In June of 1991, while attending a real estate seminar in San Diego a father and husband, disappeared from his life and vanishing without a trace. In a report broadcast on ABC’s 20/20, the man, Eric Myers, is described as having lived the American dream. Myers who was 34-years-old somehow managed to pull off the great escape.
Myers was the third of five kids born to Don and Joan Myers in a suburb just outside of Phoenix. The conservative, wealthy Myers family lived among luxury homes, picturesque golf courses and influential neighbors. He had every advantage: the best schools, the best neighborhoods and those days, the best toys. In high school, Myers was a popular class president who was also considered a class clown.
After going off to Washington State University Myers realized how much he missed a young lady from his hometown. He soon proposed to and married Anne. Their union was completed by two daughters, Erin and Kirsten. They later adopted three boys from Vietnam. While Myer’s career, as a property manager in his father’s booming real estate business, was taking off, he confided to one of his friends that he was in over his head.
Their family was deeply religious and even with the flawless appearance Eric’s marriage was on the rocks. There was talk of divorce. Eric searched rigorously through the Bible and could not find a way out. He felt trapped but wanted to do the “Christian” thing so he stayed married.
June 25, 1991, as Eric headed to a real estate seminar in San Diego, little did his family know he wouldn’t be coming back.
For almost two decades no one knew where Eric Myers was. Police in two states and a private investigator only turned up dead ends. There were some hints of foul play as authorities searched for Myers, but they all became dead ends. Eric Myers had completely vanished.
After being missing for 16 years and being declared legally dead by his family, Eric Myers decided to come back into his family’s lives.
Why would a wealthy, successful real estate agent living the American dream throw it all away? “I just wanted it all to end. I wanted everything to end,” said Myers in an interview with ABC News. A healthy, successful American man with a wife and five kids just disappeared. His family found out that he checked out of his hotel on the first day of the conference but that was all. Nobody knew where he went of what happened to him. The question for this family remained; where did he go, and how could he leave his wife and children behind?
“I remember screaming that I wanted him back,” said his youngest daughter, Kirsten Myers Ruggiano. She was devastated and said she cried herself to sleep every night for weeks. Ruggiano was only 8 at the time and her sister was 10. By the age of 11 she began experimenting with alcohol and a result spent years struggling with addiction.
Myers says he was robbed on the final day of his San Diego business trip. As a result he spent the night in a seedy motel with only a few hundred dollars in his pocket. He says the next morning he woke up and in a swirling moment of emotional despair headed south, to Mexico.
He doesn’t remember all of the details of his trip but he remembers crossing the border in Tijuana and buying a bus ticket to Cabo San Lucas. Cabo, with its warm sandy beaches, provided a total escape from a life which he says held a secret that would shake his religious roots to their core.
“At 6 years old, I knew I was attracted, drawn very heavily toward other people my same sex,” said Myers.
Myers said that because he was gay, he felt forced to create a fake persona from a young age. He said that he believed having a girlfriend would help make him feel how he was “supposed” to feel. So he turned to religion and at the age of 13 became fervently evangelical.
When religion didn’t work, he thought marrying Anne and starting a family would help. But it didn’t, and ultimately the lie caught up with him on that business trip to San Diego, he said. He remembers thinking that at first Cabo would just be a temporary getaway.
But Myers didn’t go back. Two weeks turned into four months, and without one phone call home to tell his family that he was okay, he headed to Palm Springs, California.
Myers said that while searching for a new job, he met a tourist from Canada named Sean Lung. They hit it off immediately. They soon moved in together and took trips together. Myers took on different identities and found odd jobs that didn’t require an ID. Myers said that during that time he tried to avoid thinking about the life he had left behind.
In 1996, Myers was declared legally dead. His family cashed in a life insurance policy worth $800,000, and the money was placed in trusts for his two daughters.
In 2007, 16 years after Myers disappeared, cryptic email messages started to show up in the inboxes of Myers’ friends and family. One email read, “Would you be curious in knowing what happened to Eric Myers?”
Sixteen years after disappearing, out of nowhere, Myers reappeared. First he connected to his mother, who was elated to see him. Myers and Lung moved in with Myers’ parents and helped care for his father in the last few years of his life. As of today he has also reconnected with most of his siblings.
Myers’ return has thrown his ex-wife and children into emotional turmoil. His daughter Ruggiano, now 30, has not spoken to him since his return.
When Liberty Life Insurance, the company that had paid the death benefit, learned that Eric Myers was alive, they successfully sued the Myers family for the $800,000 plus interest, and the family is now appealing. “It almost hurt more to have him come back than it did for him to go in the first place,” said Ruggiano.
Myers insists that despite the painful consequences he knows he did the right thing by returning home. “To live in a disguise is a horrible prison,” said Myers. He goes on to say, “I cannot say anything to deny that it is the most selfish thing in the world. And I will never be painted as a saint. But no one is all good, and no one is all bad.”
He managed to disappear for 16 years leaving a wife and 5 children. He returns with a new sexual orientation, new lover and will soon have the ability to legally embark on a new marriage. ABC’s 20/20 described him as having lived the American dream while his ex-wife and children simply call his so called dream a nightmare.
By: Cherese Jackson (Virginia)