Woman turns herself in 11 years after being declared missing and possibly dead after leaving her preteen children and estranged husband for a life on the streets
Heist disappeared February 2002, last seen dropping off her children at school.
She was going through a divorce from then-husband 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.
"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.
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," said Schofield.
Schofield spoke to Heist at length, and she explained where she had been for the past 11 years.
For the first two years, he said, she was homeless.
She lived 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.
Friends and family were convinced that something bad had happened to her.
While they couldn't determine how she disappeared, they all agreed on one thing: There was no way Heist would ever leave her children, or so they thought.
Missing Pennsylvania woman reappears 11 years later in Florida Keys - CNN.com
No charges have been filed in the case.
"There's nothing illegal about her walking away from her family," said Schofield. "I'm happy she's all right. I'm happy for the family, but now we're forced to think about the wasted manpower that went into this, the hours and money spent on this investigation, the time and effort."