MIAMI (CBSMiami) – New details have emerged concerning a woman who disappeared from Pennsylvania in 2002 and resurfaced last month in Key Largo.
Originally, it was reported that Brenda Heist may have been homeless the entire time. Now it appears that for most of the 11 years, she may have had a roof over her head.
Sondra Forrester told CNN that she lived with Heist in 2010. During that time Heist never mentioned the two children she left behind when she disappeared.
“She made it clear she didn’t have any kids, never wanted any children. She said her mother had died, you know, she grew up without a mother and that she was a widow,” said Forrester. “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 when they lived together, Heist went by the name “Lovey Smith” and had cleaned her house for about six months before moving in.
According to Lititz Borough Police, in February 2002 Heist and her husband Lee were preparing for a divorce and she was upset about how she would make ends meet. After she dropped her kids off at school, Heist was sitting in a park, crying, when she was approached by strangers who invited her to come with them. She did and soon found herself hitchhiking to Florida.
She reportedly spent years living with a man in a camper and working odd jobs. Some times she would find herself homeless and resort to sleeping under bridges and scavenging restaurant trash.
Since she resurfaced, Lititz Detective John Schofeild has been interviewing her as to where she’s been and why she decided to turn herself in to a deputy in Key Largo.
“She says she though of her family and children every day, and her parents. however, she never acted on that, never made any phone calls, not one,” said Schofeild. “She was pretty much at the end of her rope there living on the streets. I mean, she has just had it. Her health wasn’t good, and she was just tired of running.”
After declaring his wife dead several years ago, Lee Heist remarried. He said he was in shock when he found out she was still alive.
“We felt that perhaps she had been carjacked because of where the car was found. We never knew for sure, but I really did think that she had died, and unfortunately, probably not a very pleasant way. This was a terrific shock to us,” said Heist.
As to whether he wanted to speak with her, Heist said he was unsure.
“Well, honestly I don’t think after all of this that there anything good would come out of a conversation. I don’t think it would be beneficial to her, and certainly not to me. but to my kids, absolutely, and I would do whatever is necessary to make sure that if she wants, and if the kids want, and it would be their decision, I would certainly make arrangements for them to meet with their mother absolutely,” said Heist.
As far as charges go, there won’t be any since there is nothing illegal about walking away from your family.
Heist is currently being held in jail in Alachua County on an out of county warrant. She will be charged in Santa Rosa County for probation violation.