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Missing since 2002, Lititz woman turns herself in

A Lancaster County woman who was declared dead in 2010, is found alive in Florida. Lititz Borough Police say Brenda Heist went missing in 2002.  On Friday, she ...

A Lancaster County woman who was declared dead in 2010, is found alive in Florida.

Lititz Borough Police say Brenda Heist went missing in 2002.  On Friday, she turns herself into authorities in Key Largo, after an extensive search for her turned cold.

For years, Lee Heist, of Lititz, has lived his life thinking his once wife was dead.

Lee says, “There’s a difference between forgiveness and forgetting and I forgave her many years ago.”

Lee says he’ll never forget Brenda’s cold case.  She vanished in February 2002, leaving behind Lee and their son and daughter.

Brenda’s picture was seen on Missing Persons databases throughout the country.  Then, in 2010, police granted Lee a petition to declare Brenda legally deceased.

Lee says, “I’ve moved on with my life.  We’re happy, kids are doing much better.”

But on Friday, the once “missing” and assumed “deceased” woman turns herself in.

Lititz Borough Detective Sergeant, John Schofield says, “She looked as if she let herself go and not caring for herself.”

Schofield says Brenda chose a homeless lifestyle since her 30 day hitch hike to Key West 11 years ago.

Schofield says, “She slept under bridges, tents, woods, eat by going to restaurants and get food they were throwing away.”

Schofield explains why she left her family.  “On that Friday she disappeared, she was applying for housing assistance to live on her own with her children do to an amicable divorce between her and her husband.”

Even with a sense of closure, Lee says the painful memory remains.

Lee says, “There were people who didn’t allow their children to play with mine because of what they perceived I may be…and that hurt me more than anything else.”

Lee has since remarried.  Brenda is not facing charged for disappearing, but police are still investigating.  Eventually, she’ll be moving to Texas to live with her parents.