In 1993, Richard Hoagland left his wife Linda Iseler, and their two sons, Matthew and Douglas, without warning.
He started a new life in Florida, using a dead man's name.
23 years later, Richard's new identity was discovered, and along with it came back the anguish and sadness for the family that he left behind.
Richard's son Douglas Hoagland has been in and out of jail for the past decade—all on drug charges.
Douglas Hoagland sits in an Indiana prison, awaiting his release next month, while his father sits in a jail cell of his own in Florida on identity theft charges.
Now, Douglas writes in an open letter to his father, obtained by People, how Richard Hoagland's departure profoundly affected the family he left behind:
“[A]t a very young age, I lost a person that I thought loved me. So for a long time I wondered what was wrong with me that would warrant someone being able to just walk away.”
Douglas then explains how he started along on the dark path his life took:
"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.
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."
But Douglas doesn't blame his father for his problems. Instead, in the letter he asks him a question, and offers him sympathy:
“I’m sure the big underlying question for everyone is WHY? What was so bad that you had to disappear? It’s been over 23 years and I know for a fact that the day you left is still fresh in everyone’s minds.”
And ultimately, Douglas offers something only someone with true strength could really offer: forgiveness:
“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.”
Douglas's brother Matt is happily married. Their mother, Linda Iseler, also remarried, and credits her faith for helping her remain strong.
Richard Hoagland declined People’s invitation to respond. He sits awaiting trial in the Pasco County jail in Florida with a $25,000 bond.