Woman Abducted as a Toddler Reunited with her Family 50 Years Later

51 years ago, Melissa Highsmith went missing. It was 1971 in Fort Worth, Texas, and her mum, Alta, needed a babysitter to watch then-22-month-old Melissa.

As Alta left for work, the babysitter came and picked Melissa up from her home. She didn’t see her daughter again for over 50 years.

Melissa Highsmith story
Melissa as a baby. Source: Facebook

For decades Melissa’s family has been searching for her. Now, after 51 years, she has finally been reunited with her family with DNA confirming the woman is the missing toddler from the 70s.

The family is making up for lost time and getting to know the daughter and sister they thought they would never see again.

Melissa’s abduction

On 23 August 1971, Melissa went missing, allegedly kidnapped. Melissa’s mum, who had recently separated from Melissa’s dad and moved to Fort Worth, had placed an ad in the paper for a sitter. A woman responded but never showed up to meet Alta about the job.

Later that day, the woman called Alta and explained how she was interested and had a big yard, and cared for other children.

Alta hired the babysitter and went to work. The sitter allegedly picked Melissa up at home, where she was being watched by Alra’s roommate at the time.

Melissa Highsmith story
A sketch of the woman who allegedly took Melissa was shared by the Highsmith family in 2019. Source: Facebook

Alta’s roommate explains that the woman who picked Melissa up was wearing white gloves, sunglasses, and a bonnet around her head in the middle of August in Texas. While Alta called law enforcers to report her missing child the same day, it would have appeared Melissa had vanished.

Years of searching

Although the details surrounding those missing 50 years are not made fully public, yet, what we do know is that Melissa was raised just 10 minutes from where she was abducted. She remained there until she was 15 before she ran away.

Melissa hasn’t said much about this, except that life had been quite hard.

For years and years, the Highsmith family searched for Melissa. Again, how they came into contact with Melissa is not fully known at this stage but it would appear an anonymous tipster reported a potential Charleston, South Carolina, sighting of Melissa back in September 2022.

mum central
Melissa and her mum, Alta, finally reunited after 51 years apart. Source: Facebook

DNA tests have confirmed that the woman is, in fact, missing toddler Melissa.

“DNA wins this search,” Melissa’s family wrote on Facebook.  “Mom and Dad met Mel for the first time yesterday, after 51 years and did further official and legal DNA testing. Athough in the moment we saw her pictures, found out about her birthmark, and realised her ‘birthday’ is so close to our Melissa, we knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that this was our girl.”

Many unanswered questions

While the news that Melissa has been reunited with her family is so exciting, there are a lot of unanswered questions at this stage.

Who raised Melissa?

According to a Highsmith family member on a Facebook group, she was raised by someone who claimed to buy her off the street.

At the moment, the woman who raised Melissa has gone off the radar after admitting her part in the illegal buying of baby Melissa.

We would love to see justice, and we’re once again putting it in the hands of the police. Meanwhile, we’re just trying to enjoy our long lost sister, daughter to my parents.” 

Did she grow up as Melissa?

Allegedly, the kidnapper changed the baby’s name to Melanie. She is seeking to change her name back to Melissa.

What happened to the babysitter?

This isn’t known at this stage as the story is still unfolding. One family member has suggested that the babysitter may have sold Melissa to a stranger but nothing is confirmed at this stage.

The lack of information/quietness has been due to this case being open and active. We know she was kidnapped. We know she is Melissa…We want to know the answers to questions just as badly as you do. We are entitled to them. We want her story to be told for all to know. We want the woman who kidnapped her to be brought to justice.  For now, we wait and as soon as we know, we will share.” 

We hope the Highsmiths get the answers they so clearly deserve and enjoy this precious time as a family.

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Avatar of Jenna Galley

Born and raised in Canada, Jenna now lives in Far North Queensland with her tribe. When the mum-of-three is not writing, you can find her floating in the pool, watching princess movies, frolicking on the beach, bouncing her baby to sleep or nagging her older kids to put on their pants.

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