Melissa Highsmith, Kidnapped as a Baby, Finally Reunites with Family After Nearly 50 Years

Melissa Highsmith was abducted by a babysitter from her home in Fort Worth in 1971 when she was just 22 months old. Years of searching by the family yielded nothing – until DNA samples sent to an ancestry website produced a match. Long known as “Melanie”, Ms Highsmith now plans to change back her name.

The mystery over the fate of Ms Highsmith began in August 1971, when her mother, Alta Apatenco, hired a babysitter through an ad in a local newspaper. The babysitter, who was suspected of kidnapping the baby, promised to take care of her at her home. She then vanished with the baby, sparking a decades-long hunt by the Highsmith family, police and federal authorities.

As recently as September, the family was following up a tip that Ms Highsmith had been spotted in South Carolina. As the search went on year after year, Ms Highsmith – who went by the name Melanie Walden – was unaware that anyone was looking for her. Initially, she thought the family’s efforts to contact her through Facebook were a scam.

By Evey Lovelace

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