A Texas woman has been reunited with her family after being kidnapped by a babysitter 51 years ago when she was just 21 months old.
Elissa Highsmith disappeared from her home in Fort Worth, Texas in 1971, and her case was one of the oldest missing persons cases in the United States.
“I’m just over the moon, I can’t describe my feelings, I’m so happy to see my daughter I didn’t think I would ever see her again,” Alta Apantenco, Melissa’s mother, told the WFAA.
Needing a babysitter to care for her daughter on August 23, 1971, Mrs. Apantenco spoke on the phone to a woman named Ruth Johnson, who agreed to pick up the boy at the family home.
Because she had to go to work, Ms. Apantenco had her roommate hand her daughter over to the babysitter, who was later described as well-dressed and wearing white gloves.
But the babysitter never returned and could not be reached, and Melissa was never seen by her mother again until a recent DNA test by 23andMe brought them back together.
Ms Apantenco’s ex-husband had performed a DNA test and found he had been linked to three people he did not know.
“My son reached out to her, a friend request, and she accepted it. And he told her all these things about kidnapping Melissa, and she said, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t think I’m that person,'” Ms. Apantenco said.
Her brother Jeff then offered to pay her to have her own DNA test done for peace of mind.
“He asked me, I don’t think I’m that girl, I’m so sorry. He said don’t you want to be 10 percent sure? He said I would pay for the DNA test and I told him I would take the test but I really didn’t think I was that girl. Once I saw the baby picture and put my baby picture against it, it’s like my twin.”
“It’s overwhelming, but at the same time it’s the most wonderful feeling in the world,” Melissa told CBSDFW.
“My heart is full and bursting with so many emotions right now. I’m just very, very happy.”
Ms Highsmith, who is now 53 and went by the name Melanie Walden, says she plans to change her name back to Melissa and remarry her husband so her father can walk her down the aisle at their wedding.
It turned out she lived just 20 minutes from her mother when she got the news.
She told the TV station that she experienced a difficult life growing up. “I didn’t feel loved as a child. It was abusive and I ran away at 15,” she said.
Authorities have not released any information about the kidnapper in the case.
https://www.independent.ie/world-news/north-america/melissa-highsmith-missing-woman-reunited-with-family-51-years-after-being-kidnapped-by-babysitter-42181173.html Melissa Highsmith: Missing wife reunited with family 51 years after kidnapping by babysitter