Pennsylvania Mom Thought Dead Found Living Homeless in the Keys for a Decade

Categories: WTF Florida

The last time Brenda Heist's children saw her, she had dropped them off at school. They returned home to find dinner defrosting and the laundry half done, but mom was missing. Despite an extensive search, Heist was never found. Three years ago, Heist's husband even petitioned to have her legally declared dead.

Well, she turned up this week after turning herself into police in the Florida Keys. She had been living there as a homeless woman for the past decade.

At the time of her 2002 disappearance, Heist and her husband were going through an amicable divorce, according to WFMZ. One day she took off. Her car was found abandoned a few days later, but there was no trace of her.

Turns out Heist had joined a group of homeless people hitchhiking to the Keys and never looked back. At some points, she slept under bridges and in tents and ate food discarded from fast-food restaurants. However, for about seven years she lived with a man in a camper and picked up some work.

She never bothered to contact the two children she had left behind. Her daughter, 8 years old at the time of Heist's disappearance, is now a college sophomore. Her son, 12 years old at the time, has graduated college and is planning to enter a police academy.

The family finally got news she was alive after Heist turned herself into police after she feared she was wanted in Pinellas County. A police check revealed she had been reported missing and feared dead.

"She has a birth certificate and a death certificate, so she's got a long ways to make this right again," Lititz Borough police Det. John Schofield told NBC Miami. "She's got to take it slow with her family, I'm sure, and it's going to be a long process."

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drakemallard topcommenter

Brenda Heist was arrested on January 28th on charges of driving with an expired tag, possession of drug and paraphernalia and providing false information to a law enforcement officer.

 One week after serving three months in jail on those charges, eleven years after abandoning her family and nearly three years after being declared legally dead, she confessed her true identity

heist, who had resided and worked in Pinellas County, had lived under the name Kelise Smith.

"I needed a housekeeper so in exchange for rent. You know that was the agreement," said a Tarpon Springs person who did not want to be identified, but who hired her as a live-in housekeeper. "She has excellent references so I didn't think anything of it."


i heard of losing your self in the keys but this is ridicules


Tuning herself into the police? Please correct. (Thank for correcting Lenox from Lennox). 

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