THOMPSON, N.Y. — Something was wrong with David’s roommate.
It was Monday morning, Dec. 5, and David was about to leave for work. He hadn’t laid eyes on Richard King, his friend of almost a decade, since Friday.
Normally, Rich was out of the house they shared in this rural wedge of Sullivan County by the time David left for his job at the local high school. But when he saw his roommate’s car in the garage, David’s heart sank. “That was very unusual,” said the 46-year-old music teacher, who asked to be identified only by his first name.
His anxiety had been growing all weekend. On Friday night, Rich, a real estate appraiser, had returned home after David had gone to bed early to rest up for a music gig in New York City the next day. Because Rich often worked on Saturdays, David had been surprised to see his car in the garage that morning when he left to drive into the city. Maybe he’s just taking the day off, David had thought.
Later, David watched Rich’s Friday-night return home on security camera footage: His roommate had been holding his back as he entered the house, apparently in some kind of physical distress.
The two had lived together more than nine years, an initially stopgap arrangement — both had been exiting marriages — that had strengthened into a friendship.
“I thought of him as a brother,” David said.
So it was unusual that Rich hadn’t come out of his room for their routine of Sunday dinner, and it was even more odd when he didn’t leave for work on Monday. Increasingly panicked at work, David sent a volley of texts and calls to his roommate; all went unreturned. A friend stopped by the house at David’s request; no one answered the front door. David sped home and finally opened Rich’s bedroom door, where he found him lying in bed, eyemask on, hands crossed over his chest. Not breathing.
David called 911 and began CPR, but it was no use. “He had already been gone,” he said.
EMS arrived on the scene, followed by law enforcement. Undersheriff Eric Chaboty of the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office said there were no signs of foul play. Following procedure for an unattended death, police poked around for some kind of identification for the deceased. They couldn’t find any for Richard King.
But they did find mail addressed to a different man — someone named Robert Hoagland.
David told the detectives Rich had mentioned to him the previous week that he was going to receive some mail with a different name on it. He offered no explanation, and David didn’t want to pry.
But now he typed the name “Robert Hoagland” into Google, and discovered that someone by that name had vanished from Newtown, Conn., almost a decade ago. And he was the spitting image of the dead man in the bed.
Last seen alive
On a summer Sunday in late July of 2013, Robert Hoagland disappeared from his Connecticut home without his cellphone, wallet, passport or even his trademark loafers. He was married, 50 years old, with three sons in their 20s.
Police said the real estate appraiser — known to friends as “Hoagy” — was last seen on July 28 at a gas station on Church Hill Road in Newtown. He had gone to a local bagel shop and then to the station, where he filled up his car and purchased a map of the eastern United States, according to Newtown police.
Investigators determined the gas station purchase was the final transaction Hoagland made on his credit cards. He was seen smiling on the station’s security camera footage, which were the last images many have ever seen of him. Three hours later, a neighbor saw him mowing his lawn.
Lori Hoagland — who that Sunday was wrapping up a European vacation with friends — reported her husband missing the next day when he failed to pick her up at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens. Her texts went unanswered, so she took a cab to a relative’s home in Brooklyn and called Hoagland’s boss. Her husband hadn’t shown up for work that morning. When she finally got home, his car was in the driveway.
Police examined Hoagland’s personal computer, but discovered a program had been installed on it within weeks of his disappearance that deleted all of his internet searches. When police examined his work computer, they found he had repeatedly searched an address in Rhode Island that turned out to be a dead end.
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