KEY LARGO, Fla. - It's been 11 years since Brenda Heist walked away from her two children, her job and her life in central Pennsylvania and headed to south Florida.
Police said Heist dropped her two kids off at school and then hitchhiked with the group of homeless people she met at a park.
Investigators said Wednesday she disclosed her identity last week in Key Largo, saying she slept under bridges and scavenged food from restaurant trash to survive.
Her children were 8 and 12 at the time she vanished. Now, one's a college graduate and the other is a West Chester University sophomore.
Heist had been going through a divorce when she disappeared in 2002. After hearing she'd been turned down for housing assistance, she decided to take off, never contacting anyone.
"She said she thought of her family and children everyday and her parents. However, she never acted on that, never made any phone calls, not one," said Detective John Schofield of the Lititz Borough Police Department.
In the years since she left, Heist's husband remarried, and a court declared her legally dead.
Detectives said Heist apologized for what she did.
11 years after abandoning kids, Pa. mom resurfaces in Fla.
Action 9 exposes dirty restaurants in Central Florida
Disney World fireworks show causing brush fires despite burn ban, union says
15-foot hole in I-4 median backs up traffic near World Drive
Fast-growing wildfire prompts partial closure of State Road 44 in DeLand