Loved ones of a toddler who was abducted more than 51 years ago have renewed hope of being reunited with her after the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children received a tip about a possible sighting.
Melissa Highsmith was kidnapped by a woman purporting to be a babysitter more than a half a century ago, and she would now be 52 years old. Her family traveled to South Carolina’s Daniel Island over the weekend to intensify their search for Highsmith in the area.
Last month, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) announced a new possible break in the search for Highsmith: an anonymous tip about a possible sighting on Daniel Island in Charleston.
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Melissa’s brother, Jeff Highsmith, wrote in a GoFundMe page for the family’s efforts to find her that the NCMEC tip further described how “was confirmed alive and living in Charleston South Carolina.”
Jeff went on to write that he was told the NCMEC was able to trace the tip to a computer in a federal building in Charleston. Highsmith added he was told that the tipster worded the information in a way that seemed “that they knew circumstances about the case and that they knew that this was Melissa.”
Highsmith and other family members traveled to Daniel Island, where he said they planned to “pass out flyers and canvas and knock on doors and try to tell as many people as we can that there’s a girl that was kidnapped 51 years ago.”
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Melissa Highsmith was 21 months old in August 1971, when a woman who claimed to be a babysitter took her from her home in Fort Worth, Texas.
According to the NCMEC, the Highsmith family had just moved to the Fort Worth area, and Melissa’s mother placed a local newspaper ad seeking a babysitter.
“A woman answered the ad and agreed to meet her at the restaurant where she worked, but she never showed up,” the NCMEC said. “The babysitter called the mother later, saying she really wanted the job, had a nice big yard and cared for other children as well.”
Highsmith’s mother gave her the job. On Aug. 23, 1971, the woman picked up Melissa from the mother’s apartment, where a roommate had been watching the child while her mom was at work.
The family never saw Melissa again.
Melissa Highsmith is described as originally having brown hair and brown eyes, with a birthmark on her upper back.
The NCMEC is asking anyone with information related to Melissa’s disappearance to call 1-800-THE-LOST or the Fort Worth Police Department at 1-817-335-4222.