May 5, 2023

Police Confirm ID of Woman Reunited With Her Family 51 Years After Her Abduction

DNA testing done by the Fort Worth Police Department confirms a woman matched online by genealogy sites is a North Texas family’s missing sister.

The Fort Worth Police Department says they have completed official DNA testing confirming the identity of a woman who was reunited with her family last year after being abducted as a toddler more than five decades ago.

Melissa Highsmith went missing in 1971 when, at just 22 months old, she was allegedly taken from her parents’ Fort Worth home by a babysitter. More than 50 years later, the Highsmith family found Melissa through DNA testing shared on genealogy sites.

Since Melissa was reunited with her family late last year, the Fort Worth Police Department has been working to complete their DNA testing. On Thursday, they confirmed that testing verified Highsmith’s identity.

“It is our hope that this test result will offer additional closure for the Highsmith family,” police said in a statement Thursday afternoon.

The family said a genealogist recommended they share DNA with Ancestry and 23andMe and see if it returned any matches. The family said their mother was hesitant since she had done DNA tests with six different women throughout the years, and they all came back negative.

“Every time my mother got her hopes up. After 51 years, she didn’t want to submit another DNA test. She was tired and she was hurt and guilty from carrying this all these years,” said Victoria Highsmith, Melissa’s sister. “I’m thankful that we got her to agree to submit her DNA … It is because of that, and my dad submitting, that we were able to find Melissa.”

Victoria said they didn’t find Melissa through her own DNA sample but through her children’s DNA and that the match came back quickly after both of her parents submitted their samples.

“Within three weeks we found my sister. It was like, ‘Boom, boom, boom,’ we found her,” said Victoria Highsmith.

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