Abducted child found 51 years later, family says

After searching for 51 years, the family of a kidnapped child says a DNA match has led them to her.
Published: Nov. 27, 2022 at 5:22 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 28, 2022 at 4:07 AM EST

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - After searching for 51 years, the family of a kidnapped child says a DNA match has led them to her.

Melissa Highsmith was 21 months old on Aug. 23, 1971, when she was abducted in Fort Worth, Texas, by someone claiming to be a babysitter.

Since then, the family has been searching for her. They even came to Daniel Island in October after an anonymous tip said Melissa might have been spotted in the Lowcountry.

But now the family says the search is over following a “23 and Me” DNA match that reconnected them with Melissa.

Melissa met her father and mother for the first time on Saturday, according to a family...
Melissa met her father and mother for the first time on Saturday, according to a family member's Facebook post. (Highsmith family)

A Facebook post states Melissa met her father and mother for the first time on Saturday, and they did further “official and legal DNA testing.”

While the family still says they are waiting for those results, they are still confident they found her.

“The moment we saw her pictures, found out about her birthmark and realized her ‘birthday’ is so close to our Melissa, we knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that this was our girl,” a post from a family member in the “Finding Melissa Highsmith” Facebook page stated.

Melissa has been living in Fort Worth for most of her life and currently goes by the name Melanie.

Jeff Highsmith, Melissa’s brother, says she was raised only 10 minutes away from where she was abducted.

“They had found a match of three grandchildren on the mother and father’s side that were none of our kids or none of my other sisters’ kids,” Jeff says. We knew we found Melissa’s kids. That was her kids.”

Jeff says she wants to legally change her name back to Melissa.

She is also considering getting remarried to have her father walk her down the aisle, according to Jeff.