Brenda Heist, who disappeared in 2002, found in Fla.

Lititz woman traveled with homeless hitchhikers, police say

Woman who disappeared in 2002 found alive in Fla.

LITITZ, Pa. - A Lancaster County 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, police said Wednesday.

Brenda Heist turned herself in to police in Key Largo, Fla., on Friday because she was having health issues, said authorities, who noted that she's been living in Key West.

On Feb. 8, 2002, Heist left behind an 8-year-old daughter who's now a sophomore at West Chester University and a 12-year-old son who recently graduated from West Chester with plans to attend a police academy in New Jersey, police said.

Local, state and federal authorities conducted an extensive investigation following Heist's disappearance.

Three years ago, Heist's husband petitioned the Lancaster County courts to declare her legally dead.

A Litiitz detective who interviewed Heist in Florida said she reported leaving town on Feb. 8, 2002, and joining a group of homeless people who were hitchhiking to Florida. Once she got there, she said she lived as a homeless person, sleeping under bridges and tents and eating food that was thrown out from fast food restaurants.

At this point, Heist is not facing any charges, police said.

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