Missing Pa. Mom Re-Emerges in Gainesville, Turns Herself In
GAINESVILLE (ABC NEWS/Alexis Shaw and Kevin Dolak) -- Brenda Heist, the Pennsylvania mother who disappeared 11 years ago and reappeared in Florida last week, turned herself in on an outstanding warrant, authorities said.
Alachua County Sheriff's Office spokesman Art Forgey told ABC News that Heist, 53, originally of Lititz, Pa., walked into the Alachua County Jail in Gainsville, Fla., and turned herself in on a violation of probation warrant from another county in Florida just after 5:30 pm on Friday.
Heist was originally charged with forgery of a written instrument and for providing a false name to law enforcement. She was booked under her alias, Kelsie Lyanne Smith.
Smith will be transferred from the Alachua County Jail to the Santa Rosa County Jail, where the warrant is outstanding, Forgey said.
A man who answered the phone at the Alachua County Jail told ABC News that her bond has not been set and she would not be transferred until Monday at the earliest.
Heist disappeared in 2002 after dropping off her two kids at a Lititz, Pa., school. She went to a park where she cried over her the divorce she was going through, she has told police. She was discovered in this distraught state by three strangers and on a whim she decided to take off with them and hitchhike to Florida, where she lived homeless for several years.
"She decided to go with them on a whim," Lititz Borough Police Det. Schofield told ABCNews.com. "She told me that it was two males and female. They drove to York, Pa., with her car, parked it and abandoned it, and met up with another group, who were traveling down to Florida. It was a community down there living together."
During her disappearance, her husband Lee Heist was left to raise their two kids, who were 8 and 12 at the time she went missing.
Lee Heist was financially hurt when his wife vanished. With no one to watch his young children, he had to quit his job in order to look after them. And with her disappearance, the family also lost out on her financial support. Brenda Heist had been a bookkeeper for a car dealership.
By law, Lee Heist was not able to declare his wife dead for seven years, which he did in a Lancaster County court on June 10, 2009. Afterwards he collected $100,000 on the insurance policy taken out on his wife, according to the Intelligencer Journal.
Now, her reappearance may mean that he will have to give the money back -- plus interest. MORE: Runaway Mom's Ex-Husband Facing Insurance Payout Fight
What happened to Heist since then and her reemergence to authorities April 26 is not clear.
When she turned herself in to the sheriff in Florida on the criminal warrant, she also showed police a Pennsylvania ID for Brenda Heist, and told them that she was wanted in Pennsylvania, Schofield said.
Police quickly figured out that she was the same woman whose 2002 disappearance led to an extensive investigation involving local, state and federal agencies. Heist's missing person case eventually went cold, only to be reopened in 2008.
Schofield said that when he met with her, her appearance was consistent with someone who had been living the homeless lifestyle, and she looked malnourished. She told him that she was at the end of her rope, and tired of running, he said.
Lee Heist, who was at one point a person of interest in her disappearance, is now remarried and living in Montgomery County, Pa.
The Heists' daughter is now a 19-year-old freshman at Montgomery County Community College, and their son, 23, recently graduated from West Chester University and is pursuing a law enforcement career.