Woman kidnapped by babysitter as a tot is found by her real family 51 years on

A family are making up for lost time after a woman who was kidnapped by her babysitter and reported missing for 51 years was finally found by her parents.

Melissa Highsmith was aged one when she disappeared in 1971 in Fort Worth, Texas, after her mum, Alta Apantenco, placed an ad in a local newspaper looking for a babysitter.

Single-mum Alta hired a woman without ever meeting her and her roommate handed over baby Melissa to the babysitter who then allegedly kidnapped her.

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Melissawas never found by authorities, but friends and family of Alta would remember the tot each year by throwing a birthday party for her, and latterly a Facebook page was set up to try and find her, the Daily Mirror reports.

However, in September, the family of Melissa were given a tip-off that she was living in Charleston, South Carolina.

Despite being more than 1,000 miles away from Fort Worth the family used a DNA test which revealed she was the young baby that was abducted from her family more than half a century before.

Her family and friends held a party on Saturday (November 26) where she was reunited with her mum and dad, Jeffrie Highsmith, and two of her four siblings.

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Victoria Garner, Mellisa's sister, said: “I couldn’t stop crying, I was overjoyed, and I’m still walking around in a fog trying to comprehend that my sister [was] right in front of me and that we found her.”

Her other sister, Sharon Highsmith, who lives in Spain, said she wants to meet Melissa, who had been living under the name Melanie Walden.

Her sister blames police for the family's long wait, saying: “Our family has suffered at the hands of agencies who have mismanaged this case.

“Right now, we just want to get to know Melissa, welcome her to the family and make up for 50 years of lost time.”

It is still unclear what happened to the babysitter who allegedly kidnapped Melissa.

Sharon said: “My mum 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," adding: “I’m grateful… we have vindication for my mum.”


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