Add this to the many mysteries surrounding Sandy Hook.
50-year-old Robert Hoagland was a self-employed real estate appraiser in Newtown, Connecticut — the town where, on Dec. 14, 2012, Adam Lanza, 20, allegedly massacred 20 first grade children and 6 adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Hoagland also worked for an attorney in Bridgeport.
Seven months after the school massacre, Hoagland disappeared, leaving a wife, 52, a culinary teacher at Newtown High School, and three sons, ages 26, 24, and 22.
On a mild summer day on July 28, 2013, a Sunday, Robert Hoagland had started his day early by driving into town before 7 a.m. to pick up bagels and put gas in his Volkswagen Golf. He was wearing a white t-shirt, khaki shorts and his signature loafers. A surveillance camera at Bagel Delight on Church Hill Road and at the Mobil station captured his smiling face.
Then Hoagland returned to his home on Glen Road in Sandy Hook to have breakfast with his son Max, 24. His wife, Lori, was returning to the United States from a trip to Turkey.
At about 10 a.m., after sending a few text messages and playing online Scrabble for a while, Hoagland went outside to mow his lawn. When he stopped the mower to say goodbye to Max, who was going out for a few hours, the moment of silence marked the last time anyone in his family would see the 50-year-old father of three.
After cutting the grass, Hoagland put the mower away, slipped his loafers off and threw his clothes in the laundry, which were later found by his family. Everything in the Hoagland home was in its right place; there were no signs of disturbance.
That night, Lori reported her husband was missing.
While police began their search, Lori and her sons sat together and tried to figure out a reason why Hoagland would take off. Lori said there had been some “troublesome things” in the family, “but not enough for him to just disappear. I think every idea that we had was investigated. We exhausted everything that we could possibly imagine had happened.”
In September 2013, Lori and a group of her friends conducted a search of wooded areas lying within in a three-mile radius of the Hoaglands’ Glen Road property. The search involved areas including Riverside Road in Sandy Hook and River Road in Southbury.
Hoagland’s brother had also hired a private investigator to look for the missing realtor.
Since Hoagland’s disappearance, the Newtown Police Department had received a flurry of tips in the interim — a hiker who looked like Hoagland in Rhode Island (turned out to be a case of mistaken identity), a man matching his description in Brookfield — but the trail had gone cold. “He could literally be anywhere,” said Lt. Richard Robinson. “Given six months’ time he could be anywhere in the world.”
When he vanished, Hoagland left behind his car, cell phone, passport, wallet, loafers — the only shoes he ever wore — and his blood pressure medication.
Hoagland’s 28-year-old son Chris said, “It’s just odd a man with bare feet would just up and leave.”
Meanwhile, Hoagland’s wife and their three sons are left with neither the grief of mourners nor the anger of an abandoned family — only confusion, despair and hope that one day Hoagland will come home.
“Obviously, after six months there aren’t many leads anymore,” Lori said. “We continue to be strong in our conviction that he would never just run away, but there’s no proof either way.”
At this point, the family hopes the case can pick up national media attention so their father’s face appears in newspapers and on television screens wherever he may be. They have also launched Facebook and Twitter accounts titled “Help Us Find Hoagie” to help spread their story.
Hoagland is described as white, 6 feet tall, about 175 pounds, with brown hair and blue eyes. He has a distinguishable scar over his left eyebrow. He was last seen in a white T-shirt and khaki shorts. A Facebook page, Help Us Find Hoagy, has additional information.
If you have seen Hoagland, call Detective Jason L. Frank at the Newtown Police Department at (203) 270-4229.
See also “The strange purchase date and price of Sandy Hook homes,” Feb. 14, 2014. For the links to all the posts FOTM has done on Sandy Hook, go to our “Sandy Hook Massacre” page!