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'I'm Sure He Had Great Reasons': Roommate Of Missing Connecticut Man Who Took On New Identity Speaks

Robert Hoagland disappeared from his Connecticut home nearly 10 years ago. Not long after he went missing, a real estate appraiser named Richard King responded to an ad for a roommate in upstate New York

By Jax Miller
Dead New York Man Was Missing Connecticut Dad

An upstate New York man is shedding some light on the last years of his roommate, who took on a new life after his baffling 2013 disappearance.

Questions continue to swirl after a man long known as Richard King died in December.

On Dec. 5, King’s roommate called authorities to their residence in Rock Hill, New York, a rural town in the Catskills less than 100 miles north of New York City and reported his friend had suffered a “medical emergency.” The roommate was pronounced dead at the scene.

While looking through the decedent’s belongings, deputies with the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office soon found paperwork that indicated King was actually Robert Hoagland, a husband and father who disappeared under head-scratching circumstances from Newtown, Connecticut nearly 10 years ago.

Now, Hoagland’s roommate is speaking out for the first time, claiming to have known the man he believed was Richard King for most of the time Hoagland was gone.

A police handout of Robert Hoagland

“I just want people to know there was nothing strange about his life,” David — who did not wish to use his last name — told the Albany Times Union. “Other than the fact that he was able to disappear for nine years.”

A cause of death has yet to be determined, though authorities say no foul play is suspected in Hoagland’s passing. 

Robert Hoagland, then 50, was reported missing on Monday, July 29, 2013 after failing to pick up his wife at the JFK airport following her 17-day trip with friends to Turkey. He’d also failed to show up to his place of employment — where he worked as a real estate appraiser — that day. His car was in the couple's driveway and all his belongings seemed to be in the home.

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Investigators traced Hoagland’s last movements to the morning of July 28, when surveillance video captured him in seemingly good spirits when stopping at a local gas station. He then went home to one of his three adult sons, played a few online games of Scrabble and spent the latter part of the morning mowing the lawn.

It wasn’t long before Richard King arrived in Rock Hill, New York, which about 90 miles west of where Hoagland disappeared.

In the autumn of 2013, David, a music teacher who’d recently separated from his wife, placed a classified ad on Craigslist in search of a roommate, according to the Times Union. Richard King responded to the ad, but David was mildly uncertain about giving him the room when King couldn’t provide identification.

“I asked him, and he said that he had left it behind,” said David. “He said he left everything behind.”

King told David he was a real estate appraiser who’d just moved to Rock Hill after a bitter divorce. He'd reportedly found work as a contractor with Empire Inspections and Appraisals, based in Middletown, New York. He used a company car to get around, according to the Times Union. A coworker who David knew vouched for King, and the two men can to an agreement.

Hoagland moved into a spare room in David’s rental home, which he had been sharing with his wife until the divorce. The arrangement technically violated David’s lease, since subleasing was prohibited, and helped Hoagland evade a credit check and having to present proper identification to the landlord. (The landlord told the paper David renewed the lease in 2016 without mentioning the roommate.)

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Hoagland brought only a few belongings, including a small bed and some clothing.

"He said he was divorced, his children were adults, and he was just looking to start a new life,” said David. “So I was able to kind of help him out.”

The men struck up a close friendship: They customarily sat down for Sunday night dinners and exchanged gifts during Christmastime. David even repeatedly referred to Hoagland as his brother during the interview with the paper.

And, when David purchased a home of his own in 2020, Hoagland followed as his roommate, per the Albany outlet.

“He taught me how to cook and many great things,” David remembered.

According to David, Hoagland offered only occasional glimpses into his supposedly pre-divorce life: A family trip to Hilton Head, South Carolina was one such memory, as was working with one of his sons on an old Volvo.

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Hoagland also mentioned that another one of his sons struggled with substance abuse. His son's addiction factored into theories surrounding his 2013 disappearance and featured in a 2016 episode of Investigation Discovery’s “Disappeared.”

Investigators theorized Hoagland possibly got into a violent confrontation with some "shady men” to whom his son had allegedly sold two laptops stolen from the Hoagland residence in exchange for drugs.

The theory never panned out.

Sullivan County Undersheriff Eric Chaboty said after King's true identity was discovered that the man had been “living under the radar" — something David also agreed with — but he wasn’t exactly a hermit. He volunteered at a local soup kitchen and even participated in a group photo, as published by the Times Union.

In the latter part of their time together, the David's roommate warned that he might be getting mail in another person’s name, according to the Times Union. David said he didn’t want to pry but he now wonders if it had to do with his roommate's medical needs, as Hoagland’s health seemed to be in decline in the final six or months of his life.

“He was slowing down,” said David, noting Hoagland had recently changed his diet.

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On Friday, Dec. 2, home security footage showed Hoagland returning to the men’s residence and holding his back as though he were in pain, according to David. David said that he hadn't seen his roommate around on Saturday, though his car was in the driveway, and the man had skipped their Sunday dinner together. He found it all “unusual” — especially when his roommate didn't go to work on Monday or answer messages and phone calls.

When he finally entered Hoagland's room on Monday, the man was lying in bed with his arms over his chest, an eye mask still on his face.

“He had already been gone,” David told reporters.

Deputies with the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office would link “Richard King" to Hoagland after finding the mail he'd warned David about.

Newtown Police in Connecticut would later state “there was no criminal aspect” to Robert Hoagland’s disappearance, according to a release e-mailed to Oxygen.com.

“I don't know why he did it,” said David. “I’m sure he had great reasons.”

David claimed he was as “shocked and confused” as everybody else.

Hoagland’s family has not publicly discussed the case, though one of Robert Hoagland’s sons, Christopher Hoagland, told NBC News the discovery was “pretty confusing.”

His wife, Lori Hoagland, previously called her husband’s disappearance “a total mystery.” According to the Albany outlet, she reportedly moved to a different home in Newtown following her husband’s disappearance.