A Texas woman kidnapped as a baby 51 years ago is reunited with her family after they used a homemade DNA test kit to track her down.
Melissa Highsmith was 22 months old when she was allegedly abducted in August 1971 by a babysitter from her family’s Fort Worth apartment, according to NBC Dallas-Fort Worth.
Her mother, Alta Apantenco, was reportedly charged by police with possibly killing her daughter and concealing the crime, the news station reported. The family, however, said Highsmith was taken from the home by a babysitter who responded to Apantenco’s newspaper ad for help.
They spent more than five decades searching for Highsmith before a DNA match on 23andMe provided a break in the case.
“Our finding of Melissa was due solely to DNA, not police or FBI involvement, podcast involvement, or even our family’s own private investigations or speculation,” her family said in a Facebook post Sunday. on a page titled “We found Melissa!!!“DNA WINS THIS QUEST!”
Sister Victoria Highsmith told NBC Dallas-Fort Worth that the DNA matched samples from Melissa Highsmith’s children. The Highsmiths’ parents later provided their own DNA samples.
Within three weeks, the family had found Melissa Highsmith.
“It was like, ‘Boom, boom, boom,’ we found it,” Victoria Highsmith said.
A 23andMe spokesperson said they had never heard of a case like this.
“There really are no words to describe how amazing this story is. We are so thankful that Melissa and her family have been able to reunite after such a long period of time, and we wish them all the best in getting to know each other,” he said. said the spokesman.
Melissa Highsmith, who grew up as Melanie, was reunited with his family on Saturdayweeks after her parents and siblings held a press conference on November 6 for her 53rd birthday.
“I couldn’t stop crying. I was overjoyed and I’m still walking in the fog trying to understand that my sister is right in front of me and that we found her,” Victoria Highsmith said. “It’s a Christmas miracle! It’s amazing to meet her. It was like looking at myself, she looks just like me, just like us. She’s delighted to be in our lives.”
Another sister, Sharon Rose Highsmith, wrote on Facebook that Melissa had lived in Fort Worth for most of her life. Melissa told her family that she did not have a good life and she ran away from her home at age 15, NBC Dallas-Fort Worth reports. She said that she will also change her name to her birth name.
The Fort Worth Police Department did not provide details about the case, but said it is “extremely pleased to learn how Highsmith’s use of 23andme led them to Melissa.”
“The Fort Worth Police Department will conduct official DNA testing to confirm Melissa’s identity, and the department will provide an update once the official results come in,” a spokesperson said in an emailed statement Tuesday.
An arrest cannot be made because the criminal statute of limitations expired 20 years after she turned 18, the department said, noting that investigators are still working to uncover all available information related to the kidnapping.