For one family in Fort Worth, it’s an early Christmas miracle. The family of a woman who vanished more than 50 years ago revealed on Sunday that she had been located in Fort Worth this week.
When a babysitter abducted Melissa Highsmith from her parents’ Fort Worth home in 1971, she went missing. She had barely turned 22 months old when she vanished.
Highsmith’s family and the police continued their meticulous search for her throughout the ensuing 51 years, even after receiving recent leads about potential sightings in North Carolina.
However, Melissa was ultimately discovered residing in Fort Worth as Melanie Walden.
The Highsmith family claimed that Melissa was eventually found thanks to a DNA test.
Sharon Highsmith stated on Facebook that “our locating Melissa was completely due to DNA, not because of any police or FBI engagement, podcast involvement, or even our family’s own private research or theories.”
On Saturday, Melissa’s parents finally got to see her after more than 50 years.
‘My heart right now is just full and bursting with just so much emotion.’
Melissa Highsmith, missing for 51 years, found in Fort Worth and reunited with birth family.
Highsmith was kidnapped by a babysitter at her parents' Fort Worth home.
— Nick Starling (@NickStarlingTV) November 28, 2022
Melissa and her family are catching up on lost time and getting to know one another after 51 years of being apart.
Melissa comments as she sits next to her parents and examines photographs of herself that she has never seen before, “It’s lovely to see what I looked like as a newborn.”
For the first time since she was taken from her parents when she was just 22 months old, Melissa, now 53, is back with them.
Melissa describes the sensation as “overwhelming but also the most amazing feeling in the world.”
Atla Apantencl, her mother, is still taking it all in. “I simply could not accept it. I believed I wouldn’t ever see her again.”
Her father, Jeffrie Highsmith, remembers the moment he learned his daughter had been located. I started crying when they said, “Dad, she’s alive. It’s incredibly emotional after 51 years.”
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children received a tip in September of this year that Melissa may have been spotted near Charleston, South Carolina after the family had spent years looking for her and had been thinking about her abduction for decades.
Despite the fact that the tip did not work out, it brought Melissa’s case to national attention and gave the family the resolve to keep seeking.
Eventually, a 23andMe DNA test helped to reunite Melissa’s children with their relatives. Melissa initially believed the Facebook message from her family was a fraud. I received a text message from my father on messenger saying, “You know, I’ve been hunting for my daughter for 51 years.”
Melissa was unaware that her real family was looking for her the entire time.