Lititz, PA

Mom of two reappears 11 years after her disappearance under a brand new identity.

Fatim Hemraj
Brenda Heist before and after her 11-year “disappearance”Photo byThe Wicked Truth

On February 8, 2002, 42-year-old bookkeeper and mom of two, Brenda Heist, dropped her kids off at school and vanished into thin air. All of her personal belongings were left behind in their Lititz, Pennsylvania, home.

A massive search ensued as frantic friends and family members feared the worst. They insisted that Brenda would not have abandoned her two children, an 8-year-old daughter, and a 12-year-old son. It didn’t take long before her husband, Lee Heist, was named a suspect in her disappearance.

The Heist siblings were alienated from the neighborhood as parents were terrified to let their children around a man who might have harmed his own wife. Lee had Brenda declared deceased in 2010 and eventually re-married.

Fast forward to April 2013 when a disheveled woman walked into a Florida police station claiming she was Brenda Heist and was “tired of running.” A DNA test confirmed her identity. As it turned out, Brenda had been alive and well all that time, living a brand new life under a new identity.

Brenda claimed that Lee was about to file for divorce when she went missing. She was sitting in a park crying when three strangers approached her and invited her to hitchhike with them to Key Largo, Florida.

Brenda said she was homeless for years but that was later proven to be false when a woman named Sondra Forrester came forward. It turned out that Brenda had been Sondra’s live-in housekeeper and babysitter for years.

Brenda stole a driver’s license belonging to a woman named Kelsie Smith and assumed her identity. She told Sondra she was widowed, didn’t have or want children, and that her mother passed away when she was 6 years old. The women forged a friendship and even vacationed together. Sondra was shocked when she learned of Brenda’s true identity on the news.

Brenda served 6 months for stealing Kelsie Smith’s identity. After her release in 2014, she moved in with her mother in Texas and attempted to rekindle a relationship with her then-adult children. However, they wanted nothing to do with Brenda and told her to rot in hell.

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