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Mum who was declared dead returns after 11 years

Brenda Heist, from Lititz, Pennsylvania, went missing in 2002 after dropping her children off at school
Brenda Heist, from Lititz, Pennsylvania, went missing in 2002 after dropping her children off at school

A mother-of-two, declared legally dead in 2010 after disappearing without a trace eight years earlier, has been found alive in Florida, after handing herself into police.

Brenda Heist, from Lititz, Pennsylvania, went missing in 2002 after dropping her children off at school.

According to reports she was seen weeping in a park where she befriended three homeless people who persuaded her to hitch hike to Florida.

Ms Heist, 54, told police she travelled to Florida on a whim, sleeping under bridges, scavenging for food and begging.

At the time of her disappearance she was going through an amicable divorce and was crying in the park when two women and a man befriended her and asked her to join them in hitch-hiking to south Florida.

On the day of her disappearance she had left dinner defrosting and was midway through the laundry.

Her ex-husband, Lee Heist collected on a life insurance policy after getting the courts to declare her legally dead in 2010.

He has since remarried and told a press conference yesterday that he remains angry because of the effect his former wife's disappearance had on their children.

At the time his ex-wife went missing Mr Heist came under suspicions because of her mysterious disappearance.

Despite being under suspicion he had be able to maintain a positive relationship with his children.

"There were people in the neighbourhood who would not allow their children to play with my children," he told the press conference.

Ms Heist turned herself in to police in Key Largo at the weekend and told them she was a missing person.

She told police she had been homeless for two years and had most recently been living in a tented community run by a social services.

Detective John Schofield said: "She was at the end of her rope, she was tired of running".

"She has a birth certificate and a death certificate, so she's got a long ways to make this right again," he added. "She's got to take it slow with her family, I'm sure, and it's going to be a long process."

Topics:  editors picks parenting


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