Missing Pennsylvania Mom Found in Florida After 11 Years

Police and family members believed that Brenda Heist, who disappeared from her Pennsylvania home in 2002, had fallen victim to foul play. In fact, the divorced mother of two had run away from her problems, hitchhiking to South Florida, where she was homeless for two years, lived with a man for seven years, worked day-labor jobs and was homeless for another two years. Last week, the 54-year-old woman contacted police in Key Largo, and her family back home finally learned the truth — the loving mother depicted in missing posters as a smiling brunette was now a haggard street woman with gray-streaked blonde hair.


A detective from Lititz, Pennsylvania, who had been looking for Brenda Heist since she disappeared in February 2002, flew down to Florida to meet with her this week. ”Everything seemed to be going against her while she was on the street,” Detective Sgt. John Schofield told CNN. “She was just worn out and at the end of her rope. She didn’t want to continue on with her secret life down there.”

Brenda Heist was last seen dropping off her children at school, CNN reported:

She was going through a divorce from then-husband Lee Heist and was applying for housing assistance so that she could get her own apartment.
She worked as a bookkeeper for a car dealer and hoped to receive some financial aid.
However, her request was denied, Schofield said.
“She was very upset, she was sitting in a park crying, thinking about how she would raise her children, feeling sorry for herself,” he said.
It wasn’t long before she was approached by two males and a female who asked her what was wrong. After she told them what had happened, they invited her to hitchhike with them down to Florida.
“At a whim, she decided at that very moment, she would go along with them,” said Schofield. . . .

 A long investigation into her disappearance followed. People thought Brenda Heist had been murdered. Her ex-husband was viewed as a suspect. In 2008, a cold-case unit revived the investigation, but none of their leads led anywhere. And the least-likely explanation turned out to be true.

“When the investigation first began, after interviewing all of her family and friends, neighbors, co -workers, the one consistent thing they all said was that she would never leave on her own. She would never leave her children behind,” Detective Schofield told CNN. ”The fact that she left on her own was one of the theories, but it was at the bottom of the list.”



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  2. May 3, 2013  1:30 am by theebl Reply

    A regular Horatio Alger story there.

  3. May 3, 2013  9:43 am by rosalie Reply

    The result of not wearing sunscreen?