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Woman Kidnapped From Texas By Babysitter In 1973 Possibly Seen In South Carolina

Melissa Highsmith was kidnapped as a toddler from her home by a babysitter in 1973. A tipster has reported she may now be in South Carolina.

By Jill Sederstrom
Handouts of Melissa Highsmith from NCMEC

More than half a century after a Texas toddler was kidnapped by her babysitter, there has been a possible sighting of the now-52-year-old woman in South Carolina.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children announced Thursday that an anonymous tipster reported seeing Melissa Highsmith in the Charleston, South Carolina area, 51 years after she disappeared as a toddler.

Highsmith was 21 months old when officials say she was kidnapped by a woman posing as a babysitter on Aug. 23, 1971.

Her then-22-year-old mother was working as a waitress and going through a separation when she placed an ad in a Fort Worth newspaper advertising for a babysitter.

“This lady responded to the ad and said that she was really interested, and had a big house, and watched other kids as well, and had a couple kids of her own,” Melissa’s younger brother, Jeff Highsmith, told People.

According to Jeff — who never met his sister — his mom was supposed to meet the woman for an interview at the restaurant where she worked, but the woman never showed up there.

“The next day, the person that took Melissa called my mom at the restaurant and said, ‘I’m sorry, I got into a car accident, and I couldn’t make it, but I really do want to watch your daughter,” he said.

Melissa’s mother hired the woman, who agreed to pick the child up while her mother was at work, at an apartment the two shared with a roommate. The roommate later described the woman as being “dressed to impressed” because she was wearing white gloves, and said she “seemed nice,” according to the NCMEC.

"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," Jeff told People.

The woman walked away with Melissa and never returned.

Despite the more the five decades since Melissa disappeared, Jeff is still hopeful he’ll be able to find her and put to rest the mystery that has continued to plague his family.

“I feel like I’m stuck with this,” he said. “I have to find her.”

NCMEC has released an age-progressed photo of what Melissa might look like today and are asking that anyone who might have information about the case to contact, 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678).