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How woman found after being declared dead for 30 years earned 'eerie' nickname prior to disappearance

How woman found after being declared dead for 30 years earned 'eerie' nickname prior to disappearance

Patricia Kopta was found alive in Puerto Rico after disappearing in 1992

An 83-year-old woman who was discovered alive last year after being missing for over three decades and declared legally dead had been given an 'eerie' nickname prior to her shocking disappearance.

Patricia Kopta was in her 50s when she was last seen alive in her hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

A devout Roman Catholic with a controversial reputation, just weeks prior to her disappearance, she'd become known in her local area for preaching in parking lots and on busy roads and claiming she had 'visions' of the Virgin Mary.

Patricia had also been briefly institutionalised, with doctors believing she was suffering with schizophrenia.

She was given an eerie nickname by neighbours, which was still used after she went missing in June 1992.

According to the Post-Gazette reports, onlookers referred to her as 'The Sparrow', due to her short stature and erratic walk.

Also described as a 'free spirit', Patricia was first reported missing by her husband Bob in 1992, who initially thought nothing of her absence due to her reputation.

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

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

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 legally considered dead.

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.

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

The 82-year-old was found Puerto Rico. (WPXI)
The 82-year-old was found Puerto Rico. (WPXI)

It was later realised that the woman had been suffering with dementia.

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.

He said: "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.

Bob Kopta spoke of his relief after finding his wife alive. (WPXI)
Bob Kopta spoke of his relief after finding his wife alive. (WPXI)

"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: Crime, News, US News, World News