Woman kidnapped by babysitter reunited with family after 51 years

Reuters/ABC WFAA Affiliate

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An American woman kidnapped in 1971 by someone posing as a babysitter has been reunited with her family after more than fifty years. It happened in Fort Worth, a city in Texas. According to American media it was a reunion “full of tears and hugs”.

Melissa Highsmith was 22 months old when her babysitter took her away. For decades she then lived as Melanie Brown in Fort Worth and was completely unaware that she had been kidnapped. Until her biological father sent her DNA to 23andMe, an American DNA research website.

It turned out that there was a DNA match to the children of the abducted woman. Highsmith’s biological family then enlisted the help of a genealogist to interpret the results and track down the woman who had been missing for decades. They met this weekend, in an emotional meeting, according to local media.

Assembled and taken

“I can’t describe my feelings,” Highsmith’s mother, Alta Apantenco, told US media. “I’m so happy to see my daughter. Because I thought I’d never see her again. She’s a miracle.” Melissa herself says she has to “pinch herself every time to make sure I’m awake.”

The Fort Worth Police Department is “extremely happy” that the missing person case has been solved. An official DNA test is still ongoing to confirm the woman’s identity. Meanwhile, the investigation into the kidnapping continues, even if there is still no trace of the kidnapper.

According to the U.S. Center for Missing and Abused Children, Highsmith’s biological mother had just been divorced and moved to Fort Worth in 1971. There she placed a newspaper ad for a nanny. A woman answered, took the baby and never came back.

“We lived within 20 minutes of each other for that whole time,” her mother says. “Less than 20 minutes.”

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