'Dead' US woman turns up after 11 years

Published: 03rd May 2013 11:14 AM  |   Last Updated: 03rd May 2013 11:14 AM   |  A+A-


A US woman who disappeared under mysterious circumstances and was declared legally dead has turned herself into police after living homeless for 11 years.

Brenda Heist, now aged 54 and suffering from health difficulties, believed there was a warrant for her arrest in another district of the state when she approached the Florida police.

After crosschecking her details with authorities in Pennsylvania, it became clear that the person in question was indeed Ms Heist, mother of two, who had been missing since 2002.

She was last seen in the suburban town of Lititz, Pennsylvania dropping off her children at school when she suddenly disappeared apparently without explanation.

Stressed from her divorce and facing new financial difficulties, she apparently underwent some kind of mental breakdown and befriended a group of homeless people in her local park. According to Detective Sergeant John Schofield of Lititz borough police, after speaking to them for several hours she then decided on a whim to join them on a hitchhiking excursion down to Florida.

Despite a thorough investigation lasting months by Detective Schofield and many other including state and federal law enforcement agencies, no sign of the missing woman was found.

 It has now emerged that Ms Heist managed to evade authorities by living under bridges, surviving on scraps of food discarded by restaurants, and staying off the radar by being paid only in cash for odd jobs as a day labourer cleaning boats.

Throughout the ordeal which lasted over a decade, even Brenda Heist's ex-husband, Lee came under suspicion by police as possible suspect but was later cleared.

Detective Schofield told local media that after continually drawing blanks, he was convinced that something "horrible" had happened to her years ago.

Nevertheless, he never took her missing persons picture off his office wall.

"She said she thought about her children all the time", he said. "But she never bothered to pick up the phone to call them. Not once." Ms Heist's daughter Morgan, who was aged just nine when her mother vanished and is now at University, said in an interview with Philadelphia's KYW news that she was angry but had mixed emotions.

"She's not my mother, she's Brenda Heist I'd probably tell her that I hate her and I don't want to see her for a while. At the same time obviously I miss her, she's my mum."

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