Brenda Heist disappeared from her Pennsylvania home in 2002
Heist turned herself in to police in Florida as a missing person
She was distraught over an impending divorce and finances, a detective says
Though her mother has suddenly reappeared after 11 years, don’t expect a family reunion any time soon, Morgan Heist says.
“I don’t think she deserves to see me,” her 20-year-old daughter Morgan Heist told CNN’s “Piers Morgan Live” on Thursday night. “I don’t really have any plans on going to see her.”
Anger is one of the many emotions Morgan Heist has gone through since she learned last week that Brenda Heist, the mother she last saw when she was 8, had mysteriously reappeared.
Brenda Heist disappeared from her Pennsylvania family some 11 years ago, leaving her husband,daughter and son wondering if something terrible had happened to her. Police searched for her for years, even at one point creating a cold case task force.
Then last week Brenda Heist, 54, turned herself in to authorities in Key Largo, Florida, saying she had just walked away from her family because of stress.
The fact that her mother – who she last saw when she was 8 – never even called has left her seething, Morgan Heist said.
The anger is captured in a post on the daughter’s Twitter page that reads she hopes her mother “rots in hell.”
“That makes me really mad,” Morgan Heist said. “I can’t believe she would do that because she was a good mom. She was great. But, I mean, I guess something happened. Something snapped in her. “
Her father, Lee Heist, said he is not planning on visiting his ex-wife anytime soon.
“I don’t see where it would do any good for either of us to see her again,” Lee Heist said.
An invitation to hitchhike
Heist disappeared February 2002, after last being seen dropping off her children at school.
She was going through a divorce from Lee Heist and was applying for housing assistance so that she could get her own apartment.
She worked as a bookkeeper for a car dealer and hoped to receive some financial aid.
However, her request was denied, Schofield said earlier.
“She was very upset, she was sitting in a park crying, thinking about how she would raise her children, feeling sorry for herself,” he said.
Schofield was one of the many officers who searched for Heist.
It wasn’t long before she was approached by two males and a female who asked her what was wrong. After she told them what had happened, they invited her to hitchhike with them down to Florida.
“At a whim, she decided at that very moment, she would go along with them,” Schofield said.
Schofield spoke to Heist at length, and she explained where she had been for the past 11 years.
“She was very emotional; she hung her head; she’s ashamed. She was crying when I met with her. She knows what she did was completely wrong, but all that while, she’d never made one effort to call or contact her family at all,” Schofield said.
A hard life
Heist told police she spent the first two years homeless, living under bridges, eating food thrown out by restaurants after they closed.
For the next seven years, she lived in a camper with a man she had met. They made money as day laborers, cleaning boats and doing other odd jobs for which they didn’t have to show ID and were paid in cash.
After that relationship soured, Schofield said, she lived on the street again for another two years.
Lee Heist even became a suspect, though he was eventually cleared.
Still, he also felt vindicated. Those who believed he was involved in Brenda Heist’s disappearance now know the truth.
“The hardest thing I had to deal with was, the families of some of my children’s friends would not let them play with them, because of what they thought of me. That just tore me apart. I hope they’ve learned a lesson not to prejudge,” he said.
In 2010, Lee Heist filed a petition with the county court to have Brenda declared legally deceased, according to a Lititz police news release. It was a measure necessary for closure, he said.
Lee Heist later remarried and said he will learn to forgive his former wife.
But for Morgan Heist, forgiving her mom may not be easy.
“I hope to eventually forgive her one day for myself, not for her,” Morgan Heist said.
“At some point you have to say, I’ve just got to make the best of what I’ve got. I’ve got good friends, a great family, and my new wife, who has just been amazing. I’m blessed,” he said.
CNN’s Laura Ly contributed to this report.