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Brenda Heist, runaway mom from Lititz, breaks silence to Dr. Phil

Published On: May 17 2013 02:07:24 PM CDT
Dr. Phil and Brenda Heist

CBS Television Distribution / Peteski Productions

MILTON, Fla. -

Brenda Heist, the Lancaster County woman who abandoned her family 11 years ago, has shared her story with Dr. Phil in an episode to air on 69-WFMZ-TV.

The show, described by producers as an emotion-filled hour, will air on channel 69 next Tuesday, May 21, at 8 p.m. 

Dr. Phil interviewed Heist in the Santa Rosa County Jail in Florida, where she is being held on outstanding warrants.

Heist vanished without a trace after dropping her two young children off at their school in Lititz on Feb. 8, 2002. 

At the time, Heist was in the middle of a divorce and told Dr. Phil she felt there was no way she was going to be able to care for her children and they would be better off with their father. 

Distraught over her situation, she said she went to a park that day, sat down on a bench and began to cry.  It was there that Heist was befriended by three homeless people, who invited her to hitchhike to Florida with them. She agreed, thus beginning a journey that would last more than a decade. 

Heist, who was declared legally dead in 2009, resurfaced late last month when she turned herself in to police in Key Largo, Fla. 

When Dr. Phil asked if she ever missed her family, Heist admitted that she thought about her children every day, but knew they would be better off with her husband. 

Heist’s son, Lee, is now 23 and recently graduated from college, and her daughter Morgan, is 19. 

Morgan Heist told 69 News last month that she's angry with her mother and unsure whether she wants to talk to her.

"I hope she gets better for herself, for her mom, for her brothers," Morgan said. "I hope so much for them because they have hope in her right now. I don't want them to get let down again."

Dr. Phil asked Heist if she would like her family’s forgiveness and she responded by saying, "I would like their forgiveness, but I'm going to have a hard time forgiving myself for what I’ve done."

"There are people in your life that love you," Dr. Phil told Heist. "There are people that are mad at you right now, but you work through these things.  Families work through these things."

During the taped episode, Heist reunited with her mother for the first time since early 2002.