A new DNA test may provide closure to a family in Fort Worth, Texas, whose daughter has been missing for more than 51 years, according to police. When Melissa Highsmith was given to a babysitter at barely 21 months, her disappearance became one of the nation’s longest-unsolved missing person cases.
When a 23andMe DNA test connected Highsmith and her biological parents in November 2022, their lives were irrevocably altered. The Fort Worth Police Department said that it would carry out its formal DNA testing at the time. Several months later, the police now claim that the test proved Highsmith’s identification.
Highsmith was abducted more than 51 years ago, and although the statute of limitations on her kidnapping passed 20 years after her 18th birthday, authorities say they are still looking for any information. Highsmith and her dad discussed the reunion with WFAA back in November 2022.
“I feel like I am dreaming, and I keep having to pinch myself to make sure I’m awake,” Highsmith said. “I’m just elated, I can’t describe my feelings. I’m so happy to see my daughter that I didn’t think I would ever see her again,” said Alta Apantenco, Melissa’s mother. “She’s alive… I cried like a baby,” said Jeffrie Highsmith, Melissa’s father.
On August 23, 1971, at an apartment complex on East Seminary in Fort Worth, Melissa Highsmith vanished. Ruth Johnson, who responded to Apantenco’s request for a babysitter, agreed to pick up Melissa, 21 months old, from the apartment. The infant was given to Johnson, who was described as being well-dressed and wearing white gloves, because Apantenco had to go to work that day.
Johnson was unreachable and never returned with Highsmith. The FBI and Fort Worth police were involved in the missing persons case, but their searches turned up nothing. Police claimed at the time that they lacked any proof that Highsmith had been injured. You might read about TurboTax Will Pay Over 465K Texans
Highsmith told WFAA in November 2022 that she mistakenly believed the lady who raised her to be her mother but that an abusive stepfather ultimately led her to run away from home as a teenager. She also added that she had been living under the name Melanie.
“I didn’t feel loved as a child. It was abusive, and I ran away at 15 years old. I went to the streets. I did what I had to do to get by… I worked the streets,” Highsmith said.
Highsmith had also contacted a woman believed to be the one who raised her.
“The mother confessed, I bought you for $500 on the street, she said in 1972. Melissa thinks she’s the one that kidnapped her from the Spanish Gate apartment in Fort Worth, Texas,” Jeffrie Highsmith told WFAA.
Melissa Highsmith lived just 20 minutes away from her biological mother, Alta Apantenco, in Fort Worth. While the family was reunited, her parents said they were still trying to seek some justice for the abduction. You can also search for the latest news about Texas Senate Allows Secretary Of State To Invalidate Harris County Elections
“She stole 51 years of my joy with my family. Justice needs to be served,” Jeffrie Highsmith said.
Melissa Highsmith told WFAA she wanted to speak face-to-face with the woman who raised her. “I don’t want charges pressed. I want answers,” she said.