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Kidnapped Texas woman reunited with family after 51 years

Melissa Highsmith, who was kidnapped as an infant in 1971, was reunited with her birth parents (father pictured at left) after more than 50 years, her family confirmed this week. Photo courtesy of News Nation
Melissa Highsmith, who was kidnapped as an infant in 1971, was reunited with her birth parents (father pictured at left) after more than 50 years, her family confirmed this week. Photo courtesy of News Nation

Nov. 29 (UPI) -- A woman who was kidnapped as an infant was reunited with her birth parents after more than 50 years, her family confirmed this week.

Melissa Highsmith disappeared from her family's home in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1971 when she was 22 months old.

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At the time, her mother, Alta Apantenco, left little Melissa in the care of a babysitter while at work.

Melissa's brother Jeff Highsmith created a Facebook page in 2018 to attract tips to help track her down.

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Although Highsmith was taken by the babysitter 51 years ago, she now has met her birth mother and father after they two tracked her down. Her family used a DNA test kit to find her.

"Our finding Melissa was purely because of DNA, not because of any police/FBI involvement, podcast involvement or even our family's own private investigations or speculations," her family wrote on the Facebook page.

Her sister said they didn't find Melissa through her own DNA sample, but through her children's DNA, and that the match came back quickly after both of her parents submitted their samples.

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"Within three weeks we found my sister. It was like, 'Boom, boom, boom,' we found her," her sister Victoria Highsmith, told KXAS-TV.

Both Highsmith parents submitted DNA samples in an effort to locate their long-lost daughter.

"Every time my mother got her hopes up. After 51 years, she didn't want to submit another DNA test. She was tired and she was hurt and guilty from carrying this all these years.

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I'm thankful that we got her to agree to submit her DNA. ... It is because of that, and my dad submitting, that we were able to find Melissa," Victoria Highsmith said.

Melissa was renamed Melanie by her abductor and lived most of her life a short ride from where she'd been taken. She said she now plans to go by her birth name.

"I couldn't stop crying. I was overjoyed, and I'm still walking around in a fog trying to comprehend 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 meeting her. It was like looking into myself -- she looks like me, like us. She's overjoyed to be in our lives."

Nobody has been charged in the case.

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