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Central Pa. woman found 11 years after disappearance - abc27 WHTM

Central Pa. woman found 11 years after disappearance

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Brenda C. Heist (submitted) Brenda C. Heist (submitted)
Brenda Heist (2002 photo) Brenda Heist (2002 photo)
LITITZ, Pa. (WHTM) -

For the last 11 years, people in Lititz said they thought Brenda Heist was dead. But last week, she was found alive in Florida.

On Feb. 8, 2002, Brenda Heist dropped her two kids off at school, then she vanished. Police looked for Brenda, and even questioned her then- husband Lee Heist as a suspect in her disappearance.

"There were people on the neighborhood who would not let their children play with my children," said Lee. "That hurt me more than just about anything else."

Police cleared Lee but never found Brenda. She was declared dead in 2010.

But on Friday, she showed up at a police department in Florida, emaciated from living homeless. She turned herself in on false ID charges.

Brenda Heist told midstate police that she left Lititz because she and Lee were going through a divorce, and her application for housing assistance was denied.

"And she explained to me that she just snapped and on a whim she made the decision at that point she was going to go along with this homeless group and travel down towards Florida," said Lititz Borough Police Detective Sergeant John Schofield.

Brenda Heist hitchhiked more than 1,300 miles to Key West. Over the least 11 years, she never once called friends, family or police to tell them where she was.

"It's angered me," said Sergeant Schofield.

"There's a difference between forgiving and forgetting, I forgave her many years ago," said Lee.

Investigators said Brenda Heist has plans to move to Texas to stay with her mom, and she hopes to one day speak to her two children.

Her son recently Graduated from West Chester University and is pursuing a career in law enforcement. Her daughter is currently enrolled at West Chester University, where she is studying to become a teacher.

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