A woman who was kidnapped 51 years ago was found in Fort Worth, Texas, last week.
Melissa Highsmith was 22 months old when she was allegedly kidnapped by her babysitter in 1971, according to a report published Sunday by CBS DFW. Her family had searched all over, including recently in North Carolina.
Highsmith was eventually found in Fort Worth through DNA testing, CBS DFW reported. She was reportedly living under the name Melanie Walden when she was found.
Highsmith was originally kidnapped while her mother Alta Apantenco was at work, NBC DFW reported. Apantenco put an ad in a local newspaper for a babysitter and hired a woman without meeting her. She then left Highsmith with her roommate until the babysitter arrived who handed Highsmith off to the babysitter who allegedly abducted her, according to the outlet.
A woman who disappeared over five decades ago was found in Fort Worth this week, her family announced Sunday. https://t.co/MjHKapoGeq
— CBS DFW (@CBSDFW) November 27, 2022
Apantenco reportedly faced years of scrutiny from police who allegedly accused her of killing her daughter, NBC DFW reported.
“Our finding Melissa was purely because of DNA, not because of any police or FBI involvement, podcast involvement, or even our family’s own private investigations or speculations,” Sharon Highsmith, one of Melissa’s sisters, posted on Facebook.
Highsmith’s family was able to track her down using 23andMe, NBC DFW reported. Her mother, however, was apprehensive about taking another test. She had previously unsuccessfully compared her DNA with six other women in the hope of finding her daughter.
“She has carried this pain and this guilt for 51 years and I have watched her cry for three days of joy,” Victoria Highsmith, another sister, said, according to NBC DFW. “I have never seen my mother so happy.”