A woman who was kidnapped as a baby has been reunited with her family after 51 years.
Melissa Highsmith disappeared in 1971 when she was 22 months old and was taken from her home in Fort Worth, Texas by her parents.
Melissa’s mother, Alta Apantenco, was a waitress and needed a nanny, so she placed an ad in the newspaper.
Ms. Apantenco hired a woman who expressed interest in the job without meeting her in person.
While she was at work, her roommate handed Melissa over to a nanny who allegedly kidnapped her and never returned.
Ms. Apantenco has faced allegations from investigators for years that she may have killed her daughter and concealed the crime, according to the family.
But the family never gave up on their search for Melissa, and in recent years they created a Facebook page called Finding Melissa.
But a breakthrough came when they used the sites Ancestry and 23AndMe after taking advice from genealogists.
“Every time my mother held out hope. After 51 years, she didn’t want to submit another DNA test. She was tired, hurt, and guilty over the years,” said Melissa’s older sister, Victoria Highsmith.
“I’m grateful that we got her to agree to submit her DNA … and because of that, plus my dad’s submission, we were able to find Melissa.”
Victoria said they found Melissa not through her own DNA sample, but through her child’s DNA, and a match came back quickly after both her parents submitted samples.
“Within three weeks, we found my sister. It was like ‘bang, bang, bang,’ we found her,” Victoria said.
Melissa, 53, who lived in Fort Worth most of her life and never knew she had been kidnapped, said her family We found Melissa! ! !
Melissa was reunited with her mother, father Geoffrey Highsmith and two of four siblings during a celebration at church on Saturday.
Victoria said: “I couldn’t stop crying. I’m so happy, I’m still walking around in the fog trying to understand that my sister was right in front of me and we found her.”
“It was a Christmas miracle! It was amazing to see her. It was like looking at myself, she looked like me, like us. She was so happy to be in our lives.”