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One Year Later: Sandy Hook Man's Disappearance Still 'A Big Question Mark'



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As the family and friends of Robert Hoagland this week formally marked the first anniversary of his mysterious disappearance from town, police continued to pursue leads on his possible whereabouts in a case that has puzzled both police and the people who knew the Sandy Hook man.

On the night of Monday, July 28, a group of Mr Hoagland’s family and friends gathered at the Fairfield Hills Campus.

As darkness fell across the verdant lawns, they lit candles within 50 paper lanterns which then slowly rose into the night sky and drifted on a gentle breeze, in honor of Mr Hoagland and in tribute to the family’s friends who have provided moral support after his disappearance, according to Lori Hoagland, Mr Hoagland’s wife. Mr Hoagland was 50 years old when he disappeared.

Police this week were investigating a possible July 24 sighting of Mr Hoagland as a visitor at the Putnam County Correctional Facility in Carmel, N.Y., according to Newtown Police Detective Jason Frank, who is the lead investigator on the disappearance.

“We’re still working on it … We’re working on tips,” Det Frank said July 28.

Det Frank said July 31 that video surveillance evidence at the jail, which recorded the man in question, proved inconclusive.

Also, last winter a report of a sighting of Mr Hoagland at a Savers store in Brookfield, which was recorded on video surveillance equipment, proved inconclusive.

After a year of extensive investigation, police have no clear evidence of any crime having been committed in connection with Mr Hoagland’s disappearance and also have no clear evidence of his whereabouts, Det Frank said.

After receiving a report of the Putnam County sighting, Newtown police then sent news releases to media outlets in sections of New York State near Connecticut to publicize his disappearance.

“I’m very hopeful … I’m hoping for the best,” Det Frank said of the ongoing investigation.

“It’s a big ‘question mark,’” he said of Mr Hoagland’s disappearance.

The case is unlike other local missing persons cases in that there is so little clear evidence available, Det Frank said.

The detective said July 31 that he had just spoken with Ms Hoagland about the police investigation.

Newtown Police Issue Statement

In a statement on the investigation, police said, “On Monday, July 29, 2013, Robert Hoagland was reported missing by his wife when he failed to show up at the airport to pick her up. Robert was not located on Monday, July 29, and a missing person investigation was initiated. Robert was confirmed to have made several purchases at the Newtown Mobil Gas Station on Church Hill Rd, at 6:45 am on [July 28, 2013].”

According to a published report, one of those purchases was a map of the Eastern United States.

Mr Hoagland had last been seen at his home at about noon on Sunday July 28, 2013.

“All of the vehicles belonging to Robert and his wife were accounted for, and both his wallet and cellphone were later located at his home. Also, his personal belongings including his driver’s license, credit cards, passport…blood pressure medication, money, shoes were found in his home,” police said.

The immediate area surrounding his residence, including woods, trails and even nearby Lake Zoar, were searched with no evidence having been located indicating that Mr Hoagland had been in the area after his disappearance.

Mr Hoagland worked as a real estate appraiser.

He was reported as a missing person to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System database on August 7, 2013.

Police said that media reports of Mr Hoagland’s disappearance resulted in tips that produced several investigatory leads in Connecticut and Rhode Island.

All of those leads were either proven to be misidentifications or unconfirmed. After several reports of sightings were received in Rhode Island, a police statement was issued to all newspapers, radio stations, and television news stations in the greater Providence, R.I., area. This produced several more reported sightings in the area between Providence and the Rhode Island-Connecticut border. These sightings were investigated and all turned out to be misidentifications, or unconfirmed sightings, according to police.

“The Newtown Department of Police Services is still actively investigating this case. Anyone having any information relating to the possible whereabouts of Robert Hoagland is urged to call the Newtown Department of Police Services at 203-426-5841,” police said. The Hoagland investigation is known as Case #2103-10697.


Ms Hoagland offered some comments this week on her husband’s disappearance.

Following a candlelight event held at Fairfield Hills on the night of July 28, she said, “We set sail 50 wondrous paper lanterns powered by candlelight, best wishes, and love into the night sky in his honor and in tribute to the unbelievable community of friends who have lifted my family’s spirits during this tumultuous, troublesome year.

“Simultaneously, another gathering, led by my brother and my oldest son, assembled in Hilton Head, South Carolina, to pay similar tribute, aligning luminaries containing the letters of his name along the beach,” she said.

“One year later, we know little if anything more than we did the day my husband was discovered to be missing,” she said.

“Random, unsubstantiated reports of sightings have appeared now and again in local news with little information provided to me or my family as to the source or details of these reports,” she said, adding, “Needless to say, we remain heartbroken.

“As I professed recently to Lieutenant Richard Robinson of the NPD in an e-mail plea for help in gaining nationwide exposure for this story as the one-year mark approached, I thought things would be getting easier, but in fact, Hoagy’s loss hurts even more today than it did a year ago,” she added.

“Although I don’t know for certain, I would say we might find the greatest solace in knowing we went to the greatest lengths we could to find my husband,” she said. “If he is out there, and that he must be, the world needs to know. And if they do, we just may learn what happened.

“But sadly, today, day one of year two, with no nationwide media presence, we cannot say we have left no stone unturned. And that is profoundly discouraging,” Ms Hoagland said.

In their effort to find Mr Hoagland, his family and friends have created a Facebook page, www.facebook.com/HelpUsFindHoagie, seeking information on his whereabouts. 

These video surveillance photos of Robert Hoagland, above and below, show the Sandy Hook man within the Newtown Mobil gas station’s convenience store on July 28, 2013.
The family and friends of Robert Hoagland are seen near luminarias on the beach at Hilton Head, S.C., on the night of July 28. The luminarias spell out the missing man’s nickname.
Family and friends of Robert Hoagland also gathered at Fairfield Hills on the night of Monday, July 28, to mark the one-year anniversary of his mysterious disappearance. 
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