The American mother who reappeared earlier this month after living as a vagrant in Florida for more than a decade thought her “children were better off without her”.
Brenda Heist, now 54, vanished from her home in Lititz, Pennsylvania, in February 2002, after taking her children, then aged eight and 12, to school. Eleven years and three months later, a woman called Kelsie Lyanne Smith walked into Florida police station and revealed that she was in fact the missing Brenda Heist.
She had felt under pressure due to an impending divorce from husband Lee, she explained, and also had financial problems. On the day of her disappearance, she had been crying in the local park when she was approached by some homeless people who told her she could come with them to Florida, the Mail reports.
Interviewed while held in jail on outstanding warrants, a tearful Heist told Dr Phil McGraw:
“I just kept saying to myself, “[The children] are better off without me”.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever stopped crying and started living, to be honest with you,” adding that she would “have a hard time forgiving myself for what I’ve done.”
The popular TV psychologist told Today:
“When I first sat down with her, she was in complete and utter meltdown. I mean full body tremors, shaking, and not because of the interview but because she was getting ready to have to come to grips with what she had done.”
The runaway now regrets revealing herself, he added, believing she is burdening her family and upsetting her children.
Dr Phil believes Heist may have “serious issues with regard to forming the normal bonds and attachments that people would normally do. How else can you leave a child, eight and 12, and never call within 11 years?”
According to reports, Heist has had no contact with her children since she reappeared. Her daughter Morgan, eight at the time of her mother’s disappearance, told Pennsylvania TV station WCAU:
“It’s not that I hate her. I just think she doesn’t deserve to be in my life at this point.”
The interview will be shown on Monday’s edition of the Dr Phil Show.
Photo of Dr Phil by House Committee on Education and the Workforce Democrats via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence