Brenda Heist, Missing for 11 Years Found



On February 8, 2002, 42 year old Brenda Heist dropped her two children off at school in Lititz, Pennsylvania.  No one saw her again until last Friday evening.  She walked into the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office in Key Largo, Florida, and told them they might be looking for her.

When Heist walked into the Sheriff’s office, she told them she was on probation for an offense under a different name.  The nature of that offense was not disclosed.

When the deputy ran her real name through records, he found her listed as  “missing and possibly deceased,” in Pinellas County.

In 2002, Heist and her husband Lee, were going through a divorce.  She told authorities that she was in financial distress, had been turned down for housing assistance, and just ‘snapped’.  She was crying in a park when two women and a man consoled her, and asked her to join them in a month-long hitchhiking trip to south Florida.

When she disappeared, Heist’s daughter was 8 and her son was 12. Her son recently graduated from West Chester University and is applying to a police academy in New Jersey. Her daughter is a sophomore at West Chester University.  He is now 23, and she is 19.

At a press conference, her husband told reporters that she had been declared legally dead and he had collected her life insurance.  He also said he is very angry because of the effect her disappearance had on their children.  When she disappeared, he became a person of interest, but passed a lie detector test and no other action was taken.

Heist said she thought about her children and parents every day, but never took any action to call them, and let them know she was all right.  Presently, her ex-husband said their son and daughter have expressed a desire to speak to each other, but they are taking things slowly.

Detective Sgt. John Schofield with the Lititz Borough Police Department told reporters that his communication with the Sheriff’s Office in Monroe County told him Heist will be released from protective custody, and plans to spend some time with a brother who lives in Florida.  Then she will move in with her mother in Texas.

When ex-husband Lee was contacted by officer Schofield, he had assumed it was because they had found her remains.

“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.”

For the last two years Heist has been homeless, living in a tent community operated by social services.  For about seven years, she lived with a man in a camper, and performed odd jobs.

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

Associated Press writer Curt Anderson in Miami contributed to this report.

James Turnage

Columnist-The Guardian Express