US

Mother who disappeared in Pa. in 2002 resurfaces in Fla., says she snapped; was declared dead

  • An April 26, 2013 photo taken by the Monroe County, Fla. Sheriff's Office and released by the Lititz Borough, Pa. Police,  is of Brenda Heist. Lititz Borough Police in central Pennsylvania say Heist, 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 under bridges. (AP Photo/Lititz Borough Police)

    An April 26, 2013 photo taken by the Monroe County, Fla. Sheriff's Office and released by the Lititz Borough, Pa. Police, is of Brenda Heist. Lititz Borough Police in central Pennsylvania say Heist, 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 under bridges. (AP Photo/Lititz Borough Police)  (The Associated Press)

  • Sitting in front of a display of news articles and photos of Brenda Heist, from left, her ex-husband, Lee Heist, Detective Sgt. John Schofield and Lititz Chief William Seace address a news conference in Litiz, Pa. on Wednesday, May 1, 2013. Brenda Heist, who mysteriously disappeared after dropping off her children for school 11 years ago, has surfaced in Florida, telling police she traveled there on a whim with homeless hitchhikers, slept under bridges and survived by scavenging food and panhandling, authorities said Wednesday. (AP Photo/Intelligencer Journal, Dan Marschka)

    Sitting in front of a display of news articles and photos of Brenda Heist, from left, her ex-husband, Lee Heist, Detective Sgt. John Schofield and Lititz Chief William Seace address a news conference in Litiz, Pa. on Wednesday, May 1, 2013. Brenda Heist, who mysteriously disappeared after dropping off her children for school 11 years ago, has surfaced in Florida, telling police she traveled there on a whim with homeless hitchhikers, slept under bridges and survived by scavenging food and panhandling, authorities said Wednesday. (AP Photo/Intelligencer Journal, Dan Marschka)  (The Associated Press)

It's been 11 years since Brenda Heist walked away from her two children, her job and her life in central Pennsylvania to hitchhike with strangers to Florida.

Police said Wednesday she disclosed her identity last week in South Florida, saying she slept under bridges and scavenged food from restaurant trash to survive.

Her children were 8 and 12 at the time she vanished. Now one's a college graduate and the other is a West Chester University sophomore.

Heist had been going through a divorce when she disappeared in 2002. After hearing she'd been turned down for housing assistance, she decided to take off, never contacting anyone.

In the years since she left, Heist's husband remarried, and a court declared her legally dead.