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Family Of Missing Woman Who Vanished More Than 50 Years Ago Believes They May Be 'Closer' To Solving Mystery

Melissa Highsmith was taken from her home by a supposed babysitter in 1971, but never returned. Her family believes they now have "four different leads" in the case.

By Jill Sederstrom
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The family of a woman who disappeared as a baby more than 50 years ago believe they may be “moving closer” to finding her.

Jeff Highsmith recently told Fox News that he believes his older sister Melissa Highsmith is still alive and said her family is determined to find the now 53-year-old, who disappeared from the family’s Texas apartment in 1971 with a woman claiming to be a babysitter.

“We feel like we’re stepping in the right direction,” Jeff said. “We’re moving closer to finding out where she is and what’s going on.”

The more than half-a-century-old case received renewed interest earlier this year after an anonymous tipster reported a “possible sighting” of Melissa in the Charleston, South Carolina area in September, according to an earlier statement from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) provided to Oxygen.com.

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The tipster claimed to have seen the missing woman in the area of Daniel Island.

Jeff traveled to the Charleston area with other family members in October to pass out fliers and search for anyone who may have seen his sister, the Fort-Worth Star Telegram reports.

Handouts of Melissa Highsmith from NCMEC

“We understand that the person who provided the tip may have known her,” Jeff, who never met his older sister, told the news outlet before embarking on the trip. “An IP address of the tipster was traced to a government building in Charleston, S.C.”

He told Fox News that the trip had been a “good success.”

“We did get to network with some great people that live in the area,” he 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.”

He added that the family now has “four different leads that we have somebody following up on.”

Earlier this month, they also celebrated what would have been his sister’s 53rd birthday during a “celebration of life” event at a Texas police station to continue to raise awareness about the mysterious case.

Melissa was kidnapped on Aug. 23, 1971 in Fort Worth, Texas by a woman claiming to be a babysitter.

Melissa’s 22-year-old mother Alta had placed an ad in a local newspaper seeking a babysitter for her 21-month-old daughter before the young child disappeared.

Alta, who was recently separated, was working as a waitress and needed someone to watch the child during her shifts.

A woman answered the ad and agreed to meet her at the restaurant but then never showed up, according to the NCMEC. However, the woman later called and said she really did want the job and explained that she had “a nice big yard” and took care of other children.

Alta hired the woman and the woman picked Melissa up at the apartment when she was at work, but never returned her.

Alta’s roommate—who had been watching the child—described the babysitter as being someone who was “dressed to impress” and was “wearing white gloves.”

For more than five decades, the Highsmith family has wondered what happened to Melissa and where she may be today.

They now run a Facebook page dedicated to finding Melissa and are seeking any new information that could lead to answers.

Thank you for sharing Melissa’s story, for joining in with ideas, for supporting the family,” the family wrote in a message online to supporters Tuesday. “They are so thankful for each and everyone that sends their well wishes and prayers. This journey has been a very long one. We want to keep up the search for answers and the fight to reunite Melissa with her loving family!!!

The case is also featured in a two-part episode of “The Vanished” podcast, which was released earlier this week.

To date, however, Melissa’s whereabouts remain a mystery.