LITITZ, Pa. — A Pennsylvania woman who 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 panhandled, authorities said.
Brenda Heist, 53, had been declared legally dead, a Lititz Borough police detective said. The detective said he met with her in Florida on Monday and 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 hitchhiked to Florida.
Her ex-husband Lee Heist, who collected on a life insurance policy after getting the courts to declare her legally dead in 2010 , said he was angry because of the effect her disappearance had on their son and daughter. Lee Heist was looked at as a suspect, but was eventually cleared.
Heist turned herself in to police in Key Largo, Fla., on warrants, and told them she was a missing person.