Brenda Heist: PA woman declared dead, found alive in Florida after 11 years

Credit: Screengrab/Wcsh6.com
Credit: Screengrab/Wcsh6.com

Missing for 11 years and presumed dead, a Pennsylvania woman surfaced in Florida, telling police her depression caused her to hitchhike her way to Florida.

Eleven years ago Brenda Heist dropped her two children off at school at Lititz, PA and then vanished. None of her possessions were missing and her car was found in a nearby county. Dinner she was preparing was found defrosting at her home.

Her ex-husband, Lee Heist, who police initially considered a suspect but was cleared after taking a polygraph, had her declared legally dead two years ago.

This week, Heist surfaced alive and well after turning herself in for outstanding warrants in Key Largo.

“She said she was at the end of her rope, she was tired of running,” Lititz Borough Police Det. John Schofield said according to the Associated Press.

Schofield, who visited Heist in Florida, said she was going through a divorce at the time of her disappearance, which made her depressed. After dropping her children off at school Heist sat in a park and cried. That’s when two women and a man invited her to join them as they hitchhiked to Florida.

In a news conference on Wednesday, her ex-husband said he was angry because her leaving affected both his status in the community and their children.

“There were people in the neighborhood who would not allow their children to play with my children,” he said.

Her husband has re-married and her two children are now 19 and 23.

When Heist is released from custody, she will likely spend some time with her brother in Florida and then with her mother in Texas, Schofield said.

“She has a birth certificate and a death certificate so she’s got a long way to make this right again,” Schofield said. “She’s going to take it slow with her family, I’m sure, and it’s going to be a long process.”

Follow Mary Ann Georgantopoulos on Twitter @marygeorgant


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