A family found their daughter who was kidnapped 51 years ago through a DNA test

A family from the Texas city of Fort Worth found their daughter who was kidnapped 51 years ago after a DNA test, the BBC reported.

53-year-old Melissa Highsmith was kidnapped by her nanny back in 1971, when she was only 22 months old. For decades, the little girl, now a grown woman with a family and children of her own, was wanted by the police and the FBI, but the mysterious disappearance was never solved. This happened only a few weeks ago when DNA samples from home tests appeared on a genealogy site that matched.

The kidnapping

In August 1971, Melissa’s mother, Alta Apatenko, tried to hire a nanny through an advertisement in a local newspaper. While Alta, who was a waitress in a restaurant, was on shift, an unknown woman called her. She explained that she was calling about the ad and asked if the mother agreed to take Melissa as she was looking after other children at her home. The nanny added that she has a large garden where the children can play. Desperately in need of help, Alta agreed and a little later the unknown woman appeared at her apartment, where she took the little girl from the mother’s roommate. After that, no one saw Melissa again.

For more than 50 years, Alta, Melissa’s father – Geoffrey Highsmith and their whole family did not stop looking for the kidnapped girl. Only in September of this year they hit a trail in South Carolina.

At the same time, Melissa herself, now called Melanie Walden, had no idea that anyone was looking for her. When some of her family tried to contact her through Facebook, the woman decided it was a scam.

The mystery was unraveled on November 6 of this year, when the DNA test results of one of Melissa/Melanie’s children matched those of her biological father. They were posted on a special genealogy site and read by an amateur genealogist.

Thus, daughter and parents met for the first time on November 26, it was reported

“I thought we would never see her again,” said mother Alta through tears.

Melissa herself says that the woman who raised her and with whom they have been estranged for years also admitted that she was the kidnapped child.

Although the statute of limitations on the crime has long since expired, Fort Worth police said they will continue to investigate to find out exactly what happened.

Meanwhile, the Highsmith family is frantically catching up. Melissa’s sisters told The Washington Post that she and her husband plan to renew their wedding vows so her father, Jeffrey, can walk her down the aisle.

“My heart is full and I’m so happy,” says Melanie Walden, who officially plans to go back to her birth name.


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