"I feel like I am dreaming, and I keep having to pinch myself to make sure I'm awake,"
Melissa Highsmith, who grew up as Melanie Miyoko, has finally been officially identified as the Texas woman who was abducted in 1971. The Fort Worth Police Department confirmed the identity of Melissa Highsmith through DNA testing. The now 53-year-old woman, who was abducted as a 22-month-old in 1971, reunited with her biological family last year. "It is our hope that this test result will offer additional closure for the Highsmith family," a police spokesperson said in a statement per PEOPLE.
Missing woman Melissa Highsmith, kidnapped as a baby in Texas, was reunited with her mom, Alta Apantenco, 51 years later after a 23andMe DNA test. 🥰— ABC7 Eyewitness News (@ABC7) November 28, 2022
"I'm just so happy to see my daughter I didn't ever think I would ever see again," Alta Apantenco said. https://t.co/s8d8NULTV5 pic.twitter.com/LQsVX6Wbhe
The family previously told the outlet that their own DNA match had already confirmed the news they were waiting for all these years. Melissa's sister has criticized how authorities handled the case, writing on Facebook, "We found our kidnapped missing sister two days before Thanksgiving, and the police are just now confirming her DNA. Shame on you Fort Worth police for not solving my sister’s crime!" Calling their efforts a "horrible job" she claimed officials "had several leads and did not follow up on them. We did your job for you. Out of 1000 cold cases only 2 have been solved, and my sister was one of those. And not because the police solved that case!!"
Back in November 2022, Melissa finally met her real parents. In a sit-down interview with WFAA, she said, "I feel like I am dreaming, and I keep having to pinch myself to make sure I'm awake."
"I’m just elated, I can't describe my feelings. I'm so happy to see my daughter that I didn't think I would ever see her again," said Alta Apantenco, Melissa’s mother. "She's alive... I cried like a baby," added Jeffrie Highsmith, Melissa's father.
DNA Test Confirms Identity of Texas Woman Reunited with Family 51 Years After Being Abducted as a Baby https://t.co/3t8X5ZKnCn— People (@people) May 5, 2023
Apantenco was hopeless after searching for her daughter for 51 years and though she believed she was alive, Apantenco did not want to be involved in the search. Earlier, DNA Genetic testing matched them. After that, they also connected with each other on Facebook. When they told her the story of Melissa being kidnapped, she said, "I'm sorry, I don't think I'm that person," recalled Apantenco. After that her brother Jeff asked her if she would like to take a DNA test and she was still not convinced until she saw the baby's picture. "Once I saw the baby picture, and I put my baby picture against it, it's like my twin."
A woman kidnapped as a toddler has been found alive and well 51 years later- her parents were alive to reunite. https://t.co/1hKlBEtBrC— Femme (@FemCondition) May 5, 2023
Alta, 73, and Jeff, 72, believe it is God who brought the family back together. "We give all the credit to God. We really believe it was — we're people of faith, and we believe it was through prayer," Jeff said. "God is an amazing God, and he can do anything," added Alta. "He's a way maker, a miracle worker, a promise keeper, a light in the darkness. That's my God."
The babysitter (mother she knew) abducted her in 1971. She later told her she was purchased on the street for $500 😳. The story has a happy ending thanks to #23andMe. #DNA #ChildAbduction #MelissaHighsmith #Texas #FortWorth #PatriciaLewis #SugarLewis https://t.co/ONsg7Jn5mD— TrueCrimeSushi (@CrimeSushi) May 7, 2023
Cover Image Source: Facebook | Victoria Highsmith