By Todd Quinones
LITITZ, Pa. (CBS/AP) — Police in central Pennsylvania say a woman who disappeared after dropping off her children for school 11 years ago has been located in Florida after traveling there with homeless hitchhikers and sleeping beneath bridges.
In 2002, Heist left behind an 8-year-old daughter who’s now a college sophomore and a 12-year-old son who recently graduated from college.
Her disappearance touched off a frantic search to find her in Lititz; there was even a web sites dedicated to figuring out what happened.
“She’s not my mom she’s Brenda Heist,” said her daughter Morgan, who spoke exclusively to Eyewitness News.
Morgan now lives in Norristown.
“I’m angry I don’t know what to do,” she said.
Heist’s ex-husband said he is angry but working on forgiveness. He was once considered a suspect in her disappearance.
“There were families who would not let our children play with theirs because of me,” says Lee Heist.
Three years ago, her husband asked Lancaster County courts to declare her legally dead.
Authorities say 53-year-old Heist turned herself in last week to police in Key Largo, Fla., and say she’s been living in Key West.
“I have mixed emotions; I would tell her I hate her and I don’t want to see her for a while and at the same time I obviously miss her, she’s my mom,” said Morgan.
As for why she vanished, Heist told police she was going through a divorce and having financial problems in 2002 and she simply snapped.
“We have not had any contact. We don’t want to. Me and my brother aren’t ready yet. We don’t think she should have contact with us. There is no reason for her to. She doesn’t deserve it,” Morgan said.
Investigators say Heist turned herself in because she was having health issues and at the end of her rope. She thought of her family and children every day but never bothered to contact them.
She’s currently in protective custody in Key Largo and may go live with her mom in Texas.
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