NATIONAL NEWS

Woman missing over 30 years, thought to be dead, found living in Puerto Rico nursing home

Mar 4, 2023, 10:47 AM
Patricia Kopta, who went missing in 1992, was discovered living in a nursing home in Puerto Rico. (...
Patricia Kopta, who went missing in 1992, was discovered living in a nursing home in Puerto Rico. (Ross Township Police)
(Ross Township Police)

(CNN) — A Pennsylvania woman who disappeared more than 30 years ago and was believed to be dead by her family was recently found living in a nursing home in Puerto Rico, her family and police said at a news conference Thursday.

Patricia Kopta, 83, was last seen in Pittsburgh in the summer of 1992, according to a missing person flier posted by the Pennsylvania Emergency Response Center.

Her husband, Bob Kopta, reported her missing a few months later in the fall. At the time, he advised authorities that it wasn’t uncommon for his wife to “drop out of sight for short periods,” according to the flier.

“I come home one night and she’s gone, and nobody knew where she was at,” Kopta said at the news conference with Ross Township Police.

Police said they were first informed about the discovery of the missing woman when an agent from the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) and a social worker from Puerto Rico contacted them last year saying that they believed Patricia was living in an adult care home in Puerto Rico.

“What they reported to us was that she came into their care in 1999, when she was found in need in the streets of Puerto Rico,” Ross Township Deputy Chief Brian Kohlhepp said.

INTERPOL and the social worker said Patricia was found wandering the streets and through the years she had “refused to ever discuss her private life or where she came from,” Kohlhepp said.

In her advanced age, Patricia started revealing nuggets that would eventually spur those around her to contact Ross police, Kohlhepp said.

History of mental health issues

When she was in Pittsburgh, Patricia was a “well-known street preacher,” according to the missing person flier. She would approach strangers, telling them she had visions of the Virgin Mary and that the world was coming to an end, the flier said.

Police said her disappearance wasn’t overtly suspicious because they “knew she had a mental health history and she had made statements to other family individuals that she was leaving, that she was concerned that she was going to be placed into a care facility here,” Kohlhepp said. Kohlhepp said police knew she had likely left of her own volition.

Her husband said that his wife had talked about wanting to go to Puerto Rico to live in a tropical environment.

“I even advertised in the paper down in Puerto Rico looking for her,” Kopta said at the news conference, adding that he spent a lot of money over the years searching for her.

Patricia and Bob were married for 20 years before she went missing, Kohlhepp told CNN. He added that Patricia had no known family or connections in Puerto Rico.

DNA testing helped connect the dots

Police determined the woman was in fact Patricia through a nine-month-long process in which they compared DNA samples provided by her sister, Gloria Smith, and her nephew.

“We really thought she was dead all those years,” Smith said at the news conference.

Even before DNA testing was completed, the family knew it was Patricia as soon as they saw her photo, Kohlhepp said.

Smith said that she has called the adult care home in Puerto Rico several times but has been unable to hold a conversation with her sister because she has dementia.

“We didn’t expect it. It was a very big shock to see — to know that she’s still alive,” her sister said. “You know, we’re so happy and I hope I can get down to see her.”

CNN has not been able to directly contact the woman’s family.


The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

National News

US District Judge Robert Pitman ruled that at least 12 books removed from public libraries must be ...
CNN

Judge orders books removed from Texas public libraries to be returned within 24 hours

A federal judge in Texas ruled that at least 12 books removed from public libraries by Llano County officials must be placed back onto shelves within 24 hours.
23 hours ago
(Top L-R): Staff Sgt. Taylor Mitchell, Staff Sgt. Joshua Gore, Sgt. Isaac Gayo, Sgt. David Solinas ...
Haley Britzky

US Army identifies nine soldiers killed in Black Hawk training accident

The US Army has identified the nine soldiers who were killed in a nighttime training accident on Wednesday evening.
23 hours ago
General Motors plans to phase out widely used Apple CarPlay and Android Auto technologies for futur...
CNN

GM plans to phase out Apple CarPlay in EVs, with Google’s help

General Motors plans to phase out widely used Apple CarPlay and Android Auto technologies that allow drivers to bypass a vehicle's infotainment system, shifting instead to built-in infotainment systems developed with Google for future electric vehicles.
23 hours ago
Homes damaged by a tornado are seen on March 31, 2023 in Little Rock, Arkansas. Tornados damaged hu...
Associated Press

At least 26 dead after tornadoes rake US Midwest, South

Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders declared a state of emergency after the catastrophic storms that hit on Friday afternoon.
23 hours ago
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign stop in Council Bluffs, Iow...
Associated Press

Trump indictment ends decades of perceived invincibility

Trump, who is the early frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, is expected to turn himself in Tuesday. He faces charges including at least one felony offense related to hush money payments to women during his 2016 campaign.
2 days ago
This photo provided by the St. Petersburg, Fla., Police Department shows 2-year-old Taylen Mosley, ...
Associated Press

Search on for Florida toddler after mother found slain

Searchers combed the area around a Florida apartment complex Friday for a missing 2-year-old boy whose mother was found slain in their apartment, police said.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Stack of old laptops with dark background...
PC Laptops

Old Laptop Upgrades You Need to Try Before Throwing it Away

Get the most out of your investment. Try these old laptop upgrades before throwing it out to keep it running fast and efficient.
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Close up of an offset printing machine during production...
Les Olson IT

Top 7 Reasons to Add a Production Printer to Your Business

Learn about the different digital production printers and how they can help your company save time and money.
vintage photo of lighting showroom featuring chandeliers, lamps, wall lights and mirrors...
Lighting Design

History of Lighting Design | Over 25 Years of Providing Utah With the Latest Trends and Styles

Read about the history of Lighting Design, a family-owned and operated business that paved the way for the lighting industry in Utah.
Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
Woman missing over 30 years, thought to be dead, found living in Puerto Rico nursing home