A Texas family has reunited with their child who disappeared in 1971 and they had no idea she has been living in the same area.
A babysitter allegedly kidnapped Melissa Highsmith from her parent’s home in Fort Worth when she was 22 months old, CBS News reported Sunday.
At the time, a woman answered a help wanted ad in the newspaper and the child’s mother asked a roommate to hand Melissa to the babysitter. However, the woman never returned with the little girl, according to NewsNation.
For 51 years, family and law enforcement searched for her and she was eventually found in Fort Worth living under the name Melanie Walden.
A DNA test was apparently what helped them solve the case and Melissa was finally reunited with her parents recently.
Now, the 53-year-old is basking in the love her family has so long wanted to give her.
“It’s overwhelming, but at the same time, it’s the most wonderful feeling in the world,” Melissa commented, while her mother, Atla Apantencl, said, “I just couldn’t believe it. I thought I’d never see her again.”
Images show the joyful reunion and Melissa with a huge smile on her face:
In a social media post Sunday, her sister, Victoria Highsmith, wrote about her feelings when she met her sister for the first time.
“She’s so beautiful and I’m beyond blessed to have her apart of our family after 51 years of being missing!” She said.
In September, someone notified the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that she had possibly been seen in South Carolina. Even though it was not her, Melissa’s story was brought into the national spotlight.
A DNA test from 23AndMe later connected her children with family members who decided to contact her through social media.
When speaking of the test, Melissa’s father, Jeffrie Highsmith, said, “It came back as her children, my grandchildren. And I just started weeping and crying and my daughters were crying, ‘She’s alive! She’s alive!’”
Read the full story here.