Melissa Suzanne Highsmith

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4 5 AP
Top Row and Bottom Left and Center: Melissa, circa 1971;
Bottom Right: Age-progression to age 42 (circa 2011)


Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance

  • Missing Since: August 23, 1971 from Fort Worth, Texas
  • Classification: Non-Family Abduction
  • Date of Birth: November 6, 1969
  • Age: 1 year old
  • Height and Weight: 2'8, 27 pounds
  • Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian female. Brown hair, brown/hazel eyes. Melissa has a three-inch red-colored birthmark on her back, just below her neck.
  • Bar

    Details of Disappearance

    Melissa's mother, Alta Highsmith, advertised for a babysitter for her in August of 1971. At 7:30 a.m. on August 23, a woman who called herself "Ruth Johnson" answered the ad. Johnson and Alta made plans to meet each other at Alta's place of work, but Johnson did not arrive. She called Alta later, and was hired. She stated she had a nice house with a large backyard and cared for other children.

    Johnson went to Alta and Melissa's apartment at Spanish Gate Apartments on on east Seminary Drive in south Fort Worth, Texas at 7:30 a.m. on August 23. Alta had already left for work, and Johnson met Alta's roommate instead. The roommate stated Johnson was well-dressed and wore white gloves. Johnson took away Melissa, some diapers and Melissa's pink dress and white sandals. When she did not return Melissa by 8:00 p.m. that day, Alta contacted the police.

    A sketch of the babysitter is posted below this case summary. She has never been identified and Ruth Johnson was probably not her real name. Authorities believed the baby was taken by someone who wanted to raise a child, but this theory has never been proven. Both of Melissa's parents were investigated in their daughter's disappearance. They were divorced in 1971 and the child's father lived in Illinois. They subsequently reconciled and had three additional children before separating again in 1998.

    No serious leads have ever been developed in Melissa's abduction, but the case was reopened in late 2005 at the request of her sister. Her case remains unsolved.

    Above: Suspect Sketch


    Investigating Agency
    If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
    Fort Worth Police Department


    Source Information
    Texas Department of Public Safety
    Websleuths Crime Sleuthing Community
    The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
    The Fort Worth Star-Telegram
    The Dallas Morning News


    Updated 4 times since October 12, 2004.

    Last updated April 13, 2012; age-progression updated.

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