Sometimes when life's problems pile up, it's nice to imagine starting all over again. For some people, getting a fresh start at life is so important they will do just about anything to make it happen - including fake their own death. While it seems crazy, people who faked their own death to avoid their problems - be it impending criminal charges, souring relationships, or piling bills - really do exist.
These cases of bizarre staged death are surprising, strange, and sometimes pretty funny. But before you start planning your own escape, take a real close look at these criminals who faked their death. While some are more creative than others, in the end they all got caught.
Marcus Schrenker was a respected Indianapolis money manager who seemed to be living the dream. He had a beautiful $4 million home, had a wife and three kids, and he owned a private plane. But that was all a facade. Behind the scenes Schrenker's life was nothing but a huge mess.
He was deep in debt, cheating on his wife, and was accused of committing securities fraud. When the state moved to revoke his securities license in 2009, Schrenker hatched a plan to leave his problems behind. He boarded his plane, flew over rural Alabama, and jumped out with a parachute, crashing the plane and allowing him to land safely below. But he made it seem as if he disappeared in the wreckage somehow. He hid out in campgrounds across Alabama and Florida while police searched for him.
Investigators found travel books in the wreckage with the pages for Florida and Alabama torn out, so they had a pretty good idea of where he might be hiding. When they found him, he was suffering from self-inflicted wounds. Apparently, the fake death turned into a very real suicide attempt.
Before John Stonehouse tried to fake his own death, he was known as a Labour Party secretary in the British Parliament. He felt he was trapped in an unhappy marriage and wanted to run off with his lover and secretary, Sheila Buckley. In 1974, he went to a beach in Miami and disappeared. Presumed to have drowned, he basically got away with faking his own death. He moved to Australia with Buckley to set up a new life, and used a fake name set up a bank account.
Things went wrong when another British man disappeared at the same time. The same year Stonehouse faked his own death, Richard John Bingham, otherwise known as Lord Lucan, went missing as well. His wife was attacked, their nanny was murdered, and he was nowhere to be found. His wife said Bingham had attacked her, and a manhunt began. Back in Australia, a teller at Stonehouse's bank started becoming suspicious of him, and suspected he might be Lord Lucan. Police arrested him believing he was Lucan, but quickly determined he was Stonehouse. He was charged with fraud, theft, conspiracy to defraud, and causing a false police investigation.
Ari Squire wanted to start over - specifically he wanted to start over as Justin Newman. In 2008, the Illinois man hatched a scheme to murder the real Newman - a friend of his - and assume his identity, all while making it appear as if Squire was the one who was actually dead. He swapped clothes and wallets with Newman, and bought a brown wig and blue contacts to look like him. He then lured him to his house, killed him, and lit his body on fire in Squire's garage, staging it to look like a freak accident.
Authorities originally believed the badly burned body they found was Squire, and so did his family. In reality, Squire fled to Missouri assuming his new identity. But Newman's mother reported him missing, and police ran tests on the burned body's teeth. It wasn't Squire, it was Newman. Police tracked the real Squire down, but before they could arrest him he killed himself.
British couple Alfredo and Sophie Sanchez found themselves in a lot of trouble in 2004. They had mounting debts they couldn't get under control, and were desperate for a way out. Then, in 2005, they figured out a way to solve their problems. Sanchez, a designer for music retailer HMV, would fake his own death to receive nearly $1 million in insurance payouts.
Sophie called HMV and told them that her husband had died while in South America. She said his body was cremated and offered his death certificate as proof. The company believed her, and all was going according to plan until one of Alfredo's friends tried using his employee discount card at HMV. When the company said Alfredo had died, the friend was surprised. This triggered an investigation by police, who found Alfredo's fingerprints on his death certificate. Both Sophie and Alfredo - who had relocated to Australia - were arrested.