Pennsylvania woman missing for 31 years found in Puerto Rico

Patricia Kopta (Courtesy of Ross Township, Pennsylvania Police)

(NewsNation) — A Pennsylvania woman who went missing 31 years ago has been found alive in Puerto Rico.

Patricia Kopta was reported missing by her husband Bob Kopta in 1992, WPVI-TV reported.

“I come home one night, and she’s just gone, and nobody knows where she’s at,” he said.

Police in Ross Township, Pennsylvania, said at a news conference that Patricia Kopta meandered through Puerto Rico before she was taken to an adult care home in 1999. She initially kept information of her life secret, but began to divulge details as she suffered from dementia, Ross Township Deputy Police Chief Brian Kohlhepp said.

Staff at the nursing home learned enough details to make the connections to her family and contacted Ross Township authorities about the now-83-year-old woman. A DNA test has confirmed her identity, Kohlhepp said.

Kopta’s husband and her surviving sister, 78-year-old Gloria Smith, filled in details of Kopta’s life at the news conference and in telephone interviews Friday with The Associated Press.

Patricia Kopta had been nicknamed “The Sparrow” because of her slight build, and often frequented parking lots and busy roads in the largely residential community of about 31,000 north of Pittsburgh, where she would caution passersby and motorists about the end of the world.

But before she began street preaching, Kopta was a straight-A student who became a model and dance instructor. After graduating high school, she worked in finance at a Pittsburgh plate glass company and would attend ballroom dancing events weekly, according to her family.

She would vacation often in Puerto Rico with her friends before she got married, Smith recalled.

“She just loved the ocean, the beach, the warm sunshine,” Smith told the AP.

After her disappearance, Kopta said he placed advertisements in a Puerto Rican newspaper as part of the search effort. She was legally declared dead years after she went missing.

Bob Kopta, who did not remarry, said he doesn’t plan to visit, and that he’s now trying to forget the past, though he’s glad to know she’s being taken care of.

Smith, on the other hand, wants to go to the island to see her older sister. She says she’s been unable to speak to her elder sibling on the phone because Patricia cannot hold a conversation given her dementia.

A twin sister of Patricia Kopta died without knowing her fellow twin was still alive.

“Whether she knows me or not, I still want to see her and give her a hug and tell her I love her,” Smith said. “I thought maybe she had died.”


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