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US runaway mother resurfaces

June 27 2013
A homeless woman who vanished 11 years ago snapped due to extreme stress


A homeless woman who vanished 11 years ago has resurfaced, in a bid to make amends to her abandoned children.

After disappearing in 2002, 54-year-old Brenda Heist approached police in Florida in May, reported CBS News. She explained that she left her two children in central Pennsylvania to become a ‘vagrant’ after snapping due to extreme stress.

Heist, who had been working as a bookkeeper at a car dealership, was divorcing her husband when she made the decision to leave her children, then aged eight and 12. The journey began after three strangers found her crying in a car park. Reaching out to her, they suggested she join them on their hitchhiking trip to South Florida. She told Lititz Borough Police Detective John Schofield that she slept in tents and under bridges, and ate restaurant scraps from rubbish bins. To maintain her secret she used pseudonym and made no contact with her children or estranged husband.

After hitchhiking to Florida, Heist moved into a camper van with a man, where she scraped by doing odd jobs. Most recently she lived in a tent facility run by social services.

Her children Morgan and Lee had no idea why their mother had disappeared. “She was my best friend, her and I were so close, I never thought she would do this to me and my brother,” Morgan told “I don’t know what was so hard in her life, it was a mutual decision to divorce.”

Police, who had suspected Heist had been killed, were shocked by her confession. “Everybody that knew Brenda told us there was absolutely no way Brenda would leave her children. She explained to me that she just snapped. She turned her back on her family, she turned her back on her friends, her co-workers.” J Todd Matthews, a spokesman for the National Missing & Unidentified Persons System, said that although it was highly unusual, it was not unheard of for people to just ‘walk off’. At present she is being held in custody before facing charges.

Heist has apologised for her disappearance and is keen to make amends with her ex-husband and children.