ROSS TOWNSHIP, Pa. (KDKA) - A Pittsburgh street preacher known as "The Sparrow" was found living in Puerto Rico more than three decades after she went missing, Ross Township police announced on Thursday.
Patricia Kopta's husband reported her missing from the North Hills in 1992. Ross Township Deputy Police Chief Brian Kohlhepp said an Interpol agent and a social worker from Puerto Rico contacted him recently and said they believed they had found Kopta alive 1,700 miles away in an adult care home.
Ross Township police said they were told Kopta was found in need of care and was taken into the home in the June of 1999.
Police said she refused to discuss her personal life and told people she came to Puerto Rico on a cruise ship from Europe. Investigators don't know if she was ever in Europe.
Kohlhepp said as Kopta aged, she began to open up, and those in Puerto Rico made the connection and contacted Ross Township police.
"As she asked and spoke more, she leaked enough details about her identity that they were able to connect enough dots to contact us," Kohlhepp said.
DNA samples were able to confirm the woman was Kopta, police said.
Kopta's family says one day a beloved wife and sister just left. Now more than 30 years later, they got the news they never thought they would hear.
"Shock. I didn't believe it. Total shock," Kopta's sister Gloria Smith said.
Smith always feared the worst: hearing her beloved sister was found dead somewhere.
"It was hard on all of us because my mother, her sister and myself worried about her constantly," Smith said.
Patricia Kopta's husband Robert Kopta said they were married for about 20 years when she took off without a trace.
"She could have come home at any time. She always said she wanted to go to a warm climate," he said.
Patty, as her family called her, street preached around the city under the name "The Sparrow." Her family said she suffered from mental health issues and feared being institutionalized.
"She would always hang out down in Pittsburgh where things were going on. When there was a baseball game going on, when a concert was going on, she would be talking to people," Robert Kopta said about his wife.
She's now 83 years old. Her family said she suffers from dementia, but they are trying to see her in person after being gone all that time.
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