Melissa Highsmith, then 22 months old, was taken from her Fort Worth, Texas home by her new babysitter 51 years ago. After 50 years, Melissa has finally been reunited with her family courtesy of a DNA test.
According to the Fort-Worth Star-Telegram, Sharon Highsmith, Melissa’s younger sister, remarked, “It’s overwhelming and incredible to me.”
They attempted conducting their own independent private family investigations in addition to working with police enforcement. For decades, my parents have chased leads, hiring their own labs and investigators. And yet, these DNA tests, which are available to anyone, helped us find our lost loved one.”
According to the Fort-Worth Star-Telegram, Jeffrie, Melissa’s father, provided his DNA to 23andMe for ancestry purposes. The business discovered that Jeffrie had three grandchildren who belonged to Melanie Brown. According to ABC News 4, the Highsmith family thought they had located Melissa when they noticed that Brown shared the same birthmark as Melissa.
He started crying when they said, “Dad, she’s alive,” Jeffrie told CBS News. After 51 years, it is really emotional.
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According to Fox News, Melissa Highsmith vanished in 1971 following her mother Atla Apantencl’s hiring of a new nanny. Apantencl, a waitress in Fort Worth who had recently split up with Melissa’s father and was looking for a babysitter, put a notice in the neighborhood paper. She received a call from a woman who said she would visit the restaurant for an interview but never did.
The woman later called Apantencl to express her interest in the position again, saying she had a large yard and cared for numerous additional children. She was employed by Apantencl, who authorized her to pick up Melissa, 22 months old, from her roommate while Apantencl was at work.
The babysitter vanished along with Apantencl’s child, sparking a five-decade search for Melissa Highsmith by her family.
Sharon Highsmith told the Fort-Worth Star-Telegram, “My mom did the best she could with the limited resources she had. She couldn’t risk getting fired. So, she trusted the person who said they’d care for her child. For 50 years, my mom has lived with the guilt of losing Melissa.”
We are very happy to have Melissa back, she continued. I’m also happy that my mother has been vindicated.
For the first time in fifty years, Melissa Highsmith, aged 53, was reunited with her parents and siblings in November 2022, according to CBS News.
According to CBS News, Melissa stated, “It’s overwhelming, but at the same time, it’s the most wonderful feeling in the world.” She added that when Jeffrie first contacted her over Facebook, she initially believed it to be a fraud. “My father texted me on [Facebook] Messenger and he told me, ‘You know, I’ve been looking for my daughter for 51 years,'” she said.
Family members of Melissa have since emphasized how happy they are to have her back in their lives.
“We had coffee with her on Thanksgiving night, and when I looked at her, I just knew. I knew.” He continued by saying that Melissa reminded him so much of his mother that he “couldn’t take” his eyes off of her.
Melissa’s mother is still in awe of her daughter’s progress.
She reportedly said, “I just couldn’t believe it,” as reported by CBS News. She didn’t think she would ever see her again.
Little is currently known about Melissa’s abduction. According to Fox News, despite it being a hot August day, Apantencl’s roommate told authorities that the kidnapper was wearing white gloves, sunglasses, and a bonnet. Melissa, however, made it seem as though her 1971 kidnapper had raised her.
“The person that raised me, I asked her, ‘Is there anything you need to tell me?’” Melissa told CBS News, “And and it was confirmed that she knew that I was baby Melissa so that just made it real.”
Melissa Highsmith is happy at being reunited with her biological family, even though the plot is still unfolding. She even intends to return to using Melissa instead of Melanie as her name.
She told CBS News, “My heart right now is just full and bursting with just so much emotion. I’m just really, really happy.”
Featured Image screenshot from embedded YouTube video.