Melissa Highsmith: Texan woman who reunited with family after 51 years has identity confirmed by DNA test
FORT WORTH, TEXAS: The identity of a Texan woman who was kidnapped 51 years ago has been confirmed, courtesy of a DNA test. Melissa Highsmith who is now 53, was abducted from her parents' Fort Worth home in 1971 by a babysitter when she was 2 months short of becoming 2 years old. She was reunited with her parents and siblings in an emotional reunion late last year.
Highsmith was miraculously reunited with her biological parents, Jeffrie Higshmith, 72; Alta Alpantenco, 73 and her siblings - Rebecca Del Bosque, 48; Victoria Highsmith, 47; Sharon Highsmith, 45 and Jeffrey Highsmith, 42, on November 26, 2022. On Thursday, May 4, Fort Worth Police Department announced that they have completed the official DNA testing which proved Melissa to be the missing child.
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Authorities issue a statement
After spending months to complete their DNA testing, the authorities confirmed Melissa's identity. "It is our hope that this test result will offer additional closure for the Highsmith family," it read according to Daily Mail.
The most surprising fact about this case is that Melissa was living just 10 minutes away from her parent's home for all these years and they surprisingly never realized this. Neither did the police. The birth parents eventually discovered their lost child because of Melissa's children's DNA samples which were shared on genealogy website 23andMe.
Melissa suffered sexual abuse at the hands of her stepfather
Melissa spoke about her horrific childhood days when she suffered sexual abuse at the hands of her stepfather. She said that she was sure of the fact that the person she called "mama" was the same individual who was responsible for her kidnapping. "Before I met my new family I reached out to the mother that I thought raised me and asked her if there was something she needed to tell me," she told the outlet. "She told me she had purchased me on the street for $500. I was shocked. My head was spinning. I didn't sleep. She never told me," Melissa said, "but she always told me that she had something to tell me that she had been wanting to tell me for a long time that is when I told her I already knew."
The woman who posed as Melissa's mother was identified as Patricia 'Sugar' Lewis and she now lives in Missouri, her family members said. Melissa said that she doesn't want to focus on the anger despite losing all the precious time that she will never get back. "I am still angry but I am going to focus on the happiness that is to come not the pain that I left," she said. "God got this done and I have to focus on going forward."
Melissa's unfortunate kidnapping
Melissa’s brother Jeff, 42, said that she went missing on August 23, 1971. Their mother was a single mom at that time and needed help with childcare as she worked as a waitress. Jeff said that a woman who identified herself as Ruth Johnson responded after an advertisement was put up in the local newspaper. The woman apparently agreed to meet Jeff's mother at the restaurant she worked at but never showed up. The potential babysitter dialed up again saying that she was ideal for the job.
Melissa's biological mother told what the babysitter had told her before kidnapping her child. "She said, you know, I really love kids and I've got this huge backyard and the kids love to play out there, and I was desperate, I needed a babysitter because I was supporting myself," she said. Melissa was looked after by her mother's roommate with whom she was living in the Spanish Gate Apartments on East Seminary Drive in Fort Worth. The roommate handed Melissa over to the unknown babysitter. That was the last time baby Melissa was seen. The roommate told the authorities that the kidnapper was wearing white gloves and a bonnet on her head after a missing report was filed on Melissa's disappearance.
Melissa's sister speaks on the incident
"My mom did the best she could with the limited resources she had. She couldn't risk getting fired. So, she trusted the person who said they'd care for her child," Sharon Highsmith, Melissa's sister said. "For 50 years, my mom has lived with the guilt of losing Melissa. She's also lived with community and nationwide accusations that she hurt or killed her own baby. I'm so glad we have Melissa back. I'm also grateful we have vindication for my mom."