May 2, 2013

"Eleven years after she vanished without a trace, Brenda Heist approached police in Florida last week..."

"... to explain that she had abandoned her two children on the spur of the moment, leaving behind her old life in central Pennsylvania to become a vagrant."
"Everybody that knew Brenda told us there was absolutely no way Brenda would leave her children," said Lititz Borough Police Detective John Schofield, who suspected for years she may have been killed. "She explained to me that she just snapped," said Schofield, who met with her Monday in Florida. "She turned her back on her family, she turned her back on her friends, her co-workers."...

Her husband, Lee Heist, who was investigated and then cleared as a suspect, struggled to raise their children. By 2010, he was able to get the courts to declare her legally dead and collected on a life insurance policy. He has remarried. He's angry because of the effect their mother's disappearance had on the children, but he also said he has forgiven her.

"There were people in the neighborhood who would not allow their children to play with my children" because he had been a suspect, he said.
IN THE COMMENTS: MayBee said:
She leaned away.
Gerry said:
Is fugue state still a psychological malady?
Yes, it is:
A fugue state, formally dissociative fugue or psychogenic fugue (DSM-IV Dissociative Disorders 300.13[1]), is a rare psychiatric disorder characterized by reversible amnesia for personal identity, including the memories, personality and other identifying characteristics of individuality. The state is usually short-lived (ranging from hours to days), but can last months or longer. Dissociative fugue usually involves unplanned travel or wandering, and is sometimes accompanied by the establishment of a new identity....

Agatha Christie disappeared on 3 December 1926 only to reappear eleven days later in a hotel in Harrogate, apparently with no memory of the events which happened during that time span.

90 comments:

sydney said...

Sounds like an Ann Tyler novel.

Nomennovum said...

Women.

MadisonMan said...

Dear NY Papers: How is Lititz in central Pennsylvania?

Larry J said...

I've heard of people being charged with murder even when no body is found. Of course, the spouse is the primary suspect. It's good her husband wasn't charged and could easily have gone the other way.

edutcher said...

Her name is Heist?

Maybe they should track where she went and what exactly she did to survive.

And Lititz is in Amish country

Nomennovum said...

I can't believe this miserable excuse for a human being isn't facing charges. But she isn't.

Take away reason and accountability ...

gerry said...

Is fugue state still a psychological malady?

Shanna said...

It's good her husband wasn't charged and could easily have gone the other way.

Absolutely. I don't think you could write a law that would force people to leave a note when they do this kind of thing, but if they had any basic decency or ability to think things through they would.

But then, they probably also wouldn't just up and disappear from the family if they were wired to care about that stuff.

CJinPA said...

"There were people in the neighborhood who would not allow their children to play with my children" because he had been a suspect, he said."

Boo-hoo. A woman had to find herself. Nothing is more important than that.

Nomennovum said...

A woman had to find herself. Nothing is more important than that.

Good point. I hadn't thought of that. That's precisely the reason my wife gave for destroying our family, only she didn't need to hitchhike to Florida. The divorce loot was too good to walk from.

Rocketeer said...

Dear NY Papers: How is Lititz in central Pennsylvania?

I suppose anything between that one city in the east and that other city in the west is "central Pennsylvania" to a New Yorker.

Tim said...

She could have killed them in utero, and everything would have been totally cool.

Amiright?

William said...

Does he have to return the insurance money?

Peter said...

There must be a book or movie deal in here somewhere.

Perhaps the cover/promo poster could show her holding her death certificate.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

The insurance issue is of interest to me, since this falls into my experiences as a former financial planner and am still insurance licensed.

It always makes me nuts when TV and movies show that the "perp" got insurance, unbeknownst, to the dead or missing person. This is impossible for any type of significant policy because the insured person needs to give blood (for HIV and other medical issues) and often depending on the size of the policy to have a complete physical. There is no way someone doesn't KNOW that they are being insured.

You also cannot just insure anyone you want. There is the issue of insurable interest. You need to have a legitimate reason to insure someone, be the owner of the policy and be the beneficiary.

Since this is not a case of deliberate insurance fraud. Since the husband had legitimate reasons to insure his wife, he had no idea that she had run off and it was assumed by everyone that she was dead, I would like to think that the insurance company will deal kindly with him. Depending on the size of the policy, it might even be good public relations on their part to forgive the claim.

As an aside.......there is no way in Hell that I would forgive this woman, if I were the husband or the children. NEVER. I wouldn't want to see her. EVER.

Nomennovum said...

Does he have to return the insurance money?

Well ... no. He's always got a choice. He can opt to go to jail, you know, if he was selfish enough to have already spent the insurance money. She'll get his house, no doubt. I think the kid's have been emancipated, so no child support, but I'm sure there's some government program available for poor women like her.

ndspinelli said...

William, Good question about the insurance money. I'll bet they sue the husband for it and settle for a lesser amount.

ndspinelli said...

DBQ, I have worked for many insurance companies..all of the major ones. Good PR is about 823 on the list of priorities.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Insurance? What about polygamy?

ndspinelli said...

I agree w/ the forgiveness. God bless the guy, but I'm not that Christian.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Does he have to return the insurance money?

I don't think so. It might depend on how long after her disappearance the claim was submitted. Immediately? Two years? Longer?

A case can be made that he didn't purposely submit a fraudulent claim. The insurance company did their due diligence and decided that the claim was warranted. The police likely also issued some sort of conclusion that she was likely deceased. The insurance companies don't pay out unless they feel very sure that the claim is warranted.

Also. Depends on the size of the claim. $50,000. Pffft. Big deal to the company and good PR to forgive it. One Million? That's another story. 50 to 100k is the more likely amount given their circumstances.

n.n said...

If women ruled the world, it would still be necessary to judge them by the content of their character and actions.

Chef Mojo said...

The courts ruled her dead before the insurance was paid out.

Isn't she still legally dead until the courts rule otherwise?

John Lynch said...

Men do this all the time. I've met men who've done this, disappeared to avoid child support.

I guess it's news when a woman does it.

Nomennovum said...

If women ruled the world, it would still be necessary to judge them by the content of their character and actions.

Uh ... no it wouldn't, nn. Have you forgotten the prime feminine directive? "Don't judge me!"

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Ah....I see that I need to read with more comprehension. It wasn't until 2010 that she was declared dead. So....I think he gets to keep the insurance money.

Now that she isn't dead......she would still be dead to me, if I were him.

I also wouldn't let her anywhere near my house or minor children. Meth is written all over her face.

EDH said...

Brenda Heist, who vanished from her central Pennsylvania home in 2002, leaving behind two children, 12 and 8, and was thought to be dead, resurfaced in Florida last week.

A new "Florida woman" who'd be a good match for "Florida man"?

Nomennovum said...

Men do this all the time. I've met men who've done this, disappeared to avoid child support. I guess it's news when a woman does it.

When men do it they go to jail. And their actions don't risk having their ex-wives jailed for murder. Wake me up when this waste of space end up in prison.

MayBee said...

She leaned away.

ndspinelli said...

DBQ, Bingo about the meth face!

AllenS said...

Brenda looks like she's been rode hard and put up wet.

Farmer said...

Tragic. Made me think of Paris, Texas.

tim maguire said...

Dust bunny, since you brought it up...I'm wondering if he does have to return the money. The story says she was declared dead by a court. That probably satisfies the payout condition regardless of whether she actually is dead.

I doubt you've had this situation come up, but I bet it's been discussed in one of your courses.

ndspinelli said...

AllenS, Our Cheesehead cowboy! Those usually even tempered Brewer fans were rough on Axford. They're also out of patience w/ Weeks. It's actually a good sign. Not so long ago you could suck and still be loved, ala Geoff Jenkins and Rob Deer.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

@ Tim

I think you are right. The fact that she was legally declared dead and it was many years after her disappearance leads me to think that he does get to keep the insurance claim proceeds. It seems that he acted in good faith and did not submit a 'fraudlent' claim.

However, as spinelli says, insurance companies are not known for their benevolence. I hope he isn't hounded by the insurance company. He suffered enough. First by being married to this horrible woman and THEN by her not actually being dead and resurfacing to ruin his life yet again.

CatherineM said...

I read this story this morning and I can't help but think she is mentally ill. I mean, to leave that night's dinner out defrosting, put a load of laundry in and then leave everyting hitch hike to FL? Sounds too strange for their not to be some mental illness in there, but I don't blame the husband/kids if they don't forgive.

She does look methed up.

Mitchell the Bat said...

On the plus side, she couldn't have been a very good mother.

CJinPA said...

Men do this all the time. I've met men who've done this, disappeared to avoid child support.

But she didn't have to pay child support.

I guess it's news when a woman does it.

See above.

AllenS said...

I feel so sorry for the husband. Think of all the time that the police investigators were pointing their fingers in his face, and saying "Confess, you killed your wife. Where is the body?"

CatherineM said...

I feel sorry for the husband too, but again...leave dinner on the counter, put laundry in and then just leave with the clothes you are wearing?

Does that sound sane or rational?

Ann Althouse said...

I have ancestors from Lititz.

campy said...

There's always a reason to excuse bad behavior by a woman.

Pogo said...

Another hoax.

I've got her press release ready:
"This episode has sparked an important discussion reaffirming that the Lititz community has no tolerance for marriage or patriarchy of any type. The fact that the death apparently was a fabrication does not change the necessity for continued vigilance in reassuring that we have a city where everyone feels safe."

Michael said...

What a horrible thing to do to your children, to your husband. Like a suicide but with an added twist: kill yourself and let the police conclude that your husband did it. Vile. And then to lack the courage to stay dead.

Nomennovum said...

I feel sorry for the husband too, but again...leave dinner on the counter, put laundry in and then just leave with the clothes you are wearing? Does that sound sane or rational? -- Catherine M

I'm detecting a bit of excuse-making here. Save it. She was sane enough to go to the cops when her crappy life suddenly took a turn for the worse. She was sane enough to feel some shame. 11 years she was gone. Do you expect anyone to believe she didn't know about the agony endured by her husband, who was interrogated by suspicious cops, or the hell her children had to live through, who endured living with the father who was suspected of murder and who were shunned by neighbors as a result?

There should be zero sympathy for this creep. None. She knew exactly what she was doing and did it anyway. She had to rationalize her behavior just as you appear to be doing.

campy said...

C'mon Nomennovum, don't you know only males can truly be bad?

DrMaturin said...

Defrosting dinner, clothes in the laundry, dropping kids off at school. She did everything she could to make her disappearance look suspicious. I suspect this wasn't a spontaneous decision prompted by people she met in the park. I bet this was a planned, hostile act against her husband. She gets to leave the marriage and mess his life up in the process, in a way that's much worse than merely divorcing him.

campy said...

I bet if we looked deeper we'd discover that the husband abused her.

Nomennovum said...

She gets to leave the marriage and mess his life up in the process, in a way that's much worse than merely divorcing him.

Bingo. She wanted everyone to think she was dead, because she didn't want to be found -- by anyone, family included. She didn't give a shit about her kids, hated her schlub of a husband, and was thinking only of herself. Was she rational? No, but few women are during a divorce. They tend to be mean and vindictive and only want what's best for themselves. Children are, at best, secondary considerations (except insofar as child support payments are concerned). Husbands are there to be stripped of money, children, and future ability to attract another mate.

Nomennovum said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nomennovum said...

I bet if we looked deeper we'd discover that the husband abused her.

All husbands do. This is why the concept of "emotional abuse" was invented. "I'm unhappy. Therefore I have been emotionally abused."

KJE said...

Wait, I know this one!

Had a wife and kids in Baltimore jack, I went out for a ride and I never came back..."

EMD said...

"There were people in the neighborhood who would not allow their children to play with my children" because he had been a suspect, he said.

This is actually pretty fucking heartbreaking. No one would suspect a woman if the man packed up and left.

Nomennovum said...

I won't save all my vitriol for Brenda, however. Now for her husband. He's an idiot:

1. He forgave the unforgivable.

2. He got remarried.

Asshole.

KJE said...

The best thing I can keep doing is to daily dose my son with red pill wisdom. My ex divorced me, but I ended up with our boy. She clearly didn't care enough to even come close to 50% placement with him

CWJ said...

DBQ and others,

Yeah plenty of questions about the life insurance. For me, the best one's have to do with what happened between 2002 & 2010? Did he keep paying premiums and when did he file the death claim?

Freeman Hunt said...

That is too horrible. Think of the mental anguish these people went through thinking she'd been taken. Can you imagine thinking for years and years that your spouse or mother had been abducted and murdered, and then she shows up one day and says, "No, I just got tired of you people and split." That's such incredible cruelty.

Nomennovum said...

Think of all the alimony and child support payments in arrears this guy owes her. No wonder she came back now that her back alley blow jobs can't even fetch $25.

ricpic said...

In a therapeutic society simple rottenness disappears as the reason anyone does anything rotten.

campy said...

In a therapeutic society simple rottenness disappears as the reason anyone does anything rotten.

... if they're female.

Nomennovum said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CatherineM said...

The daily news linked on Althouse seems to assume intent. The Miami Herald does not. Hence, I think there is SOMETHING more going on here.

http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/05/02/3376125_p2/woman-missing-since-2002-and-presumed.html

I am not excuse making. I just don't jump to conclusions and read my own shit into things. The article I read and the daily news don't tell you she made an excuse. It's just a story of the events as are known at this time.

I gather there are a lot of men on this blog with anger towards women who are reading into things that may not be there.

The "Yeah, if she were a man..." stuff is over the top.

I am pretty sure the "men abandoning children" thing is a lot more common than a women, but you would never get it from the tone in these comments.

Nomennovum said...

Ann,

Regarding you added discussion of "fugue state" (that it's temporary amnesia, blah psycho mumbo jumbo blah balh.

You omitted that "Fugue" is from Old Irish meaning "fucked-up," as in "I drank so much fuguing whisky I got in a total fugue state, forgot who I was or where I lived and ended up in fuguing Florida giving blow-jobs to truck drivers at $40 bucks a pop for 11 years till I remembered who I was and where I lived and went home to get me some more drinkin' money."

campy said...

Of course, the "angry men" charge is quickly deployed.

fivewheels said...

Well we can't have men criticizing women, can we? You want to just allow that? You're probably a hate-****er aren't you, campy?

Nomadic100 said...

After 35 years practicing psychiatry, I have never encountered a case of a "fugue state." Or if I did, I missed it. I personally suspect that a fugue state, if it exists at all, is a form of hysteria (which I have seen even if it is not a recognized DSM diagnosis). It is recognized that cases of hysteria have become much more uncommon (compared, perhaps, to Freud's time) largely because of improved education over many decades.

campy said...

You're probably a hate-****er aren't you, campy?

You caught me!

Pogo said...

"Fugue state" is the medical form of "Uh, I forgot".

Amartel said...

Mysteriously, Iggy Pop has gone missing.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I am pretty sure the "men abandoning children" thing is a lot more common than a women, but you would never get it from the tone in these comments.

I think the difference is that a woman doesn't have to pay the consequences that a man would. She has no penalties and can often just slide back into her life. In addition, there is always this sexist tendency to excuse the woman....she was abused.....she was in a fugue state...she was confused by her divorce. A man in the same circumstances doesn't get to have excuses.

Double standard.

Patrick said...



Nice to see the daughter isn't buying this shit.

The first article I read, I think the one Ann linked to showed a picture of the family from around the time the mom split. How could she abandon those children, her own? Selfishness.

EMD said...

Well we can't have men criticizing women, can we? You want to just allow that? You're probably a hate-****er aren't you, campy?

Imagine everything Campy says in a sarcastic font.

campy said...

Imagine everything Campy says in a sarcastic font.

Sarcasm is just how I express my hatred.

CatherineM said...

DBQ, we are talking about a specific case. Everyone is assuming she's getting off "scott free." If a man disappeared like this, I think at this stage of the investigation, things would be in the same stage because a) it's odd and b) the kids are adults. Who knows what consequences she will face? SHe's still in custody while they investigate.

Also, there are plenty of women who pay child support too when they make more than the man.

Also, I have friends who are owed 10s of thousand of dollars (one $27,000) and their ex husbands aren't in jail. I also have a brother in law who had a shitty lawyer and was raked over the coals financially by his ex wife to pay for kids from her second husband for whom SHE LEFT HIM FOR. I don't think that either party had a fair settlement. Quit generalizing.

Rich Rostrom said...

Shades of the Flitcraft Case (as recounted by Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon.

Shanna said...

Also, there are plenty of women who pay child support too when they make more than the man.

In arkansas, you are legally required to set child support for whichever parent does not have primary custody of the kids. You can set it at a very small amount, but it is required.

Also, I have friends who are owed 10s of thousand of dollars (one $27,000) and their ex husbands aren't in jail

I have a coworker whose husband never paid any of his child support. He did end up going to jail, but for something completely unrelated. Quite a lot of people who don't pay child support don't end up going to jail. It takes a will to prosecute, for one.

Nomennovum said...

Quite a lot of people who don't pay child support don't end up going to jail. It takes a will to prosecute, for one.

The point is the divorce laws provide that the penalty for failure to pay divorce obligations (alimony, child support, etc.) is jail. To put him there the ex-wife only has to press the issue. Sometimes they don't for whatever reason. But the club is there for the using.

We even have a term for men who don't pay: deadbeat dads. The fact that divorce laws often result in egregious awards of alimony and child support (such that all of a man's after tax income goes to the ex-wife or where child support far exceeds the needs of the children so it's effectly pocketed by the ex-wife) makes no difference.

fivewheels said...

"Also, there are plenty of women who pay child support ..."


"Also, I have friends who ..."

Gee, Catherine, I thought we were talking about this specific case.

Nomennovum said...

I meant to add: So where is the penalty for a woman who abandons her family and leaves (intentially or not*) false evidence implicating her former husband in her murder?

_________
* I think it's pretty clear she wanted to implicate somebody in her murder, and she had to know that would be her husband.

Nomennovum said...

Chatherine is pretty obviously playing the "don't judge her" role in this thread.

I think we have plenty of evidence to do just that. All we seem to lack is a signed confession from Brenda. I doubt we'll get that.

campy said...

Gee, Catherine, I thought we were talking about this specific case.

Yes, but why are talking about this specific case, when there are so many men who do much worse things?

Paeonia said...


The problem is all inside your head
She said to me
The answer is easy if you
Take it logically
I'd like to help you in your struggle
To be free
There must be fifty ways
To leave your husband

She said it's really not my habit
To intrude
Furthermore, I hope my meaning
Won't be lost or misconstrued
But I'll repeat myself
At the risk of being crude
There must be fifty ways
To leave your husband

You Just slip out the back
Make a new plan
You don't need to be coy
Just listen to me
Hop on the bus
You don't need to discuss much
Just drop off the key
And get yourself free

Dust Bunny Queen said...

we are talking about a specific case. Everyone is assuming she's getting off "scott free." If a man disappeared like this, I think at this stage of the investigation, things would be in the same stage because a) it's odd and b) the kids are adults.

You cannot deny that in the court of public opinion, given these exact circumstances if it were a man who had suddenly decided to take off with some drifters for 11 years and didn't ever attempt to contact his wife and children; who left them thinking that he was dead or worse while just 'doing his own thing' until his thing got to be less enjoyable than he thought and then decided to be the prodigal son and return to the fold...... that he would not be raked over the coals by public opinion. The names that he would be called for selfishly abandoning his responsibilities would be unrepeatable in polite society.

BUT....let it be a woman and suddenly the excuses are freely flowing. There are all sorts of reasons and excuses that people can come up with to justify the EXACT SAME behavior.

It is a double standard and you cannot deny that it exists.

Good for the daughter. Her mother is a dirtbag and should never be allowed anywhere near the rest of the family.

pm317 said...

There must be a book or movie deal in here somewhere.

"Hours" book/movie has a story like this, a woman disappearing leaving behind her husband and kids..she reappears for the funeral of her son later.

David said...

"Agatha Christie disappeared on 3 December 1926 only to reappear eleven days later in a hotel in Harrogate, apparently with no memory of the events which happened during that time span."

Mysterious.

Or fictional.

ken in sc said...

She's a military brat. Every two or three years, they have the urge to move and reinvent themselves. It's how they grew up. I have seen it more than once.

ken in sc said...

Military brats may have been born in a base hospital that is now closed. If they graduated from high school overseas, the school likely no longer exists. Many military brats have almost no human connections that most people take for granted. However, none of this should be thought of as an excuse for her behavior.

ken in sc said...

Instead of running away, she should have gone through with the divorce and joined the service.

Tom said...

Fugue state is induced by getting hammered on Jack Daniels.

kentuckyliz said...

Every time I feel restless, and ready to shake up my life, I like to go hang out with a large group of homeless people.

Party like you got nothin' to lose!