Melissa was abducted in 1971, when she was 21 months old. After tirelessly searching for her, her family managed to find her thanks to a DNA test.
The Highsmith family was finally able to reunite with their daughter, who disappeared 51 years ago in Fort Worth, Texas, USA. The reunion was made possible by a DNA testing program that helps find relatives, reports WFAA.
On August 23, 1971, Alta Apantenco, mother of 21-month-old Melissa, posted an ad requesting a babysitter. The contractee was Ruth Johnson, who went to pick up the girl but never returned her. The local Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) undertook the search for the baby girl, but never, not even after more than 50 years, managed to find clues to locate her.
Melissa Highsmith, meanwhile, she never knew she had been kidnapped. Just this past Sunday, she and her birth parents were reunited, thanks to the efforts of her birth family. Last week Melissa’s father, Jeffrie Highsmith, had received the results of a DNA test that matched three people, including Melissa.
Another son of the family, Jeff Highsmith, found Melissa on social media, told her the story of the kidnapping, and told her he was sure the kidnapped girl was her. At first she didn’t believe Melissa, but when she saw a photo of the kidnapped baby and compared it to her own early childhood photos of hers, she concluded that they were the same person. Apantenco, the mother, said to be “happy to see his daughter”, whom he never thought he would see again.
Melissa had a difficult life. In the interview with WFAA she stated that she “did not feel loved as a child”, that at the age of 15 she left her house and lived on the streets. She never imagined that only 20 minutes away was his mother, in Fort Worth. After meeting with her biological family, Melissa stated that she wants to remarry her current husband, so that her family can be at her wedding.
According to The Guardian, Melissa’s mother, father and four siblings give advice to those looking for their missing loved ones. “never give up” and “follow all leads.”