A 50-year-old Phoenix man gave his family the shock of a lifetime after appearing on their doorstep nearly 16 years after he had been declared dead. According to reports, he left his wife and five children in 1991 to assume a new identity and unknowingly destroyed their lives in the process.
In the summer of 1991, then 34-year-old Eric Myers told his family he was traveling to San Diego on a business trip. Shortly after, he claims a robbery prompted him to head south to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, where he planned to “figure out” his life on the beach before returning home.
“I’m sitting there, saying, You can do this and still go back,” he told ABC News in a 20/20 segment that profiled him last week. “You can still do this and still be OK. Maybe a week. Maybe two weeks.”
But he didn’t reach out to his family, and forced them to deal with the aftermath of his presumed “death” while he headed north to Palm Springs, CA, where he spent almost two decades nursing a new relationship with a gay lover under a new identity, taking jobs that didn’t require identification.
Raised in a strict Christian household, Myers said he knew he was gay at six years old, and felt “uncomfortable” living a heterosexual life with his wife and children. Friends of the family have since suggested that Myers’ disappearance was prompted by severe financial issues, as he had been borrowing money from his father’s business to keep from running out of funds.
“I cannot say anything to deny that it is the most selfish thing in the world,” he said. “And I will never be painted as a saint. But no one is all good, and no one is all bad.”
Upon his return, Myers claims that his mother had forgiven his past “with one hug,” but his ex-wife and five children were less than forgiving. He learned that two of his estranged daughters took his disappearance especially hard, and one even battled an alcohol addiction in the years that followed. Myers’ ex-wife says she wished he had never returned, as she was successfully sued by Liberty Life Insurance for the $800,000 she received in death benefits plus interest.
One of Myers’ estranged daughters said she didn’t blame her father for being gay, but doesn’t ever plan on seeking a relationship with him because she “doesn’t believe that he is capable of love.”
Despite the fallout, Myers believes he made the right decision to return. “To live in a disguise is a horrible prison,” he said.