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Siblings meet for the first time after sister was abducted by babysitter 51 years ago

Joe Harker

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Siblings meet for the first time after sister was abducted by babysitter 51 years ago

Siblings have met their sister for the first time in 51 years after their family was torn apart by a horrific kidnapping.

On 23 August, 1971 in Fort Worth, Texas, a babysitter kidnapped Melissa Highsmith shortly before her second birthday and police were never able to crack the case of her disappearance.

Melissa's mother, Alta Apantenco, had been raising the child on her own after separating from her husband and needed someone to look after her daughter while she worked.

She had posted an advert in the local paper which was answered when someone calling herself Ruth Johnson rang up and said she could take the job.

Agreeing to meet with Johnson first, the babysitter never showed up in person but called again and said she would be right for the job.

In desperate need of a babysitter to look after her daughter while she worked, Apantenco agreed and a roommate of hers handed Melissa over to the babysitter, she was not seen again for 51 years.

Melissa Highsmith reunited with parents Alta Apantenco and Jeffrie Highsmith after 51 years. Credit: Facebook
Melissa Highsmith reunited with parents Alta Apantenco and Jeffrie Highsmith after 51 years. Credit: Facebook

The family spent decades trying to find Melissa, never giving up on the hope that they could be reunited with their daughter and holding birthday parties for her each year.

Melissa's parents got back together and went on to have four more children, three daughters and a son, Jeff, who they first told about his sister when he was six years old.

With police unsuccessful in solving Melissa's kidnapping the family ended up trying to find her themselves, turning to DNA testing in the hopes of uncovering a match.

Eventually they were finally able to track down Melissa after a DNA test from 23andMe found a match with a sample from father Jeffrie Highsmith.

They found Melissa living under the name Melanie Walden just a few miles away having never known that she was a missing person.

Jeff Highsmith met his sister for the first time more than five decades after she was kidnapped. Credit: Facebook
Jeff Highsmith met his sister for the first time more than five decades after she was kidnapped. Credit: Facebook

Melissa said after meeting her parents she wanted to change her name back to the one they gave her.

Writing a statement on Facebook, Melissa's sibling Sharon Rose Highsmith said they'd found her 'purely because of DNA' and 'not because of any police/FBI involvement'.

She wrote: "We would like to sincerely thank and give a big applause to our genealogist enthusiast and advocate, Lisa Jo Schiele, for her guidance in helping us understand the DNA results and for leading us down the path that brought us to discovering our very own Melissa Suzanne Highsmith, who has been living in Fort Worth for most of her life!

"The joy is palpable amongst all family members, and we invite you to celebrate and rejoice with us, and also allow our family some moments of privacy as we process this exciting news!"

"Thank you for your support over the years!"

She also said that a distinctive birthmark and further DNA tests had confirmed the match, leaving them certain they'd found her long-lost sibling at last.

Featured Image Credit: Facebook

Topics: US News, News, Crime

Joe Harker
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