Pa. Woman Declared Dead Turns Up After 11 Years
Brenda Heist vanished after dropping off her children for school
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 2, 2013 8:21 AM CDT
An April 26, 2013 photo taken by the Monroe County, Fla. Sheriff's Office and released by the Lititz Borough, Pa. Police, shows Brenda Heist.   (Anonymous)

(Newser) – A central Pennsylvania woman who mysteriously disappeared after dropping off her children for school 11 years ago has surfaced in Florida, telling police she traveled there on a whim with homeless hitchhikers, slept under bridges, and survived by scavenging food and panhandling. Brenda Heist, 54, had been declared legally dead, says a police detective who met with her in Florida; he says she apologized for what she did to her family.

Heist was going through an amicable divorce in 2002 when she was turned down for housing assistance, which led her to despair. She was crying in a park when two women and a man befriended her, then invited her to join them as they began a month-long hitchhiking journey to South Florida, the detective says. Her ex-husband, Lee Heist, who was looked at as a suspect in her disappearance and later collected on a life insurance policy after getting the courts to declare her legally dead in 2010, told reporters he was angry over the effect her disappearance had on their children, now ages 19 and 23. "There were people in the neighborhood who would not allow their children to play with my children" because he had been a suspect. He says the mother and children want to speak with each other, but they're taking things slowly.

View 1 more image

Copyright 2016 Newser, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. AP contributed to this report.

More From Newser
My Take on This Story
To report an error on this story,
notify our editors.
Pa. Woman Declared Dead Turns Up After 11 Years is...
5%
11%
62%
2%
3%
17%
Show results without voting
You Might Like
Comments
Showing 3 of 56 comments
ashthe1
May 3, 2013 1:07 AM CDT
I told you people that...people are crazy..not just doped up or drunk, but loco crazy.
okaragozian
May 2, 2013 10:36 PM CDT
Horrible.
Falcon269
May 2, 2013 6:50 PM CDT
If the eyes are the window to the soul, you will seldom see deeper pain, despair and self-loathing than on this poor woman's face. She is deserving of our compassion.