Melissa Highsmith, lacking for 51 years, present in Fort Value

Melissa Highsmith, missing for 51 years, found in Fort Worth

2022-11-29 04:16:40

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) — It is an early Christmas miracle for one Fort Value household. A girl who disappeared over 5 many years in the past was present in Fort Value this week, her household introduced Sunday.

Melissa Highsmith went lacking when she was kidnapped by a babysitter at her mother and father’ Fort Value dwelling in 1971. She was simply 22 months previous on the time of her disappearance.

Over the subsequent 51 years, Highsmith’s household and police searched diligently for her, even following up on latest tips on attainable sightings in North Carolina. 

In the long run, nonetheless, Melissa was discovered residing in Fort Value underneath the identify Melanie Walden.

Melissa and her household.

We Discovered Melissa by way of Fb

The Highsmith household mentioned {that a} DNA take a look at ended up being the important thing that led them to Melissa. 

“Our discovering Melissa was purely due to DNA, not due to any police or FBI involvement, podcast involvement, and even our household’s personal personal investigations or speculations,” Sharon Highsmith wrote on Fb.

Melissa’s mother and father met her for the primary time in over 5 many years on Saturday.

Melissa Highsmith, center, along with her mom and father in Fort Value on Nov. 26, 2022.

We Discovered Melissa by way of Fb

Making Up For Misplaced Time

After 51 years of separation, Melissa and her household are making up for misplaced time and attending to know one another. 

“It is good to see what I seemed like as a child,” Melissa says as she sits subsequent to her mother and father, taking a look at images of herself she’s by no means seen earlier than.

Melissa, now 53, is again along with her mother and father for the primary time since she was kidnapped at simply 22 months previous.

“It is overwhelming, however on the similar time, it is probably the most great feeling on this planet,” Melissa says.

Her mom, Atla Apantencl, continues to be processing all of it. “I simply could not imagine it. I assumed I would by no means see her once more.”

Jeffrie Highsmith, her father, recollects the second he heard his daughter had been discovered. “They mentioned ‘Dad, she’s alive,’ and I began crying… after 51 years, it is so emotional.”

The household spent years trying to find Melissa and her disappearance has been on their minds for many years, nevertheless it wasn’t till September this 12 months {that a} tip got here in from the Nationwide Middle for Lacking and Exploited Youngsters reporting she had presumably been seen in Charleston, South Carolina.

That tip in the end didn’t pan out, nevertheless it put Melissa’s story within the nationwide highlight and gave the household the power to maintain trying.

Ultimately, a DNA take a look at from 23AndMe related Melissa’s youngsters with their household. When her household reached out to her on Fb, Melissa thought it was a rip-off at first. “My father texted me on messenger and he informed me, ‘You understand, I have been in search of my daughter for 51 years.'”

This complete time, Melissa by no means knew her actual household was trying to find her.

“The person who raised me, I requested her, ‘Is there something you’ll want to inform me?’ and it was confirmed that she knew that I used to be child Melissa in order that simply made it actual,” Melissa mentioned.

She then agreed to take a DNA take a look at and on Thanksgiving, she was reunited along with her brother and fogeys.

A Vacation Miracle

Apantencl mentioned it was the very best day of her life. Her brother, Jeff Highsmith, mentioned it was “a dream come true.”

Melissa’s sister, Victoria, was additionally overjoyed to see the sister she’d by no means recognized. “I am grateful to have her again,” she mentioned. “Welcome again sissy, welcome to the household.”

Melissa says she feels the love from a household she by no means knew however was by no means that removed from. She spent most of her life in Fort Value. “My coronary heart proper now could be simply full and bursting with simply a lot emotion. I am simply actually, actually joyful.” She says she plans on altering her identify again to Melissa.

To date, no data has been launched about her kidnapper.

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