The Daily Press
WESTERN PA. WOMAN MISSING FOR 3 DECADES FOUND IN PUERTO RICO, POLICE CONfiRM
Robert Kopta waited three decades for the news that was revealed Thursday at Ross police headquarters. His wife, Patricia, who went missing from the area in 1992, was alive in Puerto Rico.
“What would you do when somebody’s gone for 30 years?” Robert Kopta asked a room full of reporters at a news conference.
He said he never remarried.
“It’s sad. I went through a lot, believe me. Every time they’d find a body somewhere, (I wondered) ‘Is it Patricia? Is it Patricia?’” Kopta said. “I come home one night, and she’s gone, and nobody knew where she was at. I don’t understand. I didn’t throw her out. She just walked away. Didn’t say goodbye or nothing.
“It’s been going on for almost 31 years, and it’s been bad. It’s cost me a lot of money. She did say she wanted to go to Puerto Rico where the warm weather was. I even put advertising in the paper down in Puerto Rico looking for her. That didn’t help.”
Ross Deputy Police Chief Brian Kohlhepp said Thursday that there had been a number of leads throughout the years, but nothing came to fruition until about nine months ago. He was contacted by an agent from Interpol as well as a social worker from Puerto Rico who believed they had located Patricia Kopta in an adult care home.
She is now 83 and has dementia. They said she came to Puerto Rico on a cruise ship from Europe. She had been known to have wandered the towns of Naranjito,
Corozal and Toa Alta and was found on June 30, 1999, to be in need of care and was taken into the care home at that time.
She refused to discuss her personal life, but as she aged Kohlhepp said she shared more details, and authorities in Puerto Rico were able to make the connection and contacted Ross police. Authorities tracked down a sister, Gloria Smith of Bridgeville, and a nephew in the Pittsburgh area. DNA samples were processed, and it was revealed that the woman in Puerto Rico is indeed Patricia Kopta.
Robert Kopta and Patricia’s sister were aware of the investigation.
Patricia Kopta was a well-known street preacher throughout the Pittsburgh area and was commonly referred to as “The Sparrow.”
She held jobs at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh Plate Glass, but she soon gave in to her urge to preach to people full time, often warning them the world was coming to an end. Her husband said she often would be gone all night and had been arrested on several occasions and was barred from many places for bothering people.
After an incident in Monroeville in which she was arrested for running out in traffic to speak to motorists, she was taken to Forbes Regional Hospital and was kept there for a month and given medication, her husband said.
The doctors told her family members she had exhibited signs of schizophrenia and had “delusions of grandeur,” according to Smith.
“She did not want to be institutionalized again, and she was upset,” Smith said. “She said, ‘They’ll never do that to me again.’ Patty thought she was doing God’s will and had a good heart. She is a gentle spirit and a good and loving person. She was just trying to help people.”
Kopta and her husband were married for 20 years before she disappeared.
“When she took up