Woman stolen by babysitter as a toddler finally reunites with family 50 years later

Fifty years went by without any leads as to where Alta Apantenco’s kidnapped 21-month-old daughter Melissa was.

Melissa was left with a babysitter who never returned the child, then disappeared.

Her case is one of the oldest missing persons in our country’s history.

But it wasn’t law enforcement who reunited the family, it was the family’s own initiative of taking an at-home DNA test.
Apantenco placed an ad in the local paper in 1971 looking for a babysitter while she went to work.

She spoke with a so-called babysitter who responded to the ad named Ruth Johnson.

The two arranged for Johnson to pick up Melissa from the family’s Forth Worth, Texas apartment. Johnson arrived at the apartment dressed well and wearing gloves to pick up the child.

She, however, never returned, and Apantenco couldn’t find her. The local police and FBI jumped on the case, but few leads came to light.

Fifty years went by without any leads as to where Alta Apantenco’s kidnapped 21-month-old daughter Melissa was.

Melissa was left with a babysitter who never returned the child, then disappeared.

Her case is one of the oldest missing persons in our country’s history.

But it wasn’t law enforcement who reunited the family, it was the family’s own initiative of taking an at-home DNA test.

Apantenco placed an ad in the local paper in 1971 looking for a babysitter while she went to work.

She spoke with a so-called babysitter who responded to the ad named Ruth Johnson.

The two arranged for Johnson to pick up Melissa from the family’s Forth Worth, Texas apartment. Johnson arrived at the apartment dressed well and wearing gloves to pick up the child.

She, however, never returned, and Apantenco couldn’t find her. The local police and FBI jumped on the case, but few leads came to light.

Meanwhile, Melissa’s name was changed to Melanie Brown, and she lived only 10 minutes from where she went missing.

Police, however, strangely said they hadn’t discovered evidence of Melissa being harmed.

They even accused Apantenco of killing her own daughter and covering up the crime.

Then they said they hoped that Johnson, or whoever took the baby, was taking good care of her.

But that wasn’t the case.

Mellissa left the home she grew up in when she was 15 years old without access to her birth certificate because her stepfather was abusive.

She went on to live in an RV, then an apartment then got married and started a family.

“I’m angry our family was robbed for 51 years,’’ Melissa said. “I wouldn’t have to live such a hard life.’’

The woman Melissa had called “mom” growing up finally told her the truth about her kidnapping in a Facebook Message 51 years.

That woman admitted that she bought Melissa for $500 off the street from a woman who said she was a babysitter left with a baby whose family didn’t want her anymore.

The woman, who already had a son, had been wanting a daughter and said she believed finding Melissa was meant to be. So, she took the child in.

She then learned of a Facebook post about a family searching for their daughter.

The baby photo posted looked just like her Melanie.

Since the statute of limitations expired after Melissa turned 18, her kidnapper might never be charged. But that’s OK with Melissa.

“I don’t want charges pressed, I would like answers,’’ said Melissa.

Melissa’s family said they never stopped searching for her.

Her father took a 23andMe DNA test, and the results came back with a 100 percent match for Melissa’s three children.

One of Melissa’s sisters reached out to Melissa’s daughter, who put them in touch with Melissa.

“I feel like I am dreaming, and I keep having to pinch myself to make sure I’m awake,” said of learning about her true past.

he family met soon after that. Melissa’s biological younger brother, Jeff, couldn’t believe how much his long-lost sister looked just like his mother.

Melissa said the whole ordeal has been overwhelming,

But also that it was “the most wonderful feeling in the world.”

There is an entire community now celebrating Highsmith’s homecoming.

Learn more about this heartwarming story in the video below.

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