TORONTO – An amateur web sleuth provided the key to identifying an American navy veteran with a degree in linguistics as a mystery woman who turned up at a shelter in Toronto with apparent amnesia, knowing only that her first name was Linda.
Investigators announced Tuesday that she is Linda Hegg, 56, who has schizophrenia and may have suffered a traumatic event that triggered her memory loss.
It’s still not known exactly when Hegg left her assisted living facility in Newark, Del., why she boarded a bus to Canada, how she crossed the border at Fort Erie with an expired U.S. passport, or what she did in the days before she arrived at the shelter.
Hegg herself doesn’t have those answers, as her memories have not returned, said Toronto police Det. Roger Caracciolo. She had to ask the staff from her facility where she had been after she was sent back home last week.
“They told her, ‘Well, you know Linda, you were in Canada,’ and she paused and she said, ‘I like Canada. I’d like to visit there again,’” Caracciolo said. “I don’t think she knew where she was.”
Though she still doesn’t remember her family or her life, she was happy to be told her name and that police had found her mother in Indianapolis, police said.
“She clapped her hands and she smiled and she was very excited about that,” said Caracciolo.
Hegg is home now in Delaware, where she is being examined at a hospital. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1996 and has had a “difficult” time since then, Caracciolo said, but she has lived an accomplished life.
She has travelled extensively in the United States and abroad. She has a degree in linguistics and languages from the University of Rochester. She was stationed in Okinawa, Japan, with the U.S. navy and later returned to that country to teach English.
Police did not disclose much medical information about what happened to Hegg, but said medical professionals told them she wasn’t getting all of her medications while she was in Toronto and that a traumatic incident may have preceded her trip. She seemed physically healthy and uninjured, Caracciolo said.
Police issued a news release in October with a photo and the name Linda, appealing for any information. They were contacted by many families who had hoped she was their missing loved one, but in the end it was an anonymous tip that helped solve the case, Caracciolo said.
A web sleuth called Caracciolo on Nov. 7 to direct him to a missing woman from the United States who looked like Toronto’s “Linda.” She had been reported missing just days earlier after neither her family nor her case worker had seen her in a while, Caracciolo said.