Dr. Phil is sitting down for an exclusive interview at the Santa Rosa County Jail with "Runaway Mom" Brenda Heist, who is breaking her silence on why she abandoned her family 11 years ago.
Heist made headlines when she vanished without a trace after dropping her two young children off at a school in Lititz, PA on February 8, 2002. At the time Heist was in the middle of a divorce, and distraught over her situation, 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, FL.
"No, I've never been around homeless people. Maybe seen them on the street a couple of times but I've never been around homeless people at all. Never knew anything about it," Heist says about the seemingly inexplicable choice she made from being a mother of two with a house and a car to being homeless. "That's why I had my own problems believing what I was doing, but I just kept saying they're [her two children] better off without me."
Heist is still clearly emotional during the intense sit-down.
"I don't know if I've ever stopped crying and started living to be honest with you," she says in tears.
Heist’s children are now adults -- Lee, 23, recently graduated from college, and her daughter Morgan is 19. Both have "mixed emotions" about seeing their mother again.
"I would like their forgiveness, but I'm going to have a hard time forgiving myself for what I've done," Heist tells Dr. Phil.
Tune in to Dr. Phil on Monday, May 20, 2013 (check your local listings) for more of his exclusive interview with Heist, which also includes an emotional reunion between Heist and her own mother, whom she hasn't seen since 2002.