Toddler Who Was Kidnapped By Her Babysitter May Have Been Spotted 51 Years Later

On Aug. 23, 1971, Melissa Highsmith was kidnapped by her babysitter in Fort Worth, Texas. 51 years later, a woman who matched her age-progressed image was spotted by an anonymous tipster.

September 15, 2022
Melissa Highsmith as a baby [left]; Melissa Highmith age-progressed to 51 years old.

On Aug. 23, 1971, Melissa Highsmith was kidnapped by her babysitter in Fort Worth, Texas. 51 years later, she may have been spotted in South Carolina.

Photo by: NCMEC


Back on Aug. 23, 1971, 21-month-old Melissa Highsmith was kidnapped by her babysitter in Fort Worth, Texas. In September 2022, after being missing for 51 years, she might have been found alive.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) received a tip about a possible sighting of the woman in Charleston, South Carolina. A woman who matched her age-progressed image was spotted by an anonymous tipster.

“Even though we don’t know if this tip will lead to answers, we know law enforcement is working steadfastly and we hope that his information and the renewed attention the public has for Melissa will continue to bring awareness that she is still missing,” John Bischoff, the vice president of the missing children division at NCMEC explained in a news release.

“We know that answers are always possible. The public is vital to bringing home missing children and we know that it only takes one person to see the right thing, report it, and help bring a missing child home,” he added.

At the time of her disappearance, Melissa’s 22-year-old mother was newly separated and working as a waitress. She put an ad for childcare in the newspaper, and she got a response from the person who would turn out to be the kidnapper. The woman missed a scheduled interview, then called Melissa’s mother to ask for the job anyway. The would-be kidnapper explained that she had a nice yard and cared for other children in her home, reported the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Taking the woman at her word, Melissa’s mom hired the babysitter who came to pick Melissa up while a roommate was watching the toddler. According to the roommate, the kidnapper seemed nice but was dressed strangely for summer.

Jeff Highsmith, Melissa’s younger brother, told PEOPLE, "It was really odd, because it was the middle of summer, and the babysitter had long white gloves on, they had a scarf around their neck, and a scarf around their head, and was dressed in all white — like a nurse's uniform.”

Although he was born after she went missing and never met his sister, Jeff is determined to find her. He said, “I feel like I'm stuck with this. I have to find her.”

“We’re delighted about the tip. We hope it’s her, and we hope we can find her,” Sargeant Amelia Heise, a spokeswoman for the Fort Worth Texas Police Department, told NCMEC. The group has not yet been able to confirm whether the person seen in Charleston is, in fact, Melissa Highsmith.

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