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How authorities found missing woman who had been declared dead for 30 years

How authorities found missing woman who had been declared dead for 30 years

Patricia Kopta disappeared from her Pennsylvania home in 1992, only to be discovered alive in Puerto Rico over 30 years later

When Patricia Kopta was declared missing from her Pennsylvania home back in 1992, neither her husband nor police believed they'd ever see her alive again.

In a shocking twist of fate, however, the woman was discovered to be alive last year, after authorities found the 83-year-old living in Puerto Rico.

Patricia's husband, Bob, reported his wife missing on 27 November 1992 after her disappearance 20 June 1992, just weeks after she first begun demonstrating some peculiar behaviour.

The devout Roman Catholic had already earned herself the nickname 'The Sparrow' by her Pittsburgh neighbours, due to her tendency to 'drop out of sight' for extended periods of time.

Also dubbed a 'free spirit' by those who knew her best, Patricia was known for preaching and claiming she'd had 'visions' of the Virgin Mary.

She was also reported to have been warning total strangers that the world was about to end in an Armageddon, with doctors at the time beginning to believe that she had schizophrenia.

Therefore, it wasn't initially a shock for Bob to one day discover that his wife had disappeared, with Patricia having seemingly gone off radar before reappearing several times before.

Patricia Kopta disappeared in 1992. (WPXI)
Patricia Kopta disappeared in 1992. (WPXI)

At the time, police said the disappearance wasn’t overtly suspicious and stated that her husband was not a suspect.

Patricia was later classified as a 'critical missing person' in the following weeks and an urgent search was launched.

A poster released by the Pennsylvania Emergency Response Centre read: "Her family believes she took a flight to Puerto Rico after her disappearance and spent a week or two there before returning to Pittsburgh. She has not been seen or heard from since."

Worried sick and desperate to find his wife, Bob eventually obtained a legal declaration saying that his wife was considered dead after investigators spoke with a psychic, who suggested Patricia had died and that her body was near water.

However, just last year, there was finally an update in the bizarre case.

The senior citizen was found alive aged 83, and in a nursing home in the territory of Puerto Rico, 1,700 miles from home, in 2023.

The 83-year-old was found in Puerto Rico. (WPXI)
The 83-year-old was found in Puerto Rico. (WPXI)

Investigators found that she was taken in as a 'person in need' after being found wandering aimlessly near the home back in June 1999 - around seven years after Bob reported her as missing.

It was later realised that the woman had been suffering with dementia - a syndrome (a group of related symptoms) associated with an ongoing decline of brain functioning.

Patricia started to open up about her life and a social worker eventually figured out that she was from Pennsylvania and had gone to the island on a cruise ship from Europe, and so contacted the relevant authorities.

At the end of a nine-month identification process, that involved a DNA test and analysis of her dental records, it was confirmed that the woman was Patricia.

Bob, who was 86 when news broke and never remarried following his wife's disappearance, said he felt relieved at a press conference following the revelation.

Bob Kopta opened up about his relief. (WPXI)
Bob Kopta opened up about his relief. (WPXI)

"It’s a sad thing, but it’s a relief off my mind. When your wife goes missing, you’re a suspect."

"After 30 years, you try to forget about it," Bob answered when asked for a reason for his wife's vanishing.

"Now, I can forget about it. We know what happened, and she is taken care of now. She could have come home any time. But that’s what she wanted. She always said she wanted to go to a warm climate."

Patricia's sister, Gloria, went to Puerto Rico after the DNA test came back positive to see her sister for the first time since 1992.

"We’re very thankful to know that Patty is alive and well," Gloria said to WMTW. "She’s being well taken care of. We really thought she was dead all those years. It was a very big shock to know that she’s still alive."

Featured Image Credit: WPXI

Topics: US News, News, World News, Crime