Melissa Highsmith’s family has finally located her after more than 50 years of searching. They found her in the same Texas town she was abducted when she was a toddler.
Highsmith was kidnapped by a babysitter in 1971. She allegedly took Highsmith’s toddler home but never brought her back. Her relatives finally found her after 51 years of searching thanks to a DNA site.
“I’m trying not to cry,”Inside Edition Digital heard from Jeff Highsmith, brother of the victim. “My whole life I’ve dreamed of meeting my older sister.”
The Thanksgiving weekend saw the family reunited, ending decades worth of despair and wondering where the 21-month-old was. Relatives said that the meeting took place after a lengthy trek through 23andMe DNA records.
“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, sister wrote the following on Facebook.
Jeff explained that the genetic records for the missing woman’s kids matched those of members of Highsmith’s family. Finally, they were able contact Melanie Walden, a Fort Worth woman who lived under the same name as Melissa Highsmith.
“My dad contacted Melanie, he said ‘Your children are a 100% match to me and my ex-wife and our grandchildren,'”Jeff retold.
Jeff told the woman that she didn’t believe she was his long lost daughter. However, she said that she would be willing to give a DNA sample if it would help the family.
“Then Melanie looked on our Facebook page and she realized those baby photos were really her. She said ‘Oh, God, that’s me,'”Jeff stated.
Jeff indicated that the Highsmith family have not reported to Fort Worth Police Department yet that they have located their missing relative. According to her brother, they await the results of DNA testing that was based on the DNA sample Melissa Highsmith provided.
Investigators weren’t able to locate any concrete clues to Melissa’s disappearance. Authorities also said that Melissa’s police file was still open.
“We are 100% sure it’s her,”Jeff stated. To wrap it all up: “we’re waiting for her DNA results and then we’re going to take those results to the police,”He said. Monday was a meeting with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. “close Melissa’s case file,”The brother said it.
Melissa met Jeff and his family Saturday. Melissa’s mother, Melissa, saw her firstborn child after 51 years.
“My dad and mother, it was a reunion for them and their baby girl,”Jeff spoke, his voice breaking.
“I knew it was her. She looked just like my mom, she’s the spitting image of one of my sisters. She looked just like my dad’s sisters. i couldn’t take my eyes off of her. She was just so pleasant and easy to talk to. Just such a sweet, sweet woman. It wasn’t awkward. It wasn’t hard to talk to her,”Her brother spoke up.
Jeff stated that the family received many false leads over time about Melissa’s location. Finally, the family created a Facebook group asking for leads. After an anonymous tip reached the NCME, September saw their hopes rise again.
The tipster had seen an Melissa age-progression picture posted by the organization, and said a woman matching that description had been seen on Daniel Island, near Charleston, South Carolina.
It was also a dead end.
Two months later, the match with 23andMe was back.
“We want the world to know, don’t ever stop looking,”Jeff stated. “Don’t ever stop. God answers prayers.”