DNA test helps parents reunite daughter kidnapped 51 years ago

  • Bernd Debusmann Jr.
  • From BBC News in Washington

Elderly couple with younger woman in the middle;  they smile continuously inside building with natural light

Credit, Sharon Highsmith (Facebook)

photo caption,

Registered as Melissa Highsmith, the woman changed her name to Melanie Walden after being kidnapped; she was reunited with her parents on November 26

Thanks to a DNA test, the Highsmith family finally found Melissa Highsmith, who was kidnapped when she was 1 year old and is now 53. There have been more than 50 years of mystery about the whereabouts of the American and searches.

Melissa was kidnapped in 1971 by a family nanny in Fort Worth, Texas, when she was just 1 year and 9 months old. The nanny was hired by Melissa’s mother, Alta Apatenco, through an advertisement in a local newspaper. Already removed from the family of origin, the child came to be called Melanie Walden.

Meanwhile, the Highsmith family conducted searches of their own, calling in police and federal authorities. In September of that year, the family received a tip that their daughter might be in the state of South Carolina. Melanie was unaware that she was being sought and, upon being contacted via Facebook by family members, she initially thought it was an online trap.

On November 6, DNA information cross-referenced by the website 23AndMe finally linked Melanie’s children to the Highsmith family.

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