A DNA take a look at has confirmed the id of a Texan lady who was reunited along with her household final yr after being kidnapped as a toddler 51 years in the past.
Melissa Highsmith, now 53, was taken from her dad and mom’ Fort Price house in 1971 by a babysitter when she was simply 22 months outdated
She was miraculously reunited along with her organic dad and mom – Jeffrie Higshmith, 72; Alta Alpantenco, 73 and siblings – Rebecca Del Bosque, 48; Vicitoria Highsmith, 47; Sharon Highsmith, 45 and Jeffrey Highsmith, 42 – on November 26.
Fort Price Police Division introduced on Thursday it had accomplished official DNA testing which confirmed Melissa’s id because the lacking baby.
For greater than half a century her dad and mom and siblings had been wanting across the nation for her – however she had been dwelling simply ten minutes away.
They finally discovered her by means of her youngsters’s DNA samples which had been shared on family tree web site 23andMe.
Melissa meets her parents- her dad Jeffrie Highsmith, 72 and mom Alta Altanpanco, 73 for the primary time since she was kidnapped August 23, 1971 when she was 22 months outdated
A DNA take a look at confirmed the id of Texan lady Melissa Highsmith who was reunited along with her household final yr after being kidnapped as a toddler 51 years in the past
A black and white composite sketch of the babysitter from the Seventies. The mom’s roommate, who handed child Melissa to the babysitter informed the authorities she was carrying a bonnet and white gloves
Police issued an announcement to verify Melissa’s id after spending months working to finish their DNA testing.
‘It’s our hope that this take a look at outcome will supply extra closure for the Highsmith household,’ it learn.
Melissa, who had a horrific childhood and suffered sexual abuse by her stepfather, has mentioned she has little question in her thoughts that the particular person she referred to as ‘mama’ was the identical one who kidnapped her.
‘Earlier than I met my new household I reached out to the mom that I assumed raised me and requested her if there was one thing she wanted to inform me,’ she beforehand informed Dailymail.com
‘She informed me she had bought me on the road for $500.
‘I used to be shocked. My head was spinning. I did not sleep. She by no means informed me,’ Melissa mentioned, ‘however she at all times informed me that she had one thing to inform me that she had been wanting to inform me for a very long time that’s once I informed her I already knew.’
In accordance with Melissa’s relations the girl who posed as Melissa’s mom was recognized as Patricia ‘Sugar’ Lewis, who now lives in Missouri.
The time spent away from her household is valuable time she’s going to by no means get again, a misplaced childhood, time away from her dad and mom and siblings, however Melissa mentioned ‘she would not wish to give attention to the anger.’
‘I’m nonetheless indignant however I’m going to give attention to the happiness that’s to return not the ache that I left,’ she mentioned. ‘God bought this achieved and I’ve to give attention to going ahead.’
Melissa’s brother Jeff, 42, defined that when she went lacking on August 23, 1971 his mom was a single mother and wanted assist with childcare whereas she labored as a waitress.
After placing up an commercial within the native newspaper he mentioned a girl who recognized herself as Ruth Johnson, responded.
He mentioned the girl agreed to fulfill his mom on the restaurant she labored at, however by no means confirmed up.
Then the potential babysitter referred to as up once more insisting she was proper for the job.
Undated photographs of Melissa from the time she was a baby to a teen and as a younger lady
A photograph of Melissa along with her youthful sibling
Melissa’s delivery mom informed Fox4 in 2019 what the babysitter had informed her earlier than snatching her baby.
‘She mentioned, you recognize, I actually love youngsters and I’ve bought this big yard and the children like to play on the market, and I used to be determined, I wanted a babysitter as a result of I used to be supporting myself,’ she mentioned.
Melissa had been within the care of her mom’s roommate, with whom she was dwelling within the Spanish Gate Residences on East Seminary Drive in Fort Price, who handed Melissa over to the unknown babysitter.
It could be the final time anybody would ever see child Melissa once more on that scorching summer season day in August 1971.
After child Melissa was reported lacking, the roommate informed the authorities that the mysterious lady who picked up the toddler was carrying white gloves and a bonnet on her head.
The subsequent 5 many years can be one in every of agony for the Highsmith household.
‘My mother did the very best she might with the restricted assets she had. She could not danger getting fired. So, she trusted the one who mentioned they’d look after her baby,’ Sharon Highsmith, Melissa’s sister mentioned.
‘For 50 years, my mother has lived with the guilt of dropping Melissa. She’s additionally lived with neighborhood and nationwide accusations that she harm or killed her personal child.
‘I am so glad we now have Melissa again. I am additionally grateful we now have vindication for my mother.’
The prison statute of limitations expired 20 years in the past when Melissa was 18, however her household is now decided to vary the legal guidelines.
Fort Price Police mentioned they’re nonetheless wanting into Melissa’s case and have urged anybody with info to return ahead.
Melissa added: ‘I do not need her to go to jail I simply need her to be held accountable and to say, ‘I am sorry.’
However, youthful sibling Rebecca Del Bosque feels in another way and mentioned: ‘She stole a sibling from us we by no means knew, a baby from her dad and mom, there isn’t any justice for us in any respect.’
She added: ‘We have to discover out if her siblings had been kidnapped too. Proper now we don’t know.’
As her household spent many years on the lookout for their member of the family, Melissa whose title was modified to Melanie was barely surviving.
She shared with DailyMail.com among the hardship and horror she endured by the hands of the girl she thought was her mom and her stepfather – having no thought she was adopted till final year- and had this large household looking for her.
‘I assumed she was my actual mother however I assumed she regretted having me. There was no closeness… no love. She informed me all of my life I used to be mind broken and I used to be mentally retarded,’ she mentioned.
Melissa mentioned when she was a baby her mom had put her in particular courses regardless of her academics telling her that she didn’t belong in them.
She mentioned that her two different siblings, a youthful and older brother, had lived along with her too. She recalled her older brother, who she mentioned she wasn’t near, getting handled in another way than she and her youthful brother.
Melissa pictured along with her husband, John Brown, who she married in April 2022 and plans to remarry so her dad can now stroll her down the aisle
Melissa hugging her dad for the primary time as her mom tearfully appears forward
The Fb publish the household despatched out when Melissa was ‘discovered.’ The picture exhibits Alta, as a devastated younger mom holding up the newspaper story when Melissa first went lacking
‘My dad was very abusive to us. My little brother ended up transferring in with my grandma after which it was simply me and my stepfather,’ she mentioned. ‘My mom was emotionally abusive and my stepfather was sexually abusive.’
She informed DailyMail.com that she by no means bought pregnant through the years of abuse and mentioned when she was 15 years outdated she ran away from house.
‘I attempted to runaway once I was 14, but it surely was unsuccessful. I did not have nowhere to go so it was simple for them to trace me however the second time I had someplace to go. Once they discovered me the police got here to get me and I informed them I wasn’t going again so I by no means went again.’
She and her highschool sweetheart, she described as her ‘old flame,’ married and the pair endured a tough time and had been dwelling on and off the streets.
Texas data present she was arrested at the very least 4 instances and charged with misdemeanors associated to prostitution, The Washington Publish reported.
‘I did issues I did not wish to do,’ she informed DailyMail.com ‘however I supported me and my husband.’
By the point she was 19, she was a mom of three however, mentioned her youngsters had been taken away from her and put up for adoption- two boys and a woman. She mentioned she had her tubes tied after that and was not capable of have youngsters.
After leaving her first husband she began working in a bunch of various jobs from working at a bar, to some quick meals joints, and waitressing to help herself.
She married once more. Her husband, she mentioned, was out and in of jail more often than not. They had been collectively for 16 years and she or he lastly left him due to his habit.
Ultimately, Melissa discovered love once more with a brand new man. She mentioned that they had a ‘good marriage,’ and had been collectively for ten years but it surely ended, she mentioned, after he fell into habit
‘I could not go down the stroll he was strolling so I selected to go one other path,’ she mentioned.
Throughout this era, she turned extra non secular and relied on her religion to get her by means of and began cleansing church buildings and finally folks’s properties to earn some earnings. A job that she proudly says, she nonetheless does at the moment.
‘I had PTSD from issues that occurred in my previous so I could not actually work round a variety of crowds so I began the cleansing enterprise so I might do one-on-one which was simpler for me.’
‘It retains me busy. I do two or three jobs a day,’ she mentioned.
Final yr, Melissa married her soul mate a person named John Brown she wed in April 2022.
On November 27, Brown posted on Fb the emotional reunion that befell when Melissa met her delivery mom for the primary time.
‘That is my stunning spouse Melissa Brown assembly her mom for the primary time in 51 years,’ he wrote.
Within the video, the pair embrace and sob in one another’s arms.
Melissa pictured along with her child brother, Jeffrey, 42, who has been looking for his massive sister most of his life
Melissa (left) and one other sibling Victoria Highsmith, 47, (proper). Each siblings have their very own cleansing companies and each like to donate to charity
Melissa Highsmith (pictured) was kidnapped by a babysitter in 1971 at simply 22-months-old
‘I’ve seen all the photographs of once we had been younger,’ Melissa says to her mother.
Her mom removes her sun shades to get a greater look of her lengthy misplaced daughter, and responds: ‘I was younger and exquisite. I modified getting outdated,’ she mentioned, ‘And missed all these years with you. Possibly we will get to know one another higher.’
Melissa asks: You reside in Forth Price?’
‘I dwell in Forth Price,’ her mom says. ‘Seventeen minutes away from you.’
Throughout the tear-jerking assembly, the video captures her assembly her father and one in every of her cousins named Melissa, who she discovered was named after her, for the primary time.
Rebecca informed DailyMail.com how she joined websleuth and was at all times looking for Melissa and between 2005 and 2007 thought she got here shut however was heartbroken when she discovered after a DNA take a look at that the particular person she thought perhaps her sister wasn’t, in any case.
‘When the DNA got here again and it wasn’t our sister it was fairly devastating as a result of I had constructed a connection along with her,’ Rebecca mentioned. ‘I simply could not put myself in my coronary heart out like that.’
She mentioned her brother Jeff and sister-in-law created a Fb web page and began their very own investigation.
In September 2022, every part modified when Rebecca and Sharon Highsmith discovered that their had been a potential sighting in Charleston, South Carolina of the their sister. That lead, though it ended up being a useless finish, gave the household renewed hope.
Jeff beforehand mentioned that he by no means met his massive sister and was solely six years outdated when his dad and mom informed him about her abduction.
He mentioned on the time he was too younger to know, however round 13 he started to do his personal analysis and have become obsessed along with her disappearance.
‘It was a horrible tragedy and we by no means thought we might discover her and we simply moved on but it surely haunted me and consumed me,’ Jeff mentioned.
He mentioned his mom was solely 20 years outdated when his sister was kidnapped, and his father, 19 on the time, had left his mom to run off with one other lady. He mentioned, his dad and mom finally reunited to assist discover their lacking baby.
In an emotional clip filmed on Thanksgiving, Melissa was seen hugging her dad and mom for for the primary time in over 50 years – as all of them embraced and wept in pleasure.
‘Jeff mentioned every year the household would have a good time Melissa’s birthday. Over the past birthday they spent with out her, Melissa’s father informed the Fort Price Star-Telegram: ‘We’re on the lookout for her and nonetheless care.’
Later that day the household uncovered a lead that might unify them along with her simply weeks later, after many years of agony.
It was caused by a DNA take a look at and detective work by Lisa Jo Schiele, a scientific laboratory scientist and newbie genealogist who inspired the household to attempt a 23andMe DNA take a look at.
Melissa’s father submitted a DNA pattern to 23andMe, which returned a 100% match with three folks. These three folks had been the kids of Brown and his spouse Melissa.
‘It is overwhelming and unimaginable to me,’ mentioned Sharon Highsmith, Melissa’s youthful sister.
‘For many years, my dad and mom have chased leads, hiring their very own labs and investigators and but, these DNA assessments, which can be found to anybody, helped us discover our misplaced liked one.’
The Lacking particular person flyer the household distributed when Melissa was lacking
An image of child Melissa and a computer-generated picture of Melissa as an grownup
Melissa mentioned she can be altering her title formally to replicate the one she was given at delivery.
‘Now that we now have Melissa house all of us are going to be collectively – the grandkids the good grandkids, the good nephews for Christmas,’ he mentioned. ‘We’ve not all been collectively in 20 years.’
Sharon now lives in Spain and had not seen Melissa however was wanting ahead to doing so this Christmas.
Jeff mentioned that the Forth Price Police Division, Tarrant County and the FBI had been his mom in connection together with his sister’s disappearance.
‘The police by no means took the investigation off of my mother. They at all times thought my mother had one thing to do with it and so they did not pursue anything,’ he mentioned.
‘I did not perceive. There was no justification. It was irritating,’ he mentioned. ‘From what I used to be informed, in 1971 it was a distinct time for girls. It was a time when Roe vs. Wade and the ladies’s motion and girls weren’t handled as equal as me
Final October the household traveled to Charleston, South Carolina to analyze a tip that Melissa had been seen there.
She was recognized primarily based on a pc generated prediction of what Melissa would appear like fifty years later – as an grownup – from her child photographs.
When the household bought there they had been confronted with disappointment. That is when the they began serious about DNA assessments and had been related along with her youngsters.
‘We had espresso along with her on Thanksgiving night time, and once I checked out her, I simply knew. I knew,’ Jeff mentioned, including that she had a putting resemblance to their mom, he informed Fox.
‘Our household has suffered by the hands of businesses who’ve mismanaged this case,’ Sharon mentioned.
‘Proper now, we simply wish to get to know Melissa, welcome her to the household and make up for 50 years of misplaced time.’
Sharon, her siblings and their dad and mom inspired different households with lacking family members to maintain on believing.
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