By DAVID MCCORMACK and ASSOCIATED PRESS REPORTER
The teenage daughter of a woman who secretly left her family 11 years ago says she's angry and doesn't want to have a relationship with her. Morgan Heist said Thursday that she's still trying to sort out why Brenda Heist would have decided to abandon her and her brother in Pennsylvania in 2002 and hitchhike with strangers to Florida. Morgan Heist is now a 19-year-old freshman at a community college outside Philadelphia. She says she thinks about how she's spent the last decade mourning a woman who was alive.
Morgan also revealed to the media on Wednesday that knowing what she knows now, she wishes she never cried over her mom's fate. Heist’s ex-husband meanwhile has said he is angry but working on forgiveness. He was once considered a suspect in her disappearance. 'There were families who would not let our children play with theirs because of me,' says Lee Heist Senior.
Brenda Heist's mother says she's been released from police custody and is staying with a brother in northern Florida. Brenda Heist was reported missing by her husband on February 8, 2002. The then 42-year-old was last been seen that morning dropping off her two children at school in Lititz, Pennsylvania. Her car was found a few days later with no apparent sign of a struggle.
Then on Friday evening she walked into Monroe County Sheriff’s Office in Key Largo, Florida and announced who she was. Heist has told detectives she left her family because she was in the middle of a divorce and was struggling financially. She said the pressure was too much and she snapped. She said she left Lititz after joining a group of homeless people that she met in a park who were hitch hiking to Florida. When she disappeared, Heist's daughter was 8 and her son was 12. Her son recently graduated from West Chester University and is applying to a police academy in New Jersey. Her daughter is a sophomore at West Chester University.
'She said she thought of her family and her children every day, and her parents. However, she never acted on that and never made any phone calls – not one,' Lititz Police Detective John Schofield told 8WGAL. She told police that she had decided to turn herself in because she was at the end of her rope and that she was having health problems. She now hopes to live with her mom in Texas. 'I can't believe that she would leave her two children,' former neighbor Arlene Bingeman told 8WGAL. 'I just can't, as a mother, I just can't believe that.'
After arriving in the Sunshine State, she had lived as a homeless person in the Key West area, sleeping under bridges and tents and eating food thrown out by fast food restaurants, police said. In all the years she was missing she never used a bank card or ID, even when she made some money cleaning boats. Local, state and federal authorities spent months investigating Heist's disappearance in 2002, interviewing dozens of relatives, friends, neighbors and co-workers. She was entered into several national missing persons databases. Her husband eventually collected her life insurance policy in 2010. Heist is being held in protective custody in Florida.