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'Runaway Mom' Brenda Heist now in Panhandle jail

8:47 AM, May 10, 2013   |    comments
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Pensacola, Florida (PNJ) -- A Pennsylvania woman presumed dead after disappearing in 2002 - only to re-emerge in the Florida Keys in late April - is in the Santa Rosa County Jail for failing to check in with a probation officer.

Brenda Heist, 53, is being held without bond under the alias "Kelsie Smith."

Prosecutors allege that she violated her probation, which she was put on for stealing an ID from Milton resident Heike Farmer, whose house she cleaned, and using it during a traffic stop.

Farmer reported the situation in September when she got a notice to pay an outstanding citation, according to an arrest report.

The truth about Heist's identity came to light on April 26, when she went to Monroe County sheriff's deputies in Key Largo and informed them she was a missing person. She was subsequently interviewed by detectives, but later released.

Heist, who was arrested Feb. 15 under her alias, pleaded to forgery of a written instrument and giving false information to a law enforcement officer on April 16. Circuit Judge David Rimmer sentenced her to three years probation and Heist was released.

Heist then took a bus to the Tampa area but failed to check in with the probation office, court records show.

See Also: Missing Pa. mom lived in Tarpon Springs

A probation-violation report and warrant was issued May 2, and Heist turned herself in to Alachua County authorities on May 3.

She was brought to the Santa Rosa County Jail on Tuesday. Rimmer will arraign her on June 6.

The report says probation officer Vicki Nolan believes Heist "had no real intentions to complete her terms and conditions of supervision."

"It would be this officer's opinion that the offender was hoping to complete this case and be released from jail before her real identity was discovered," Nolan says in the report.

Heist was reported missing in Lititz, Pa., in 2002, when she left town after dropping her kids off at school. At the time, she was going through a divorce, and she was declared dead in 2010.

The case attracted a large amount of national attention, as the bizarre details of her disappearance and subsequent reappearance were revealed to Heist's family, friends and the public.

It is unclear exactly how long Heist lived in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties, but those who knew her said she cleaned houses for local residents. She lived in the Perdido area, as well as in Gulf Breeze.

Locals who knew her said she went by "Lovie," and that she never brought up anything about her time in Pennsylvania or her children. Court records show that Heist claimed her parents were deceased and that she was a widow.

Nothing about Heist's past came up during any of her encounters with law enforcement, Santa Rosa County sheriff's spokesman Rich Aloy said.

"She has no criminal record or reason to be fingerprinted prior to her disappearance," Aloy said. "When we ran her prints, nothing came back on who she really was."

State Attorney Bill Eddins said his office is looking into Heist's past, and will continue to investigate before her arraignment and hearing.

"We're currently gathering all the information that we can about this lady before we determine our position on the violation of probation," Eddins said.

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