US: Family of Melissa Highsmith, Texas toddler kidnapped over 50 years ago, 'getting closer' to answers

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In September, an anonymous tipster reported a potential Charleston, South Carolina, sighting of a woman who may have gone missing as a baby from her home in Texas 51 years ago.

Now, the family of missing Melissa Highsmith has renewed hope that she may be alive and well today — but they need to keep her name out there in case there are any more possible sightings.

"We feel like we're stepping in the right direction," Jeff Highsmith, Melissa's 42-year-old brother, told Fox News Digital of the search for his sister more than five decades after she vanished. "We're moving closer to finding out where she is and what's going on."

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Melissa disappeared from Fort Worth, Texas, Aug. 23, 1971, when she was just 21 months old, according to National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), which has been working with the Highsmith family to find Melissa and keep her face — a digitally age-progressed face — in the news.

FAMILY OF MELISSA HIGHSMITH, TEXAS TODDLER TAKEN IN 1971, RENEWS SEARCH AFTER POSSIBLE SIGHTING 51 YEARS LATER

Photo shows Melissa Highsmith as a baby, and a colorized image of what Melissa Highsmith possibly looks like now National Center for Missing and Exploited Children © National Center for Missing and Exploited Children Photo shows Melissa Highsmith as a baby, and a colorized image of what Melissa Highsmith possibly looks like now National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

On Nov, 6, for what would have been Melissa's 53rd birthday, the Highsmith family hosted a "celebration of life" for Melissa at the local police station not far from where she was kidnaped all those years ago.

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The Highsmith family also traveled from the Texas to Charleston in October to talk to locals about the case themselves and spread awareness.

The family of Melissa Highsmith held a memorial on her 53rd birthday outside the Bob Bolen Public Safety Complex in Fort Worth, TX. Photo: Victoria Garner (sister), Jeffrie Highsmith (brother), Mellissa Robinson (extended family member). James Breeden for Fox News Digital © James Breeden for Fox News Digital The family of Melissa Highsmith held a memorial on her 53rd birthday outside the Bob Bolen Public Safety Complex in Fort Worth, TX. Photo: Victoria Garner (sister), Jeffrie Highsmith (brother), Mellissa Robinson (extended family member). James Breeden for Fox News Digital

"We feel that the trip to Charleston was a good success. We did get to network with some great people that live in the area," Jeff said. "Two of the ladies that we did meet when we were down there are continuing to try to raise awareness for her in that area."

The case has garnered media attention from local outlets in both Texas and South Carolina.

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Jeff and Melissa's mother, Alta, who was recently separated in when she moved to Fort Worth and worked as a waitress in the 1970s, had placed an advertisement in the local newspaper for a babysitter to watch over Melissa — her first born — at the time. Jeff Highsmith © Jeff Highsmith Jeff and Melissa's mother, Alta, who was recently separated in when she moved to Fort Worth and worked as a waitress in the 1970s, had placed an advertisement in the local newspaper for a babysitter to watch over Melissa — her first born — at the time. Jeff Highsmith

"People that live in the area are pretty familiar with the case now. Since we've been back, we've had four different leads that we have somebody following up on," Jeff said of the South Carolina trip.

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Jeff and Melissa's mother, Alta, who was recently separated in when she moved to Fort Worth and worked as a waitress in the 1970s, had placed an advertisement in the local newspaper for a babysitter to watch over Melissa — her firstborn — at the time. A woman responded to the ad and agreed to meet Alta at the restaurant where the young mother worked but never showed up.

Later on, the prospective babysitter called Alta and expressed her interest in the job, saying she had a big yard and cared for other children.

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Alta hired the babysitter, who picked up the 21-month-old toddler when she was in the care of Alta's roommate while the young mother was waitressing.

The family of Melissa Highsmith Provided this photo of her as a baby. Highsmith disappeared from Fort Worth, Texas, Aug. 23, 1971, when she was just 21 months old. Provided by family to Fox News Digital © Provided by family to Fox News Digital The family of Melissa Highsmith Provided this photo of her as a baby. Highsmith disappeared from Fort Worth, Texas, Aug. 23, 1971, when she was just 21 months old. Provided by family to Fox News Digital

The roommate told authorities that the woman who picked Melissa up was wearing white gloves, sunglasses and a bonnet around her head in the middle of August in Texas, Jeff explained.

"These things just don't make sense to me," he said, adding that his mother's roommate has not responded to the family's questions since they got together to discuss the case over coffee in 2019.

Melissa Highsmith disappeared when she was 21 months old in 1971. Jeff Highsmith © Jeff Highsmith Melissa Highsmith disappeared when she was 21 months old in 1971. Jeff Highsmith

Highsmith hadn't been seen since her mother called law enforcement the day she disappeared in 1971. Jeff has his own theories as to what happened and believes she may have been kidnaped and sold to an adoptive family, though authorities have not confirmed that narrative.

NCMEC is asking anyone with information to contact 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678).

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