Missing Pa. Woman Brenda Heist, Thought Dead, Surfaces in Fla.

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Normal Missing Pa. Woman Brenda Heist, Thought Dead, Surfaces in Fla.

Post by NiteSpinR on Wed May 01, 2013 5:18 pm

May 1, 2013

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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, authorities said Wednesday.

Brenda Heist, 54, had been declared legally dead, Lititz Borough Police Det. John Schofield said. The detective said he met with her in Florida on Monday and she expressed shame and 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 monthlong hitchhiking journey to south Florida, Schofield said.

Her ex-husband Lee Heist, who got the courts to declare her legally dead two years ago and has remarried, said at a news conference Wednesday that he was angry because of the effect her disappearance had on their son and daughter. Lee Heist was looked at as a suspect, but cooperated with investigators, took a polygraph and was eventually cleared.

He was able to maintain a bond with the children.

"They knew that I was there, and I loved them and would take care of them," he said.

He said his ex-wife and their children have expressed a desire to speak with each other, but for now they are taking things slowly.

Her identity came to light after she turned herself in to Monroe County sheriff's deputies in Key Largo, Fla., on Friday, and informed them she was a missing person. She told them she was on probation and had recently been arrested under a name different from her real name. The nature of those charges was not clear in a Monroe County sheriff's office report released late Monday.

Schofield said she was expected to be released from police custody in Florida and was likely to spend some time with a brother in that state before moving in with her mother in Texas.

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

Inside her Lititz home the day she disappeared, dinner was defrosting and the laundry was half done. Police located her car in neighboring York County but none of her personal belongings were missing.

When Schofield called recently to meet with her ex-husband and their daughter, they assumed he would be notifying them that her remains were found, the detective said.

Lee Heist said he struggled financially after his wife disappeared, quitting his job and losing his home. She had been a bookkeeper at a car dealership.

"There were people in the neighborhood who would not allow their children to play with my children" because he had been a suspect, he said.

Brenda Heist had been homeless for the past two years, most recently living in a tent community run by a social service agency.

"She said she was at the end of her rope, she was tired of running," Schofield said.

For about seven years she lived with a man in a camper in Key West and worked odd jobs. Schofield said she never had access to a computer and never checked to see if she was being sought, although she assumed she was.

The Heists' daughter is now a 19-year-old West Chester University sophomore, and their son, 23, recently graduated from the same college and is pursuing a law-enforcement career. The school is about 30 miles west of Philadelphia.

Schofield said police in Florida were trying to sort out a warrant-related issue before releasing Brenda Heist. Details about any charges, and whether she was being held on an active warrant, were not available from police in Florida or Pennsylvania.
Missing Woman Found.JPEG

The Monroe County Sheriff's Office said Heist was in "protective custody," although not with the office. The sheriff's office did not immediately respond to a request by The Associated Press for a way to contact her.

Police in Lititz said the investigation eventually involved dozens of detectives, and although the trail had grown cold the case had never been forgotten, with Heist's picture tacked to a wall at police headquarters.

Lee Heist said he and the children also remembered, and observed anniversaries. Her valuables were returned to her mother years ago, he said.

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Normal Re: Missing Pa. Woman Brenda Heist, Thought Dead, Surfaces in Fla.

Post by NiteSpinR on Wed May 01, 2013 5:22 pm

Brenda Heist at the time of her disappearance

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Normal Re: Missing Pa. Woman Brenda Heist, Thought Dead, Surfaces in Fla.

Post by raine1953 on Wed May 01, 2013 7:25 pm

I sure feel bad for the children AND the husband! I wonder what the real story is behind her leaving, mental illness or ? Maybe that will come out.
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Normal Daughter to mother who reappeared after 11 years: Rot in hell

Post by raine1953 on Fri May 03, 2013 10:36 pm

(CNN) -- Though her mother has suddenly reappeared after 11 years, don't expect a family reunion any time soon, Morgan Heist says.
"I don't think she deserves to see me," the 20-year-old told CNN's Piers Morgan on Thursday night. "I don't really have any plans on going to see her."
Anger is one of the many emotions Morgan Heist has gone through since she learned last week that Brenda Heist, the mother she last saw when she was 8, had mysteriously reappeared.
Brenda Heist disappeared from her Pennsylvania family some 11 years ago, leaving her husband,daughter and son wondering if something terrible had happened to her. Police searched for her for years, even at one point creating a cold case task force.
Missing mom's dramatic transformation Daughter hopes mom 'rots in hell' Ex: I don't want to talk to runaway wife Missing woman turns up 11 years later
Then last week Brenda Heist, 54, turned herself in to authorities in Key Largo, Florida, saying she had just walked away from her family because of stress.
The fact that her mother abandoned her and never even called has left her seething, Morgan Heist said.
The anger is captured in a post on the daughter's Twitter page that reads she hopes her mother "rots in hell."
"That makes me really mad," Morgan Heist said. "I can't believe she would do that because she was a good mom. She was great. But, I mean, I guess something happened. Something snapped in her. "
Her father, Lee Heist, said he is not planning on visiting his former wife anytime soon
"I don't see where it would do any good for either of us to see her again," Lee Heist said.
Left on a whim
Brenda Heist disappeared February 2002 after last being seen dropping off her children at school.
She was going through a divorce from Lee Heist and was applying for housing assistance so that she could get an apartment.
She worked as a bookkeeper for a car dealer and hoped to receive some financial aid.
However, her request was denied, police said.
"She was very upset, she was sitting in a park crying, thinking about how she would raise her children, feeling sorry for herself," said Sgt. John Schofield, a Lititz Borough, Pennsylvania, police detective.
Schofield was one of the many officers who searched for Heist.
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," Schofield said.
Schofield spoke to Heist at length after she turned herself in.
"She was very emotional; she hung her head; she's ashamed. She was crying when I met with her. She knows what she did was completely wrong, but all that while, she'd never made one effort to call or contact her family at all," Schofield said.
Years homeless while husband under suspicion
She spent the first two years homeless, living under bridges, eating food thrown out by restaurants after they closed.
For the next seven years, she lived in a camper with a man she had met. They made money as day laborers, cleaning boats and doing other odd jobs for which they didn't have to show ID and were paid in cash.
After that relationship soured, Schofield said, she lived on the street again for another two years.
Lee Heist even became a suspect though he was eventually cleared.
Some believed he was involved in Brenda Heist's disappearance, he said.
"The hardest thing I had to deal with was, the families of some of my children's friends would not let them play with them, because of what they thought of me. That just tore me apart. I hope they've learned a lesson not to prejudge," he said.
In 2010, Lee Heist filed a petition with the county court to have Brenda declared legally deceased, according to a Lititz police news release. It was a measure necessary for closure, he said.
Lee Heist later remarried and said he will learn to forgive his former wife.
But for Morgan Heist, forgiving her mom may not be easy.
"I hope to eventually forgive her one day for myself, not for her," Morgan Heist said.
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Normal Friend tells different story of life of woman who reappeared after 11 years

Post by raine1953 on Sat May 04, 2013 12:32 pm

(CNN) -- The tale of Brenda Heist, the Pennsylvania mother who abandoned her two children only to turn up in Florida 11 years later, has taken another unlikely turn.
Heist may not have spent most of those 11 years homeless, as she told police last week when she turned herself in, saying she'd abandoned her family because of stress.
Sondra Forrester says she knew Heist in 2010. At that time, Heist cleaned her Florida home and went by the name Lovey Smith.
"She actually moved in with me, moved in with me about six months after she started cleaning the house," Forrester told CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360" on Friday.
Heist first came into her life through a neighbor, who recommended her when Forrester was looking for a housekeeper.
The neighbor had used her as a babysitter and spoke highly of her, she said.
At first, the two women shared small talk, but little more on Heist's weekly visit to clean.
But over time their conversations took on a different, more personal tone.
"She told me that she had a bad relationship with her boyfriend and I started to kind of feel bad for her," Forrester said. "She described it as sort of an abusive situation, saying that he was maybe an alcoholic and I just let her know that my door was always open for her. I felt bad for her."
Forrester asked more questions about Heist's past when she moved into the house, "but not a whole lot. But when I did ask, she made it clear that she never had kids and she didn't want any."
Heist also claimed to be a widow.
"She said she had been married for, like, 20 years to a man named Lee and he had worked for the Marriott and they had traveled around and visited amazing places and he had died," Forrester said.
'Absolutely shocked'
After she moved in, bringing some belongings with her, Heist lived with her for 10 or 11 months.
She used the computer and cell phone, had a Facebook page and was on an internet dating site, Forrester said. "She had friends outside of me."
Heist's appearance then was nothing like the worn-down face shown in pictures taken after she turned herself in last week to authorities in Key Largo, Florida.
"I was absolutely shocked when I saw that photo," Forrester said. "She has deteriorated significantly since the last time she was seen around here, which was, you know, the middle of 2012, the end of 2012. That's not been very long, you know, seven months or so."
She never suspected Heist of using drugs, Forrester said -- or she would not have allowed her near her family.
Another twist in the tale is that Heist had revealed her true last name to Forrester's son, with whom she became close while living in the family home.
He was around the same age as Heist's own son was when she abandoned her Pennsylvania family nearly a decade earlier.
Forrester had taken her son aside to tell him the truth about the woman he knew as "Miss Lovey," so that he wouldn't learn about it on the news. But he told her he already knew her last name was Heist.
"I was stunned that he knew that. But for a little boy, that's kind of a cool last name. I said, honey, how did you know that? 'Miss Lovey told me.' "
No family reunion
But while Heist was making friends and living an apparently normal life in Florida, the husband, son and daughter she'd left behind in 2002 continued to wonder if something terrible had happened to her.
Police searched for her for years, at one point creating a cold case task force. Her family remain angry over the pain her disappearance caused.
"I don't think she deserves to see me," her 20-year-old daughter Morgan Heist told CNN's "Piers Morgan Live" on Thursday night. "I don't really have any plans on going to see her."
The fact that her mother -- who she last saw when she was 8 -- never even called has left her seething, Morgan Heist said.
The anger is captured in a post on the daughter's Twitter page that reads she hopes her mother "rots in hell."
"That makes me really mad," Morgan Heist said. "I can't believe she would do that because she was a good mom. She was great. But, I mean, I guess something happened. Something snapped in her. "
Her father, Lee Heist, said he is not planning on visiting his ex-wife anytime soon.
They were going through a divorce at the time she disappeared, and he was treated for a time as a suspect in her disappearance, though he was eventually cleared.
In 2010, he filed a petition with the county court to have Brenda declared legally deceased, according to a Lititz police news release. He was seeking closure, he said.
"I don't see where it would do any good for either of us to see her again," Lee Heist said.
He later remarried and said he will learn to forgive his former wife.
But for Morgan Heist, forgiving her mom may not be easy.
"I hope to eventually forgive her one day for myself, not for her," she said.
Left on a whim
Brenda Heist vanished in February 2002 after last being seen dropping off her children at school.
She was applying for housing assistance so that she could get an apartment after the breakdown of her marriage. She worked as a bookkeeper for a car dealer and hoped to receive some financial aid.
However, her request was denied, police said.
"She was very upset, she was sitting in a park crying, thinking about how she would raise her children, feeling sorry for herself," said Sgt. John Schofield, a Lititz Borough, Pennsylvania, police detective. He was one of the many officers who searched for Heist.
By her account, it wasn't long before she was approached by two men and a woman 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," Schofield said.
Schofield spoke to Heist at length after she turned herself in.
"She was very emotional; she hung her head; she's ashamed. She was crying when I met with her. She knows what she did was completely wrong, but all that while, she'd never made one effort to call or contact her family at all," Schofield said.
Heist told police she spent the first two years homeless, living under bridges, eating food thrown out by restaurants after they closed.
For the next seven years, she lived in a camper with a man she had met. They made money as day laborers, cleaning boats and doing other odd jobs for which they didn't have to show ID and were paid in cash.
After that relationship soured, Schofield said, she said she lived on the street again for another two years.
But the revelations made by Forrester raise new questions over the truth of Heist's account.
"I don't think we know the full story yet," Schofield told CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360" on Friday.
"The facts are she left, she turned her back on her family. She started a new life down in Florida ... Whether she lived homeless or whether she lived a wonderful life as a live-in housekeeper, I don't think that was for the 11 years, that was just for the last few years here."
Schofield said Heist is still looking at charges for false IDs, thefts and possession of drugs and drugs paraphernalia in Florida. There may also be false ID and theft charges to face in Pennsylvania, he said.
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Normal Re: Missing Pa. Woman Brenda Heist, Thought Dead, Surfaces in Fla.

Post by NiteSpinR on Sat May 04, 2013 1:09 pm

It really is such a strange story isn't it?
11 years!
I'm wondering why after all that time she suddenly decided to walk into a Police Department and turn herself in?
Was she tired of living on the streets, no longer able to afford a drug habit, wanting to reconnect with the children she turned her back on ?
I certainly don't blame the daughter for having bad feelings at this point. 11 years to a child left wondering where her mother is, that's a lot for a little heart to deal with. Being able to express her feelings like that now, says a lot about what she's been through.
I'm sure they too are wondering what mom's motive is for stepping back into reality.

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Post by NiteSpinR on Sat May 11, 2013 2:51 am



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Normal Re: Missing Pa. Woman Brenda Heist, Thought Dead, Surfaces in Fla.

Post by Wrapitup on Fri May 17, 2013 10:37 am

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Normal Re: Missing Pa. Woman Brenda Heist, Thought Dead, Surfaces in Fla.

Post by Wrapitup on Fri May 17, 2013 10:39 am

The difference in her appearance is freaky for lack of a better word. She doesn't look like the same person!

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Normal Woman missing 11 years sentenced to 364 days in jail

Post by raine1953 on Thu Jun 13, 2013 2:20 pm

(CNN) -- The Pennsylvania woman who resurfaced last month after[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] has been sentenced to nearly a year in a Florida county jail, a court clerk said Wednesday.
Brenda Heist, 54, was ordered to serve 364 days for violating probation, said Lisa Ates, senior court clerk for the Santa Rosa County Circuit Court in Florida.
Heist had been reported missing in Pennsylvania in 2002.
On February 15, before she admitted she was the missing woman, Heist was arrested in Florida for falsely using the driver's license of a woman for whom she had previously worked as a cleaning lady, according to police documents.
Heist was living under the name Kelsie Smith.


Heist had been sentenced to three years of probation for the identity theft and for giving false information to a law enforcement officer. After release from jail in April, she failed to report to authorities and a warrant was put out for her arrest, police records say.
Heist turned herself in to authorities in Key Largo, Florida, in May, informing them that she thought she might be wanted in another county.

The responding officer checked her name and saw that she was listed as "missing and possibly deceased" from Lititz, Pennsylvania, according to the Monroe County Sheriff's Office in Florida. Authorities in Florida then contacted Lititz Borough police, who confirmed her identity as a woman who had gone missing in 2002.
Heist last had been seen dropping off her children at school in Pennsylvania more than a decade ago. She was going through a divorce at the time and was struggling financially. After being approached by a two males and one female who saw her crying in a park, she decided, on a whim, to hitchhike down to Florida with them, said Detective John Schofield of the Lititz Borough Police Department.

She told police she was homeless for the first two years, living under bridges and eating food thrown out by restaurants after they closed.
For the following seven years, she lived in a camper with a man she had met, she said. They made money as day laborers, cleaning boats and doing other odd jobs for which they didn't have to show identification and were paid in cash.
After that relationship soured, Schofield said, she lived on the street again for another two years.
"Everything seemed to be going against her while she was on the street," Schofield said. "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."
Heist left behind her ex-husband and two children in Pennsylvania.
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Normal Re: Missing Pa. Woman Brenda Heist, Thought Dead, Surfaces in Fla.

Post by NiteSpinR on Thu Jun 13, 2013 2:41 pm


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