Entries in Runaway (4)


Runaway Mom Turned Herself in on Outstanding Warrant

Sondra Forrester and Brenda Heist are seen here in this undated photo. (Courtesy Sondra Forrester)(LITITZ, Pa.) -- Brenda Heist, the Pennsylvania mother who disappeared 11 years ago and reappeared in Florida last week, turned herself in on an outstanding warrant, authorities said.

Alachua County Sheriff's Office spokesman Art Forgey told ABC News that Heist, 53, originally of Lititz, Pa., walked into the Alachua County Jail in Gainsville, Fla., and turned herself in on a violation of probation warrant from another county in Florida just after 5:30 pm on Friday.

Heist was originally charged with forgery of a written instrument and for providing a false name to law enforcement. She was booked under her alias, Kelsie Lyanne Smith.

Smith will be transferred from the Alachua County Jail to the Santa Rosa County Jail, where the warrant is outstanding, Forgey said.

A man who answered the phone at the Alachua County Jail told ABC News that her bond has not been set and she would not be transferred until Monday at the earliest.

Heist disappeared in 2002 after dropping off her two kids at a Lititz, Pa., school. She went to a park where she cried over her the divorce she was going through, she has told police. She was discovered in this distraught state by three strangers and on a whim she decided to take off with them and hitchhike to Florida, where she lived homeless for several years.

"She decided to go with them on a whim," Lititz Borough Police Det. Schofield told ABC News. "She told me that it was two males and female. They drove to York, Pa., with her car, parked it and abandoned it, and met up with another group, who were traveling down to Florida. It was a community down there living together."

During her disappearance, her husband Lee Heist was left to raise their two kids, who were 8 and 12 at the time she went missing.

Lee Heist was financially hurt when his wife vanished. With no one to watch his young children, he had to quit his job in order to look after them. And with her disappearance, the family also lost out on her financial support. Brenda Heist had been a bookkeeper for a car dealership.

By law, Lee Heist was not able to declare his wife dead for seven years, which he did in a Lancaster County court on June 10, 2009. Afterwards he collected $100,000 on the insurance policy taken out on his wife, according to the Intelligencer Journal.

Now, her reappearance may mean that he will have to give the money back -- plus interest.

What happened to Heist since then and her reemergence to authorities April 26 is not clear.

When she turned herself in to the sheriff in Florida on the criminal warrant, she also showed police a Pennsylvania ID for Brenda Heist, and told them that she was wanted in Pennsylvania, Schofield said.

Police quickly figured out that she was the same woman whose 2002 disappearance led to an extensive investigation involving local, state and federal agencies. Heist's missing person case eventually went cold, only to be reopened in 2008.

Schofield said that when he met with her, her appearance was consistent with someone who had been living the homeless lifestyle, and she looked malnourished. She told him that she was at the end of her rope, and tired of running, he said.

Lee Heist, who was at one point a person of interest in her disappearance, is now remarried and living in Montgomery County, Pa.

The Heists' daughter is now a 19-year-old freshman at Montgomery County Community College, and their son, 23, recently graduated from West Chester University and is pursuing a law enforcement career.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Sondra Forrester and Brenda Heist are seen here in this undated photo. Heist vanished from her life in Pennsylvania in 2002 and reemerged on April 26 in Florida. (Courtesy Sondra Forrester)


Missing Autistic Boy Found After Searchers Play Ozzy Osbourne

Mick Hutson/Redferns(LOS ANGELES) -- The search for eight-year-old Joshua Robb, the California autistic boy who was missing during a night of lightning storms, ended Tuesday afternoon when a search-and-rescue team found him in the woods near his school after playing recordings of Ozzy Osbourne.

Joshua was dehydrated and tired but in good shape, authorities said, according to ABC News affiliate KABC.

Joshua had spent Monday night in the forest near the San Bernardino Mountains in dangerous conditions. Lightning and heavy downpours temporarily stymied overnight search efforts.

When the weather subsided Tuesday, the search for Joshua resumed around 7:30 a.m., aided by Los Angeles County, Orange County, and Riverside. Authorities used two dogs to detect Joshua's scent as more than 40 people sifted through thick brush on foot. A helicopter searched overhead.

The searchers also used recordings of his father's voice and Joshua's favorite country and heavy metal music, including songs by Ozzy Osbourne, the heavy metal pioneer and former lead vocalist of Black Sabbath.

Joshua, who is severely autistic, is disturbed by loud noises, which worried the search-and-rescue team.

"He's not going to…go toward loud noises or helicopters making PA announcements. His family believes, and experts on autism that I've spoken to believe, that he would likely run from them," San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department spokesman Lt. Ron Ellis said Monday.

Police said Joshua squeezed between the bars of a metal playground fence at his school, Grandview Elementary, near Lake Arrowhead Monday morning. Joshua has run away before, Bachman said, and although the school's staff chased after him, they couldn't catch him.

According to KABC, authorities recently removed Joshua from his parents' custody and put him under the care of his teacher after someone saw the boy being tied to a pole -- something Joshua's father, Ron Robb, said they do to restrain him.

Robb told ABC News' Los Angeles affiliate his son might have run away to find his parents.

"All he knows is us. We've never had a break from my son ever since he was born," Robb said. "We know for a fact that that's why he escaped, because he was out trying to find us."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Runaway Baboon Found in New Jersey

John Foxx/Thinkstock (File Photo)(HOWELL, N.J.) -- A runaway baboon on the loose in the Garden State since last week has been captured.

The baboon was found on a farm near Fairfield and Merrick Roads in Howell, N.J. around 2:40 p.m. on Saturday. He appeared unharmed, according to New York ABC News affiliate WABC-TV.

Officials at Six Flags Great Adventure believe the baboon belongs to the amusement park's Monkey Jungle.

The baboon was tranquilized and brought to the park for a physical exam and health assessment.

All of the park's baboons are vaccinated and microchipped, but are not counted every night because they sleep outside in a large enclosure, Great Adventure spokeswoman Kristin Siebeneicher told the Asbury Park Press.

The Monkey Jungle is home to 150 baboons and it would be difficult to determine if one is missing, she said.

Although the animal in question did not have a microchip, Great Adventure officials said it felt confident it is the baboon escaped from the park.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Runaway Lexus Driver In LA Sues Toyota

Photo Courtesy - PRNewsFoto/Toyota(NEW YORK) -- Two months after prosecutors dropped vehicular manslaughter charges against her, a Los Angeles woman has filed suit against Toyota, claiming that sudden unintended acceleration in her Lexus SUV led to a fatal accident in 2008. Unmi Suk Chung, 62, alleges the crash was caused by a defect in the car's electronic throttle.

Chung was behind the wheel of her Lexus RX 330 when it sped out of control and slammed into a Mercedes at an off ramp. Chung's 69-year-old sister-in-law, who was in the back seat of the Lexus, was killed in the crash. A passenger who survived the crash said that Chung screamed, "No brakes! No brakes!" as the car hurtled west at 80 mph on the Santa Monica Freeway.

Despite Chung's claims that the Lexus suddenly accelerated on its own and that her brakes failed to stop the vehicle, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office charged her with gross vehicular manslaughter and felony reckless driving. If convicted, Chung could have faced a maximum possible sentence of six years and eight months in jail.

In October, prosecutors dismissed the charges. John Lynch of the L.A. County D.A.'s office said the case did not "appear to warrant continuing the prosecution," citing the fact that Chung was not intoxicated, had no record, and the victim's family did not want the case to proceed.

Chung's attorney Hutton said at the time that his client "continues to believe the vehicle was the cause" of the accident. The family of Chung's deceased sister-in-law, Esook Synn, has already filed its own suit against Toyota, alleging that the accident was caused by an electronic malfunction in the Lexus.

In a statement, Toyota spokesperson Mike Michels said, "Toyota sympathizes with all of those affected by the accident involving Ms. Unmi Suk Chung." However, Michels said, "Any allegations that a defect in Toyota's Electronic Throttle Control System caused unintended acceleration in the RX330 are completely unfounded and have no merit. We firmly believe that Toyota's Electronic Throttle Control System is safe, well designed, thoroughly tested, and robust."

The Chung case closely parallels that of Minnesota Toyota driver Koua Fong Lee. Lee was convicted of vehicular homicide and sentenced to eight years in prison after his 1996 Toyota Camry sped out of control and slammed into another car in 2006, killing the driver and two passengers. After serving two years of his sentence, Lee's case was reopened following widespread publicity over other cases of Toyotas allegedly experiencing sudden unintended acceleration.

Lee had steadfastly maintained that the Camry's brakes failed during the incident and that he had shouted "brakes not working!" to his family as the vehicle raced out of control. After a four-day hearing this summer, a judge ruled that Lee was entitled to a new trial and shortly thereafter, prosecutors announced they would not try Lee again. Lee, now a free man, has decided to join a civil lawsuit filed by the victims' family members and a survivor of the crash against Toyota over the alleged sudden acceleration issue.

The Lexus RX 330 driven by Chung in Los Angeles was recalled in 2006 to fix a floor mat that Toyota said might cause the gas pedal to stick.

According to the Los Angeles Times, a passenger in the Lexus told the California Highway Patrol that Chung also shouted, "No brakes! No brakes!" right before the crash. The Lexus was traveling an estimated 80 mph on Interstate 10 when it crashed at the Overland Avenue exit ramp. The Times also said that a woman who claimed to have witnessed the crash wrote on the Los Angeles Fire Department's web site that she saw a "look of terror" on Chung's face during the incident.

However, prosecutors say the evidence "appeared to suggest" that Chung was mistakenly pressing on the gas pedal instead of the brake, which was a factor in the decision to drop charges. According to Lynch, "there's an issue in many people minds as to whether or not it goes beyond simple negligence and amounts to criminal negligence."

Lynch acknowledged that the defense maintained that "because it was a Toyota product maybe there was sudden acceleration syndrome, an electronic defect in the car itself."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio