Richard Hoagland never returned home to his wife and two sons after calling home and telling them he needed to be taken to hospital in 1993. He was declared legally dead in 2003 and wife Linda went on to remarry.
But Hoagland had slipped under the radar and secretly moved 1,000 miles of the family home in Indianapolis to the quiet town of Zephyrhills, Florida. He remarried and had another child under the identity of Terry Symansky - a fisherman who died in 1991.
But Hoagland was exposed when the real Mr Symansky's nephew was researching on ancestry.com and found a marriage record stating his uncle had wed four years after his death.
The 63-year-old was arrested an is now facing a string of fraud charges. His third wife, Mary Hickman, found a briefcase stuffed with documents relating to his real identity after his arrest.
Second wife Linda told ABC how she never saw him again after the panicked phone call in 1993.
"He called me at work and told me that he was ill… and that he needed to go to the emergency room.I said, 'Well, why don’t you just wait, and I’ll go with you?' He said, 'No, I don’t have time to wait'."
Pasco County police branded him a 'selfish coward' for his two-decade-long deceit.
Sheriff Chris Nocco, said: "This is a person who has lived his life destroying others."
He told officers he wanted to get away from his second wife but could not contemplate another divorce.