Fort Worth PD officially confirms identity of Fort Worth woman reunited with her family after more than five decades

The identity of Fort Worth woman reunited with her family 51 years after abduction is now confirmed after Fort Worth Police Department got the official DNA testing results

Fort Worth, Texas – The Fort Worth Police Department has announced the completion of an exhaustive DNA analysis, conclusively verifying the identity of a woman who, after an abduction more than half a century ago, was triumphantly reunited with her family last year. Melissa Highsmith, who disappeared under mysterious circumstances in 1971, was a mere 22 months old when she was allegedly spirited away from her parents’ residence in Fort Worth by a babysitter.

Following a painstaking search that spanned over five decades, the Highsmith family’s perseverance finally paid off when they managed to track down Melissa through the utilization of DNA testing in conjunction with genealogical databases. The emotional reunion that ensued late last year marked a new chapter in the family’s journey towards healing and closure.

Since the momentous reunion, the Fort Worth Police Department has diligently pursued a thorough investigation, employing advanced DNA testing methods to confirm the veracity of Highsmith’s identity. On Thursday, the department officially announced that the results of the testing had corroborated the family’s claims, putting an end to any lingering doubts and conclusively reaffirming Melissa Highsmith’s true identity.

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

The family divulged that a seasoned genealogist advised them to upload their DNA samples to Ancestry and 23andMe platforms, in the hopes of unearthing potential matches. Despite their mother’s initial reluctance to submit yet another DNA test, as she had already been through the disheartening experience of negative results with six different women over the years, the family pressed on.

Victoria Highsmith, Melissa’s sister, reflected on the emotional journey.

“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.”

Interestingly, the critical match was not derived from Melissa’s own DNA, but rather from the samples provided by her offspring. Victoria recounted the swift turnaround after her parents’ DNA submission.

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

Victoria also conveyed her elation at witnessing her mother’s vindication, after enduring baseless accusations from the police regarding her involvement in Melissa’s vanishing.

“She has carried this pain and this guilt for 51 years, and I have watched her cry for three days of joy. I have never seen my mother so happy,” said Victoria Highsmith.

Melissa revealed that her life had been fraught with difficulties, culminating in her running away from home at the tender age of 15. She also confirmed her intention to revert to her birth name, discarding her adopted name, Melanie.

The Fort Worth Police Department continues to actively investigate the case and is urging anyone possessing pertinent information to come forward.

“Although the criminal statute of limitations expired 20 years after Melissa’s 18th birthday, the Fort Worth Police Department Major Case Unit continues to ask for the public’s assistance with any additional information concerning Melissa’s abduction that occurred over 51 years ago. Our Major Case Unit can be reached by calling 817-392-4439,” police said.

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