(m) really confused and depressed right now. The tears won’t stop. I see my baby wanting this lady in her life and not me. When I founded out about my baby, I stopped everything and got to where u are and still hurting like that 16-year-old little girl all over again. Kamiyah, if u see this, know u are your mother’s child. Your whole character is me and u can never get rid of that. Love u Babygirl.”
Aside from Kamiyah’s legal battles to try to get an easier sentence for Gloria Williams, she now has to deal with trying to establish her real identity with official documents. In the past, Williams forged Kamiyah’s social security number, having stolen it from a man who died in the 1980s.
Justin Bamberg, who is the attorney for Alexis Manigo, now also known as Kamiyah Mobley, has said, “These things shouldn’t happen and they never should happen, and when they do everybody’s life is turned upside down… Driver’s license, social security number, birth certificate—the basic documents that someone needs to be an adult in America in 2017,” will be one of the primary focuses for getting Kamiyah’s life back on track. Want to hear about an even more bizarre mystery? Keep reading.
Lucy Ann Johnson
Sometimes the disappearances are not for the reasons you might have imagined, and the true details end up being different than anything you might have imagined. Lucy Ann Johnson was an American-Canadian woman who disappeared in 1961, leaving her eight-year-old daughter, Linda Evans and son.
Her husband, Marvin (whom she’d married in 1954), didn’t notify anyone that she’d disappeared until four years later, in 1965, which you much admit seemed very suspicious. So, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police investigated Marvin has a possible suspect in her disappearance (or possible death), and they even dug up his back yard in their search. Marvin said that he thought she was dead, but they couldn’t prove his involvement, and she’d already had a history of estrangement from her family. He eventually died, along with her son, but her trail (if there ever was one) had gone cold…
Uncovering The Secret Of Lucy Ann Johnson’s Disappearance
In the 50 intervening years, most of the searchers had given up. Linda Evans had wondered for all those years about what had happened to her mother, Lucy Ann Johnson, and then Surrey Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) featured Lucy in their “Missing of the Month,” which inspired renewed media attention and also further sparked Linda’s curiosity. She wanted to know what had happened to her mother.
In 2013, Linda began posting free advertisements, and despite setbacks, they finally got a call from a woman claiming to be Lucy’s daughter in Whitehorse. The RCMP spokesperson explained, “We received a phone call from a woman in the Yukon who called and claimed that she had seen the picture of the missing person in the free newspapers and said the missing person we were looking for was actually her mother. The stars aligned, the timing was perfect.”
Linda finally reunited with her long-lost mother, Lucy, in October 2013. She indicated that she was in an abusive relationship, and had been forced to flee, without looking back. This next case does show the power of a mother’s love, but also the tragedy of never feeling that you could ever go home again.
Rachel Elkayam was just 16 when she disappeared from her Israeli home in 1947. A teenager in love with an Arab man, she eloped and it probably reminds you of Romeo and Juliet. Her husband was, then, killed by a sniper, and his parents insisted that she travel to Syria with them to marry one of their other sons.
Rachel was pregnant and she soon gave birth to a son. She said that she wanted to return home but was told that she could not take her son with her. “I couldn’t do that,” she said. “I loved the child.” So she stayed. She was also forced to marry one of her husband’s brothers, an abusive relationship. She once tried to get a letter to her parents, but it apparently never arrived.
What About The Israeli Embassy?
In 2014, one of Rachel Elkayam’s grandsons went to the Israeli Embassy in London. He said that his grandmother in Syria said that she was an Israeli Jew. Rachel’s parents had died, never knowing what had happened to her, but they were able to locate one of her siblings, Geula Elkayam.
Rachel was finally reunited with her remaining family in Israel in December 2015. She’d been missing for 68 years, and she was now 85 years old. In all likelihood, she would have died in Syria without the ability to ever return home, if it hadn’t been for her grandson’s actions. In that reunion, she went home with her family to see her brother, Amnon, who had been a toddler when she disappeared. She also was taken on a tour of the city, to see her parent’s graves, and to see the Mediterranean Ocean. She re-registered as an Israeli citizen.
Of course, sometimes, the missing person really does not want to be found. Such is the case with the next story.
She was 28 years old, in 1974, but Lula Gillespie-Miller didn’t think she was ready to be a mother of three. So, she left her kids with her parents and disappeared. The only trace from her was a letter, received in 1974. Other than that, there was no trace of the Indiana mom. According to her daughter, Tammy Miller, her grandma never gave up hope that her daughter would come home.
Tammy said about Emma Gillespie: “She always left her porch light on every night because she always thought that Lula was going to come home. She never stopped doing it.” Emma died at 91, never knowing what had happened to Lula.
But Tammy was two when her mother disappeared, and she said, “You think 40 years, you haven’t heard anything by now, the chances are slim.”
Detective Scott Jarvis Finds Lula Gillespie-Miller
Indiana State Police Detective Sergeant Scott Jarvis picked up the cold case of Lula Gillespie-Miller, and The Doe Network reached out to him. He tracked down an unidentified woman, who’d been discovered in 1975, and the family was looking for closure. Then, they discovered that the unidentified woman was not Lula, but a lead took the detective to Texas.
Then, Detective Scott approached a woman suspected of being Lula, and she confirmed her identity. Perhaps most disturbing of all, she offered no explanation or apology. Perhaps she didn’t even think she’d really done anything wrong at all. She did give the police her contact details, which offered that one, rather slim, hope of reconciliation perhaps even reunion between mother and daughter.
No Happy Ending
After recovering from the shock that her mom was alive, Tammy Miller reached out to her mom, Lula Gillespie-Miller, via a phone call. But, that too was a disappointment. The call had lasted barely two minutes, before her mother told her: “I’ll call you when I’m able to talk.” Tammy doesn’t believe that phone call will ever come, and she adamantly proclaims that she will never call her mother again.
After nearly 40 years, Tammy told PEOPLE: “This isn’t going to be one of those happy, made-for-TV movies.” After so many years, and such a whirlwind of emotions on both sides, you’d want to wish that something positive could come out of it. For Tammy, she was probably hoping for closure. Unfortunately, what she appears to have unearthed is just more questions.
But, once again, those DNA tests can really make a difference in Missing-Person’s cases. Just read on to find out what happened in the next story.
Lucy Cora Hood
There was a time when DNA evidence really didn’t do the cops and investigators a whole lot of good. Technology just hadn’t progressed far enough yet…
So, when Lucy Cora Hood had vanished in 1970, it was particularly tragic for her 15-year-old daughter, Grace Kivisto. The disappearance happened after a family argument, but then they found a body in the back yard. Since there was no way to identify the body via DNA, given the technology at the time, Grace thought her mom was dead, and she was able to move on with her life. Can you imagine her surprise when she found out that her mom had been alive all those years?
Discovering Lucy Cora Hood
As DNA testing became a more accurate and viable possibility, tests were run on the bones in the back yard, which revealed no match to Lucy Cora Hood. They’ve not been able to identify who the person in the backyard was/is, but they know it’s not Lucy.
Imagine the surprise of everyone — investigators and family alike — when they found that Hood had been living in Florida. She was 84 years old, and appeared to have experienced mental-health issues all of her life, which may explain her disappearance all those years ago. In all, she had 14 children, and Grace Kivisto was able to reunite with her mother after all those years.
The next story is even more heartbreaking, troubling, and also ambiguous.
Richard Wayne Landers, Jr.
So, the simple facts are that Richard Wayne Landers, JR. was a five-year-old little boy, who disappeared in July 1994. His father had given him over into the care of his parents, and the boy had lived with them since birth. Unfortunately, Richard’s custody was never formalized.
Deputy John R. Russell, with LaGrange County Sheriff’s Department, investigated Richard’s disappearance in 1994, and explained, “I’m not sure that they (the grandparents) ever had legal custody.” So, when there was a dispute with Richard Wayne Landers, Jr’s mother regarding custody, his grandparents were reportedly “upset over pending court proceedings.”
At the time of Richard Wayne Landers, Jr’s disappearance, the “fierce” custody battle was between his mother and his grandparents. Richard’s mother and stepfather were living in their car, and were unemployed. Instead of waiting to see how the legal turmoil would play out, the grandparents took the child from their home in Wolcottville, Indiana, and never returned.
According to the authorities: “These people (the grandparents) were nice people. It was wrong for them to do it, but I can understand why. But I also didn’t think the child would be in any danger at all with them.”
Of course, when he was finally discovered in Minnesota 19 years later under an assumed name, he didn’t even know he’d been missing for all those years.
Landers Had No Idea He Was Missing
After the boy disappeared, the police could not find any sign of him. There was no trace of Landers after his grandparents took him out to breakfast. Finally, with no further evidence against the grandparents, all charges were thrown out in 2008.
The investigators never stopped looking for Richard Landers, Jr., but the case was more actively pursued when his stepfather, Richard Harter, turned over the boy’s Social Security card. Investigators discovered that the same number was being used by a man in Long Prairie, Minnesota. A driver’s license had even been issued to the same Minnesota man. Imagine the surprise of this young, 24-year-old man, when the police showed up and told him that his grandparents had abducted him.
What About Lisa Landers?
While there were reports that Lisa Landers (Harter) was homeless and unemployed at the time of Richard Jr’s abduction, she denies that claim, saying that she was living in an apartment and had been granted trial custody by a judge.
Before she was able to continue with the court-ordered custody situation, Richard and Ruth Landers disappeared with the five-year-old boy. The trail ran cold, so the police (and she) had no idea where he was for the next 19 years. When she learned that he’d been found and that he was ok, she said, “I’m a little nervous because I haven’t seen him for a long time… I want to tell him I want to see [him]. I want to talk to [him.] But I might cry.”
How Much Did He Know?
With abductions like this, one of the questions seems to be around who knew what, when and how. While he claims not to have known anything about the identity of his “real” parents or that his grandparents were the ones who really raised him, there have been speculations about how true those claims really are.
He’s now an adult, with a family of his own, so what he knew probably is more a matter of curiosity than anything. But, skeptics mentioned that he changed his name just days after he turned 18. He and his his wife also vehemently defended his grandparents against any and all critics.
Richard Wayne Landers, Jr (now Michael Landers) responded to the media and critics: “For you people who jump to conclusions, you should find out the whole story. I was right where I needed to be. My ‘grandparents’ were in the right and I don’t care what anyone else thinks.”
Reports also indicated that it would be up to Landers on whether he wanted to have any contact and/or communication with his parents. There were some claims that the grandparents might be brought up on charges related to the 19-year old abduction and interference case, but no further news has arisen regarding a case against them. Some have speculated that the legal issues have been resolved out-of-court and/or that there was a decision not to pursue further legal action after so many years.
What About Richard Sr?
Of course, this gets a little complicated. Richard Wayne Landers, Jr had reportedly given his parents “temporary” custody of his son for one year, because he was “too young” to have a kid, and he was unemployed. It’s not immediately clear how that “one year” evolved into five years.
Also, there are no concrete reports about a relationship between Richard Sr and his son, nor any attempt on his part to regain custody of the son that he’d left with his parents to raise from birth.
When his son was found, though, he indicated that he was “delighted.” He also said that he forgave his parents for their actions, and that he looked forwarded to reconnecting with his parents and his son.
What Does Bobbie Say?
The wife of Michael (Richard Landers, Jr), Bobbie posted to Facebook: “His ‘grandparents’ didn’t follow the law, but they did what was right. Sometimes, our US laws don’t help or protect the people they should. He was five. He remembers his birth parents and what they were like.”
She further said, “He had been living under his grandparents care since he was a 6 month old baby. He was where he wanted and needed to be to be safe and become the man he is today, my husband and best friend.”
Authorities have seemed to support the perspective that he was never un-safe, while in the care of his grandparents. While their choice to take him without legal authority may have been wrong, they appeared to be trying to “save” him from what they felt was a worse situation.
Who Is Landers?
Michael Landers has become a well-known part of the community. He works at an auto-body shop. His grandfather is a well-regarded (and known) member of the community. While there may always be questions about his childhood, it seems clear that he was well cared for and loved by his grandparents.
Police Sgt Ron Galaviz said, “It just appears on its face that his grandparents raised him as their own child over these last 18 years.” But, it was all an enormous weight. He said, “To get this dropped in his lap at age 24, after all these years, God knows that it’s something he’ll have work out for himself.”
While it’s true that some missing-persons cases can become very convoluted, there are certain realities of lost, missing and abducted persons that are essential for us all to remember.
Yes, these stories of abductions/kidnappings are interesting, tragic, and heart-wrenching. Even in the best of circumstances, the missing person and their families are irrevocably affected. How can you really “get over” something like that?
As scary as it is, a child goes missing every 40 seconds. So, when you see the parents who freak out about their kid running behind a tree, that’s why. Time is always of the essence, and the first two hours are especially critical. One of the tragic realities is that it can take up to two hours to get the full details from a freaked-out and hysterical parent. It’s understandable. After reading all these stories of adults and kids, you know what could happen. Sometimes the kids end up safe, but there are those other tragic stories too.
With 800,000 kids going missing every year, that’s not even including the hundreds of thousands of adults who go missing. There are lots of missing people out there! While technology continues to improve, which continues to clear up cold cases as well as new missing-persons cases, even just mentioning the numbers makes you realize what a daunting, even impossible task it really is to find just one (perhaps that one YOU love and have lost).
As you’ve also seen, there are groups of missing persons for whom the cases statistically remain open longer. They don’t get as much attention. It would be nice to think that those realities are improving, that those missing persons with mental health issues would get the help they need, that domestic abuse victims wouldn’t feel that it was necessary to run and never look back, and that all the other groups would receive the attention they deserve.
Also, as technology continues to improve, it’s possible that those cold trails will yield more evidence, and that those unsolved cases will yield some closure.