Last week, we brought you the first part of Melissa Highsmith’s story. On August 23, 1971, 21-month-old Melissa was abducted by a woman who responded to a classified ad her mother placed in the local newspaper. Or, at least, that’s the story that Melissa’s mother and roommate told police when they reported her missing. Was Melissa really abducted by this woman calling herself Ruth Johnson, or was there more to the story? And that’s just the beginning of the 50-year-old stone-cold mystery we’ve been chipping away at.
UPDATE: In September, the Highsmith family contacted us about covering Melissa Highsmith’s story. We interviewed multiple family members for a two-episode series. We were already aware of possible DNA connections when the episodes aired, but we held that information in confidence at the family’s request. When the Highsmith family notified us of the DNA matches found on a commercial DNA testing website in late October, we connected them with a family member of another missing person we covered this year, Lisa Jo Schiele. You may remember her from the Barb Cotton series. Lisa Jo Schiele is a clinical laboratory scientist and amateur genealogist. We felt that Lisa’s expertise in the area could possibly assist the Highsmith family in finding Melissa. We also notified law enforcement before the episodes aired that one family member had impersonated law enforcement by their own admission to us and that we had a professional due diligence to notify law enforcement in the event this family member attempted to contact any of the then-unknown DNA matches.
Days after our series aired, the news broke that the family believed they had located Melissa. We are always very grateful and happy to learn that a missing person has been found alive and safe, so we were thrilled to see the news that Lisa Jo Schiele had helped the Highsmith family find a woman they believe to be Melissa. The Fort Worth Police Department released the following statement: “The Fort Worth Police Department (FWPD) is overjoyed to hear about how the Highsmith’s use of 23andme led them to Melissa. The Fort Worth Police Department will be conducting official DNA testing to confirm Melissa’s identity, and the department will provide an update once the official results have come in. The FWPD Major Case Unit will be working with the Highsmith family to continue the investigation into Melissa’s disappearance. Even though the criminal statute of limitations expired 20 years after Melissa’s 18th birthday, the Fort Worth Police Department is committed to completing this investigation to uncover all of the available information concerning Melissa’s abduction that occurred 51 years ago.” We hope this decades-old cold case will be solved and look forward to what the police investigation reveals about the many questions that remain unanswered. We will wait for confirmation from law enforcement before commenting any further. We will always uphold the confidence of the families who entrust us with information, just as we did in Melissa’s case. We thank you all for continuing to share your treasured and much-loved missing family members with us. We are eternally grateful.
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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Hey prime numbers: you can listen to the vanished ad free on amazon, music, download, the
Really knows the tolstoy
my son recently.
Two or three months ago out not ask
his mother s militia alike.
I don't know,
He said he looked her in the eye, she said it's militia allies and he goes out to look back. I'm sure how would I know
god were finally getting help here, but no you upset about just give up your hands in that
her personality and her nature. As far as I know, she was like a failure at the outset did
hon issue was kidnapped, he was kidnapped and she was given to a good family somewhere.
He's probably had a good life
Last week we brought you the first part of Melissa, highsmith story,
twenty third nineteen. Seventy one.
When you re Melissa was abducted by a woman who had responded to a classified at her mother placed in the local newspaper.
or at least that's the story that unless, as mother and roommate told the police, when they reported her missing,
but we ve learned that there's no actual proof melissa was abducted and while she is officially classified as a stranger abduction
We believe that we found significant indications that unless a may have never been abducted at all, and that's just the beginning of this fifty year old, stone, cold mystery. We ve been chipping away at
I'm the and from wondering this is episode. Three hundred and seventy two of the vanished melissa, highsmith story, part to a delicate thread unravelled.
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Last week we brought you the beginning of Melissa, highsmith story. We left off.
Episode with many questions, including serious considerations about what has actually happened to her this,
We didn't make sense to us and ass. We moved into production with the second part of molasses story and started, repressing harder and digging deeper facts. We learned some disturbing revelations
if what we have been told that was portrayed, as fact was not anything beyond speculation on one family members part.
These developments, through everything we thought we knew into question,
so the story we had planned to tell you today has chain
to sharing with you what we do know based on first hand, accounts only we want
Take a moment to recognise that the Highsmith family is missing a daughter and a sister their film.
he's gone fifty one long years without being complete
everyone griefs and behave differently when they have a missing loved one.
we don't want to discount that they are victims of the tragic loss of Melissa.
With that in mind, we began without her
We had a lot of questions
Why did out only place a one day ad in the local newspaper?
how come she seemed ambivalent about finding the lesser when we talked to her, why
We feel, like this story, wasn't adding up
sworn to. Only questions we had, but in choosing to tom, was the story based on only first hand, information we started with her. Mother, though,
personally spoke to some of us on the day she vanished.
we asked her about what took place in her life after Melissa was gone and about her reunification with Jeff after malicious disappearance and how
came to have for more children. Together I got,
in every job. I can't remember what that place was called.
I found an apartment, my breath.
Did help me get a car. He was there.
I don't know why you showed up at fort worth. I don't know if he moved factor
I heard what was going on and came to see man, I don't know
but anyway he help me get a car, and I
at another job, a dime.
Try to move on with my life. You know after I had moved on,
my life and got everything saddled yapping it all
and hear anything from the fbi.
If anybody for a long time,
after I got saddled and just
the point where I could take care of myself. He shows up.
I think we ought to get back together and a person
in watcher. But finally,
he finally taught me and get me
together he had started going to church
You want to get right with garden show
in back with him an idea
forgive him, and yet
we got in church and we raised. We got we had courtyards after that, and there was a
couple at times
and how about back together in the time
were starting to grow at that level.
Four times people tried to get me in earnest
then said these people,
help me out you. No one was hurt.
Some kind of I dunno a psychic or what, but are
I think she worked with trying to help people find your kids and
and she gave a clear somebody in taxes that looked like melissa show each
that one out and it was came to nothing
and there was another time remember what tat what that was. But after those too
I thought you know
forget it. You know she's gone.
We have to move on, you know, and I
I moved on. I raised my four kids and
you, I know they didn't replace mollusca, but it helped.
I'll, try and Jeff did have for more children, but there alone
were far from perfect and at sea
things were often tents, Jeff
from his perspective about his return to fort worth and to alter after Melissa vanished, I actually whenever
I came back for always. I ask how to come
Actually, we get back together
an I laughed in ninety eight.
Some twenty five years.
together again with four children later
from sharing rebecca, Geoffrey and Becky.
They really have shot spain together, the second time militia worthy.
being together the first time.
but there was about a year and a half later after malicious kid.
And she decided to come back to our lie.
Twenty nine years later we divorce again. This is
I worked a lot of hard work. I have worked a lot. I was gonna live now. I got him
probably should have been garnish much, but of course we had
for children. I don't feel
out was happy. Being the mother
four children not labour with too much responsibility war. He
a hard time with draft
and I believe her children will tell you the same thing.
and she would get upset and they upset were much time left
was very unhappy in the marriage with her position
are we was virtually your house, I got into virtues, are going to church
she was really unhappy with thing the mother of four children,
She just would be angry all orbit. It was a terrible for her and it was
terrible for me. She was upset all the time
click on the couch born. I did die in their jobs.
That's because you her anger, and
There are several times that she was
really angry and
and had a bad, really really bad spirit with my children
was all I could do to get between the children and her
she was always want a disciplinary money course. I
from a lot easier: go on nodded
I didn't like discipline in the children much but
where's. The one could have to do it because she wouldn't do it. You ve made me: do it
She just wished, who aggressive with discipline. I think
It would be whenever they got older, why
didn't have the capacity
She didn't habit, it wasn't there, she would
She took care of the kid real good. She dressed him gagging flavour.
We never said that
I love and larger under
You know what another girl she didn't have a together,
say how willing for your way don t, but I just know she can't take a lot of stress. I don't wanna, hurt
in body in any way. Marquis.
EL. I dont want
I'm not one of those kind of husbands wanna harm anybody
A careful outer edges. She just him
some of them live with.
his own, difficult childhood that we shared with you in the first episode of this story appeared
it's a profound effect on who she became as apparent in the
part of melissa story. You heard from her sister Sharon and rebecca
You didn't hear from her third sister Victoria
appears to have been on the receiving end of the brunt of outer unresolved childhood trauma
This is some of what she told us, my
mother and father raised us in a pentecostal home, we went to
hurt sunday morning, sunday night.
Wednesday night Saturday night we went to church
men and then we was at every event the church had going on church. Can the party
of events. We
shelter. We didn't
the tv we weren't,
to go to. Like all height, you know middle school basketball game we couldn't cut our hair cut. Where make
could work jewelry, we had to work
skirts and dress is to our ankles and when I would
I call them in like the sixth, seventh and eight grade. Oh my god, people used to throw rocks at me on the way home and follow me. I had like ten girls
jump on me in the bathroom another girl stab me in the head with a pencil. I had this boy that, like
He used to throw me into the lockers and trip me in
me, oh my god, by this time
it's the ninth grade I quit and was pregnant with my first child at fifty
girl, if I wrote a book about my life from as far as I can remember from my mother for
growing up to where I met now, people would be blown away. My mother, she always used
scream and holler at us
his dad, Jeff told us a startling story about something he remembers happening to victoria when she
elementary school aged one day when out was angry
she was very angry,
he's very angry at Vicki, shoved or against.
Pushed her down she shut.
or against, irradiated above her head open ass, she was
search your shovel
Most part, I didn't see any physical abuse child abuse
other than that course
was verbal abuse you too, and she was emotionally abusive to home for her
Victoria has recovered from the physical abuse and trauma miraculously well. In fact,
today also lives in victorious home.
Torreon told us how she went from feeling like she was treated as the most hated child, too
giving her mother and enjoying what she described as a good relationship with her
we still like that. I was the child. My mother did not want, and I shall
like that, my whole life growing up,
I told myself man when I have kids, I'm gonna tell them ten times a day. How much I love them, because I can count on one hand from isn't it
far back, as I can remember until I was a teenager, my mom telling me she loved me on one hand diamond,
be unless Lyman therapy to I've learned. I grew up
My life thinking everything was my fault, but now that I'm in therapy I learned I was the child. This, the parents were responsible. Not me
they were the responsive, wants to protect children and they felt at tat it s, not my fault, but I was.
broken child. That became a broken adele and went from
and broke a relationship to another broker relationship.
I don't know. I love my mother, my mother lives with me and I'm taking
reverend she'll. Probably was me till she takes her last breath, drawing
We had a bilateral relationship,
but now that I'm older and
Wiser and forgive
Forgive my mother. You know,
he's with me, and I look
to death, and I wouldn't trader for anything in the world
if there's anything positive about melissa story
All four of her siblings are able to maintain good relationships without her. Despite her
for coal and uncooperative behaviour, not only as a mother but as a wife and person who was now
properly cared for as a child herself.
Therefore, younger children were raised without ever knowing their missing sister, but
Who are you told us that Jeff kept her memory alive by showing
photos and telling them about his memories of their older sister.
I was about eight or nine when my
had told us about our missing sister
and showed us news clippings and showed us a pitcher sort out showed us several pitchers. Ah
him and my mother and my list
and different pitcher stay had an
told us that someone had took the baby from my mother. You know
explained. The word kidnapped and I was like eight or nine when I was told that that's too
I remember- and I think my sister was- I may be nine or ten because we're about eleven months in two weeks, apart so rebecca
it would be older than me, I think, like we try,
to talk to my mom about it when we were little and she that really angry and my dad said that we probably
didn't talk to my mom about that, because
with two hurtful for her
and she would always be real emotional
my mom, I remember my mom not being a very happy person. My whole life, like she was melissa, being kidnapped, probably choose
her forever, and I think
fact that she never got over there and that
he became apparent, are far more children. There was
This connection with her children. All of us there is
this connection and I think it be. It was because her child was kidnapped elijah's
get changed the way she was a mother
seventy three now, but I think she was only about twenty one may be
to my dad.
Only about twenty
They were both really young, you know
Dad has been on his own, since I think he was twelve thirteen,
So when that happened, I don't think he was ready to be a father
am, I know my mother has shared and this
the first time. My mother shared this with me that
he ran off. This was,
and before Melissa got kidnapped. I just found this out like weeks ago, ran off. It was with some other woman
my mom, had to go to work to provide
and she had a romanian this year.
That's the story I heard from my mom and then I asked my dad about it and he said man. I was young and damas stupid boy. He
Also came back and had four children was my mother. It was amazing provider for all four of us, so I can't find him
for a decision he made when he was twenty or twenty one, because you know
he might not be a right to be a father and I'm sorry. My mother went through that
melissa, sister Sharon also has many memories of their dad talking about Melissa.
And making sure his children new as much as they could about the sister they never met, but her mother,
spoke Melissa only with a tone that seemed almost hostile and the amount
of torment that it does to me, like I'm forty four years old I've been here,
the story further
As long as I can remember
my dad would bring out the fire folders on Melissa,
and he would show us that-
articles that the clippings
Real clippings of newspapers,
pictures actual pictures that you can touch old pictures that they have,
and he would tell us about militia, and he would
lament, and he would be sad and he would tell us- and he wanted us to know that there was this-
stir that we had that. We were
I'm looking for and the first time I ever
asked my mom about Melissa. I was,
I think twenty five years old and we were in a long road trip and a car together for several days
and I said mom. Can you tell
to me about melissa. I can't even imagine like what kind of trauma that was, and can you just
can you tell me about what happened during that time
and she shot me down she now,
told me anything. She shut me down, and she said that so painful. Don't you ever talk to me about that? I can't talk about that. Is too painful for me, and you know what
my mom is sensitive and she's fragile, emotion
my mom was raised an orphanage from age of two
she experienced, a lot of abuse and so
this moment cannot come like she shot me down
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fifty one years after she was last seen alive, there remains no proof that melissa was kidnapped. There have been
no credible, sightings of Melissa or the other.
a woman named Ruth Johnson.
Who outer and carol told police came to the house and took Melissa babysit her while Alto was at work.
Hearing the story of this ruth johnson woman coming to the door and taking the lesser evil
eerie who was this woman in white gloves and what were her intentions?
Our first instincts were to wonder if this could have been someone who desperately wanted a child. This did
her prior to modern day fertility treatments
could a woman who wanted a child have seen the ad in the paper and came up with this plan to abduct melissa and raise her ass? Her own.
perhaps it was someone profiting off of illegal adoptions or was
It's all just a cover story when we talk
outer. We couldn't shake the feeling that she knew more than she is shared publicly and throughout our interview with her,
we kept wondering if we are really talking to a woman whose child had been stolen by a stranger all those years ago, ones
that concerned us was her expression of resentment that her children were looking for their sister. Is this
a wound that she didn't want reopened or is there something more here is out
In her own words, they were
we to get involved in everything, and I told them. You have already moved on the twin fifty
about fifty one years ago,
you know when Jeff or started doing this, I did a couple. I think
But how can I don't know?
Why or how it came about, but I
Do an interview in illinois, and that was like. I don't know,
seven or eight years before I moved to fort worth
I don't know how they got story. I don't remember, but I did do
in our view my daughter dickie there with me. That was for a fox news.
nation or something I don't remember, and I gave them the same story and they said the boy.
Out. Anything won't let you now, and they never did, call me back and then accurate.
And retired. I moved to taxes and I said with by sundown and he started
interrupted? In this case, I wanted to find out
and I get another interview highlights, but about three years ago, but I just
yes, I just
they want to do it? That's fine! I talk to my.
I can handle this brain.
Back to many painful memories and
I thought, if you want to do, is that's fine, but please
don't. Let me leave me out of it. I can't do it.
My daughter's all the more involved in it, but I just
want to be right now
They want to do that. I gave
you got a long time ago. We have
how to what would happen if Melissa walked into her home tomorrow
and she saw her mind for the first time since
too young to remember her, but what I do
I don't know why
the prohibition was more local. I would be surprised that I wouldn't thankful and great boy- I don't know
it's been so allowed fifty five years ago, and I don't know why
Of course, I'd be happy.
the shock. I don't know that
This is something that I thought about it:
a few times you know about how it would be a shame,
But then again,
I don't know I just
something I would I've dreamed up, but
I've seen it is a reality.
At fifty one years. You know,
it's kind of hard to imagine that you
in your daughter after that long time my kids have a lot of both.
They have a lot of fate that they're gonna binder john asked me a couple weeks ago, if I thought you,
So I said I don't know:
shared by I didn't tell him like that. I've always thought like that,
somewhere. I didn't know airport and everyday like this. She was dead and a row,
pray, that guy wherever she is that god will take care of her that he would just protect her. I've always prayed that way, and I have prayed for her often one month,
the ever. Do you pray for everyday? I said no answered the news
Turturro areas that I didn't want to talk about.
We'll talk about it, but I do I pray for her
While I I prayed for all my family.
Is it the outer doesn't want to talk about at the
inclusion of our research beyond the possibility that a person calling themselves ruth Johnson had abducted Melissa. We had
other theories that we believe are possible
The first is that Melissa was sold in an illegal adoption.
We were able to confirm to pieces of information that were some of the only concrete facts we have about melissa fur
We know the her birth certificate says she was born on November six, nineteen sixty nine,
two Jeffrey an outer faye Highsmith. Second, we
able to confirm that no social security number was ever issued in her name obtaining
new birth certificate. Nineteen. Seventy one would have been exceptionally easy and illegal
options were disturbingly more common than we previously thought
we want to reiterate that this is just one of the possible theories we have about what happened to melissa
and she remains classified by law enforcement as a non familial abduction with
That said, there are some very coincidentally information that lends itself to the possibility that molest was sold in an illegal adoption.
in two thousand and nineteen melissa's brother Jeff did an interview for another. True crime, podcast called gone cold when we spoke.
With Jeff. He told
about how a search for a sister began with a death in the family and led him to do that. Podcast.
So my wife and I married in twenty. Sixteen,
It might have been the under twenty
Seventeen early twenty eighty one, my aunt
die. My mom sister had died in
And one of my uncle, he came to it.
the funeral and said what he really do need to go one.
I'm a writer. You don't do that
cases, reopening nothing really happen. Nobody took no newly and he said
I defined melissa. It's you almost almost fifty years
still nothing there and his daughter
was murdered. One of its twin daughters were was murdered by her, her husband and her husband, discovering beckett, and they
never prove it, but he knows that he had a child.
without that he murdered his daughter, and so he had them
tragedy that now
close clothier and his family, like you got it,
I will more time and if you can't do it didn't have a memorial least put it arrested. That way, your family can get some kind of closure.
And so is it ok, you're right, so we started in twenty sat between seventeen, twenty eighteen
just going over the document. What we had on line look at it.
the thing that anybody wrote about certain
Writing everything down again,
finally were able to your podcast with very strange called gone. All
in part one. We told you about a tip coming in that led the family to a man named oscar
A man they later learned had allegedly illegally adopted another child years ago.
told us his version of how this tipp came in about,
of oscar other daughters, potentially being melissa.
when we did that cast a late.
Had called him with. The term was convinced that
Her cousin was my sister and we
ok, and so we think
Why do you think your cousin is our sister? We had dinner with her and she said well,
Her name is sandra,
Her mother was a drug at a quick. She lived with your aunt while her
aunt was married to a guy named oscar, and he said that oscar lived the same apartment complexes. My mom
my sister with tibet and incidentally, we said well. We had a second meeting
sandra in there.
Audio call, with sandra andor, sister on the phone call, but in that interview with children, her sister
Andrews said that there was always the lot of young children toppled over the force right for five years.
that she lived with them, stay with them for just
before the forty eight hours and they would be there and
his explanation to his nieces were. These are friends that I'm baby
but there is always a lot of different types of three or four at a time
but he was always like every weekend was always a lot of kids. I will come and it would go come under the girl
she's like because doesn't make himself so here.
We talked with vincent strange host of gone cold, who describes a show as podcast, covering unsolved murders and missing persons cases throughout the state of texas.
after hearing what Jeff had to say, we listen to vincent's episode about Melissa and we had some questions for Vincent.
gracious enough to speak with us about his experience. Working on the lists, a story, much
What vincent was able to share with us and what he said in his episode covering molasses disappearance, he said, came from old newspapers and family members like us, he was forced to rely on the memory of those willing to speak with him, and neither
the people who had a first hand account alto
carol agreed to speak with them, though we do
The attempt to establish contact with both
he told us he never got a response from carol any.
Get a response from outer either, but rather from illnesses. Brother Jeff, who said that his mother would not be granting an interview,
Vincent sent a list of questions to jack. For outer to answer in this,
where the detailed descriptions of what happened on the morning of molasses. Disappearance came from, but it's impossible to know. If outer answer those questions herself or if so
what else filled in the gaps with their best guess as to what happened vincent
so told us at the fort worth police refused to release any records or statement to him. He was as frustrated as we were at how difficult it was to find anything that could be considered a fact, but one
to give molasses case the coverage it has so desperately needed all these years
after the gone cold episode aired
that's when this tipp came in from a woman who said she believed her cousin Becky was possibly melissa,
it certainly sounded like a lead worth pursuing this,
What you have told us.
generous but lady. They called him with a pike assets that oscars niece by marriage. She said:
her in her sister stated that
ask your own, the bar at twenty one, which is really I'd which doesn't make any sense whatsoever.
But she said that it was on
well, shall we don't know we were we're just taking everything at her word, we don't know
if ye, maybe with the matter of a bar, he worked at the bar, they thought he owned it, but they said the young okay, let alone that's what you
and we should all be in. We asked what if she knew the name of the bar
he said she didn't remember, did not show how to find out what knew that it was on until at the time
yeah. Well, that's kind of broad, but ok, he's too long lead
wonder? Building there
sandra and even Becky. This girl back, you is
is adopted, daughter, that's what they
I always had a like a lot of cash in his pocket over here.
is not an educated man. He was that a smart guy, but he was that book. Smart whatsoever,
didn't make sense to them. How we always met
much money, dangerous, didn't
It makes sense to them. How do you get all that money to stop at store, because that is not a booming store? We think it was just another five. There was a legitimate
waited to launder money. We check
property wreckers for tyrant, county and the surrounding areas and found no indication that oscar owns more than a handful of properties and has never owned a bar,
the building Jeff claims oscar still owns as a vacant lot not owned by oscar.
Guard lists the bar was within walking distance of outer carols apartment and
told us that the tipp he received from vincent tight ask, or not only to the illegal adoption trade, but all
to the apartment. Complex were out and the lived. I call oscar
You know we're just following up a we in with the speed. If you know this, your name came up in the sky and just said that you would
his apartment complex it. This time
in seventy. One without hesitation made like is water.
Yeah yeah me and my family lived there at that time. Ok,
All we need to know. Thank you so much so I hear
from his own. Now after I found out that he,
okay, this guy, obviously it's kind of shady he just denied it. Why would you just deny it after you gave it up so fast that okay yeah I've lived there so there's? Obviously you obviously lived there.
Sandra her sister both said they live. There now is a red flag.
jeff told us that he was able to connect with Becky
who had also questioned her origin story and couldn't erase that she saw the resemblance between herself and the other highsmith siblings, as well.
molasses age progressed photo
by this time we thought that her cousin Becky was our sister buggy,
yeah the have and thighs like my mom and sisters, her daughters at the hips.
I heard daughters, looked like my fishers back, you up
like my mom ended
chop it out. Becky also had a birthmark on the back of the neck, just like Melissa,
and we were in that were like this. We know that we got it
that any lack any lab has now on Darlington. So
dna said no, we were just where we got her.
that that really did hurt were now.
A kind of now.
questioning the validity of the of the dna tests
Now we are you, we don't
it was recommended by Becky's daughter. We,
I think anything of it, but yeah we'll go we'll go there. We pay for the tests, you know so like we absolutely will go test her.
we're gonna question the validity of it, and
I put a pitcher side by side of oscar when he was probably in mid forty next to what a composite scared
the karel gave up. The kidnappers and kill went
My spine, because
who me like a b
I note the mouth, the cheek bones, the air was, it looked just like I'm just like them and then kill,
all the romanian headed melissa to the kidnappers said that she later on said this. We she thought with a guide us then drag, and we also
questions about girl.
We don't know enough about this kind of privately owned dna testing, lab that isn't a large commercial platform like ancestry or twenty three on me, sir
We can't share our opinion on it with you
but from what we know, no one ever
this led to law enforcement and asked
to conduct a dna analysis for familial match,
We didn't ask Jeff why he didn't go through law enforcement, but we can't blame him for choosing to go his own rule based on our own first hand, experiences with the fort worth police department in
Toby. We contacted the fort worth police department to find out who was assigned to malicious case can
it was our previous interactions with fort worth. They didn't
respond to multiple emails until we went up the chain of command
and then something strange happened.
Sergeant John philips, who interacted with during our work on the carolyn reagan story, said the following to us and to molasses: family
been handling the Highsmith case for the last few years, sergeant philips as a supervisor over the major crimes unit, we were able to verify with two separate divisions at the police department that he doesn't carry a caseload and is
assigned to investigate malicious case. This left
in a tough position with.
Being able to even find out who the investigator is or if there is one at all. We
able to ask for an interview or attempt to verify information. Furthermore,
we learned important information that could be critical to finding Melissa, but we have no one to contact
militias family has also been trying to establish meaningful communication with the department and when
Why they never received a call back after a tip came in from the national centre for missing and exploited children. Sorry,
philips responded days later with the following, which we are reading, exactly, as I stated, via email,
I'm sorry to hear that your brother had an expectation that I would call him back that I was unaware of
clearly recall speaking with him about the anonymous tipp regarding the age progression picture that was released by the national centre for missing and exploited children
I was also aware that follow up stories have been done to share with the public a fort worth peaty number that people with information could use to contact me. I have
have been in contact with representatives from knickknack ensure their hope that information beyond the anonymous tip is forthcoming
I ensured that your brother had multiple phone numbers to contact me directly. If the need should arise. I will share those numbers with you. I prefer.
The extent possible to deal with a single family representative.
who could then communicate with the larger family group,
I assure you that I am eager to find a resolution for you and your family, however,
I have not seen the text of the tipp that came to charleston and was
to believe that, due to the unanimous nature of the tip
Additional information from that source was unlikely while sergeant
the states that he is eager to find a resolution for the Highsmith family,
his most recent message came only after a week of daily emails to him and read as follows:
I'm willing to meet with you coordinate
a day which works best for you and your family, and I will work to accommodate you.
Unavailable the evening of november sixteenth and most of the day on the seventeenth and, of course, the thanksgiving holiday beyond.
I must be responsive to critical police incidents to the
smith's. It didn't sound like sergeant, Philips was eager to find Melissa or do me
to help their family in
The tone of his email reminded us of police chief neil noakes his response when
contacted him about the police department, refusing to investigate the claims of child sexual abuse in the tree.
A kennedy and bethany tyner case that we shared with you earlier this year.
in which chief noakes data that is department, never wants to hear about a minor being abused.
Recently, when the national centre for missing and exploited children tweeted about an anonymous tipp regarding the lesser in south carolina, the four
police spokesperson said only that they were delighted about the tipp and hoped it was melissa.
Because of the nonchalant tone of these communications. We,
to wonder if the fort worth police department ever cared about moonless case at all. Our records
Request were swiftly denied, though the Highsmith family is continuing to press for their release,
This is what melissa sister Rebecca said about that ends.
Though curious as to
why they don't want to release the records. Is it because they screwed up, and they didn't
investigate properly or they dropped the ball on something or I don't know something like this
Why can't we see the record there? Obviously not working this case and they're not working it. We
want to work at my mom
She doesn't remember a lot of things. You know the
The thing we have are electronic images of her. I dont know where the physical,
Copies of her pictures are in that.
Also be something that would be found in the fort worth. Please file.
when we asked out to how she felt about the police investigation. She told us the following
I think they did as much as they could have the police one.
Take out alighted hacker tat. They
I figured that I had something to do with it. He always pointed mom first, I didn't take it because
Another point dobbin stranded mine is that you know what I mean.
Seen how they were kind guerrilla me ask me questions and they brought a bag of clothes, then
that will not even worker even molested clothes,
but do you recognize any bids? You know they were growing me while I was crying.
and they showed me those calls on those armed militias clause. I don't reckon
any arm and a policeman.
Whoever was standing there listening and
Sure I'm leaving I'm going home
shower at home
was gone. I was thinking about get new polygraph and this guy says you know. You know her,
that paragraph cast they can't live
you do anything you don't wanna do I didn't.
The attorney this guy, I think, felt sorry,
because they thought they were treated man,
would have to take that people don't listen.
Me like that.
I don't all the newspapers called me.
I don't remember which was, I don't know
There was one of them and then
There was a news castle
energy interviewed me, and I told him exactly what happened. I mean I've been going over this all
over and over and over and over
tired and deprives than I was just
nobody to run to talk to my brother, carry that
Normally I want you to do he was he lived out of town and he wasn't there
There were so many things that we wished. We could have learned about the early investigation into Melissa's disappearance that could have.
to verify outer and carol stories did play,
Conversely, apartment complex did any
elsie the person claiming to be Ruth johnson,
did any neighbour here, the loud vehicle karel mention the alleged kidnapper was driving
any other mothers in the area had similar encounters with some one matching. The description given by carol at least
for now. All of the answers to those questions remain a mystery
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There is always an added layer of difficulty when we cover older cases. Please
files are often lost, destroyed or never existed.
Earlier this year? We covered the case of cynthia constantine.
Teenage girl missing from new york, since nineteen sixty nine to you
as before, Melissa disappeared,
police. In that case told us. The wreckers were in an archival storage unit that they weren't positive. They knew the location of
and then there are the faded memories that come with the passage of time and cynthia
case her brother, William, was the only remaining relative alive.
and we had to rely solely on his memory of events from fifty years ago,
similar to what alter and jeff have to try to remember,
but in the list of case there were some extra unnecessary obstacles that seem to continue to get norway
almost as though distractions were being thrown up in front of us. First. There was a troublesome series of events in which,
internet troll attempted to deter the Highsmith family from working with us, an express
their anger publicly that we do not interview them or include them in our work. On the case. To be frank, it was unclear what they would have had to offer beyond further internet speculation, and then,
there was a truly vexing event. We are still not able to fully comprehend. We learn that one particular family member had gone to such links in conducting their own investigation
They impersonated law enforcement, fell,
Kate, it information about another law enforcement entities, involvement and essentially filled in the gaps, so the story that can't be proven with their own speculation. This way
work exponentially more difficult as we had to go line by line through our interviews, trying to crabtree information against old newspapers. What other pod castors like vincent, strange and gone cold had learned and the information that simply made the most sense in the
we want to acknowledge will assess dad Jeff Highsmith, whose unwavering story has remained consistent over the years and he
been so gracious in giving interviews, despite how
a cold. It is for him to talk about losing his first born child when we
with him. He especially wanted to reiterate that he doesn't want to place blame on any one, but
is one specific reason he left out the second time around, don't wanna hook a body of work.
the camel's back. Why? I left
my son, which he would almost eighteen and
yeah. I take you at your car,
of course, I was upset with him. She was furious with, but he can
mobile about a year later, and
jumped on him, and she should I just to give you
my dear she said I hope you die, of slow down and rot in Hell.
I mean that really made me mad that our mother
say that to our own son, I'm here I was just show angry over that that's one of the family.
Pardon me to leave I just I should I'm not gonna, let this way anymore. She was really hateful I'm an hour perfect. I am not trying to say that
I hope you die a slogan that rule had wrought in hell that,
was that your own kid- and I just terrible terrible- I left home-
a nineteen, ninety eight, so he was eighteen.
Later till my kids will draw my kids grow,
I don't want to make the same mistake as I did the first time and not support my children, and I would caution was much more
cherry I've been going
this horrifying account of outer telling her son? She hoped he died. A slow death was what
by at least one of her other children as well- and we
told it remained vividly with them for years for that
We cannot imagine how Jeff must have been affected and the trauma he has experienced growing up without a sibling ended.
Spleen, though, does not absolve the fact that when we confronted him about information he gave us that turn
to be fast. He turned into a different, very scary person.
after giving him the opportunity to be honest with us privately, given
everything he had told us was thrown into question after we
discovered a pattern of dishonesty and the things he said this
is how he responded to us.
they don't interfere with my investigation, with my sister either got mother fucking resources to count on it. You don't even know what the fuck I'm talking about. You have no idea what I've done for six years with my wife and I have an uncovered. You have no fucking clue. My friends are, that are lawyers that are that are very smart people. You don't know my investigation, you don't know my angle, you don't know anything about what the fuck I'm talking about so go ahead and fucking call the foreign police department. I don't fucking care to watch the fuck you gonna. Do I'm gonna do what the fuck I gotta do get the fuck outta here we know
Jeff was speaking from a place of hurt, trauma and anger, not
like the ways the outer lashed out at him and his siblings. His life
has been unquestionably difficult, and we recognise that he is also a victim in this, but we also must acknowledge that being verbally, abused by anyone is unacceptable, and this was only one more heard. All we had to face and working on the second part of the story.
every family member we spoke to has our own pain and traumas,
All of the compounding factors that we see all too often in the family dynamics of those with a missing loved one in milan,
Cases seems to be especially exacerbated still.
Each person has done their best to move forward without letting melissa disappearance consume them. Jeff has remarried, since he left Alta after their youngest child, Jeff turned eighteen and he told us that he has finally found a marriage. That works on very merry
two years after I left
I mean I liked being married. I enjoyed
family life. My joy children
I really enjoy the family environment to you
chapter men out of she asked for the divorce,
after the fact about a year- and I am the one who paid for the divorce because you
the boys on the next day after the divorce. She got married. Her much complication
to a guy on land.
but about a year. Nevertheless, I got
Two years after we separated and I'm just happy ass can be
my car wife,
we never ever have.
argue. We have the task
can't believe I've, gotta marriage. I have
you're living for twenty seven years,
twenty seven years and measurable relationship, but I'm perfectly ecstatic
but my marriage. Now this
help Jeff, heal from the gaping hole left in his heart by malicious disappearance finding
happiness and enjoying the four children that he does have
Jeff was very transparent and forthcoming with the mistakes he made thing,
he thinks- may have prevented militias disappearance, but it's impossible to know so he has chosen to make the best of their relationship he has with his children and he remains resilient in his hope that Melissa will be found
stressed, is genuine desire to know what happened to her before he passes away.
Out to me simply express her emotions differently,
She seems to have a different perspective on how she feels about her children. Looking for Melissa today,
ability that she might be found and how her life has transpired over the last fifty years. In her
an uneducated words. She shared this with us. I pray for her ever
every once in a I pray for,
my family. You know so I don't know.
But I would love to symbol, is again it wouldn't be used
of course, our own here, but
can ever talked her again. That would be wonderful. I've heard also,
but she could have been taken by a child. Percinet, kidnap children and sold them
He reported me on the baby and couldn't have one job. My son
Now the man took her. I don't
I understand that, but I just
we start nowhere
you know wherever she is
we ve got. It has been taking care of her
I believe that she is
goodbye and I hope it well
no they're gonna. She was
You won't remember any of that. So I don't they.
She would blame me haven't you
two younger know what is going on
made you the person that took courage.
By her own daughter. You know that's what I'm I've always hoped.
And I dont want to believe that guy I mean I didn't know, guide and a personal way back then going to church
I don't want to believe that guide would page may provide the interpreters
the questioner. I don't know- and I think I like that I just had to
that guy did what he goes fence promoters of. I don't know. Maybe
not that of a mother. I mean,
What kind of a mother let turk child be kidnapped, quicker, but bothered to check out. He pulled the rider so bad mother. Let that happen
like I could have done more to find a better baby, sitter or something I don't know. Maybe I could look a boy to myself. I was for a long time ago and avoid job also prepare the world had two or three those feelings and I've come to
that point where I would appeal to all those feelings until the last couple years or so- and I know my kid,
he- saw a finer and you don't think that's great for them, but whatever its gargoyle, that's gonna have
I believe that guy's got hurt and please get taken care of her.
All these years. I believe that with all my heart and I believe that
forgiven me report
it out of my hand so easily that tried to forgive,
I think I have forgiven, but will you stay?
How come I get back?
when you know I don't know
tried to forgive them, and I think I have think paths that
I don't know how the kid about me. You know I'm a couple three weeks,
go when Becky was in her talking to me in on you, I found out tat. He was going.
South carolina that have just why.
I didn't know that she had to work at once,
I found out he was gone. I thought I got that just hit me so bad and I had a complete.
Well. I told my daughter, I said where was I
when she was kidnapped. Where was he before he was kidnapped? Hidden
send me any money, didn't send any export and
Why aren't you know he didn't hair about us? He loved dodge for someone else.
And you didn't even parallels after we were in taxes and that's why I just get the trial. Try to stay away from you. Don't talk about these things at all,
because I break battle automatic bad memories.
Whatever bad memories. It is the our has regarding bulus disappearance, her children, see and recognise that she has been traumatized repeatedly since birth,
repeated those early childhood learn behaviors throughout her life.
Equally doing the best. She knows how to do. We asked
Torreon was, she believes happened to her sister, especially since she seems to have been treated very harshly, perhaps because she was born just a year after her older sister rebecca an outer didn't one another child so soon or maybe
because she reminded out of Melissa in some way. We
Please don't know what
you do know is that Victoria holds no grudges against her mother. I,
leave to be the case that my mother was at work and
she left the baby with carol. I believe that
to be the truth. I would hope
my mother would never be a part of something happening to my sister
I mean you never want to believe that about apparent that they would do some,
like that to their child, and I dont know
I dont know carol besides, what
heard from my mother, and I asked how she knew Carolyn she's like well. We went to the weak, we drew up in the orphanage together,
So it is a sad situation died.
There wasn't around when that happened cause. Sometimes I wonder if my dad, what have been around
maybe my mother, what new been working and she would have been home with Melissa. So I don't know what could it said? I you know I do,
take my mother had anything to do with it. I think she feels guilty,
that she entrusted someone to watch her child.
Person ran off with her child. I would feel good
for the rest of my life. I would feel like it was my fault too, because I had to work.
But I was trying to get a centre for the child and now look what happened like then that something
I would have to carry for the rest of my life, my mom,
had to carry this her whole life she's had to
Harry this burden. I just
I hope we find my sister, because you know I know that's been an empty spot in my mother and father's life. You know that was the first child. There's four of us, but there's one more of us. There's five of us there's not four of us. There's five of us and
we knew there was five of us. It was hard to forget that and why
My brother started working on the case tirelessly six years ago.
I've never met my sister, but I get emotional about it. Sometimes, when I see the pictures and because
my sister she's out there somewhere she's missing, then I could probably walk right. Pastor.
Wouldn't even know it. It was her the goal.
I hope we find my sister it would it with death
we bring closure to our family and I think I think it
make my mom really happy she's been unhappy for as long as I can remember an I'm hoping
you know mothers are being gone and we us finding her would
we bring a lot of peace in closer to my mother closure of paying that she's and gill that she's been walking around with all these years. It you know
dad, who gets to see his daughter again. She's, probably get
children this got children you know like we could probably have a whole another family out here somewhere. So I'm really
hoping we find her.
Four melissa, second, sister Sharon. There are a lot of outcome, she thinks are plausible and her sisters case. I think there's a couple
of probabilities, and that's that
honestly we're just searching for answers our family, the siblings
Have carried this trauma, my mom
in tat are so tired,
so tired of people coming forward and my dad is super eager he's, always super eager to just he'll go
the flow he'll, do whatever, but he's tired to my mom and dad or tired of this, and so it's us, it's its civil
the ones that are better tasting
The story chasing the leaves chasing the text. I am I
so my mom's kit, my brother's kept my sister's kit and my dad's kit, all
uploaded to this website,.
Molasses, third sister Rebecca firmly believes that she's out there and hope
that social media in genetic genealogy will lead her family to finding the lesser. I think that she was abducted.
Someone who want
child. Maybe they had lost a child
and so they were looking to find some,
to replace their lost child or they couldn't have children
they were looking for a baby to have. That's always been my feeling
I have always thought that she was
I somewhere and always had this hope that we would
her one day, but it out it's always so
like how do you start like where'd? You start with my brother.
like starting this space
page in cod cast
such a kind of like gives us a new home.
with the way technology is now that
the possibility specially with
However? One is wanting to
their dna trusted, find out their ancestry, I'm oldest because
most is not here, but it's not who wines posts to be so
it just knowing if she's alive, I think would be-
enough for my parents: it's really
emotional like mighty
My whole life. I think
I had to
to take on the role of the big sister who fixed
breathing and took care of everybody, and I mean that role. This is my role. My whole life and I.
Think it was mine. It's it's not my role. It just want. I just want
share this story, I'm sure of it.
There will be other people who can relate to this story.
I have two has a theory about what he thinks happened to his oldest sister.
I thought my mom had something to do with policies disappearance. We think the
boys club kind of focus
so my mom and in really, but a lot of good police work, probably possibly go under untouched.
how come oscar was never interviewed by the foot by the f b I or or the full police department. If he lived at the same apartment complex how come he was never interviewed. How come he was.
The question you know my mom and dad were separated the time a moment. A single mother with the two
Oh baby girl, in a very short
situation. I think that
no carol knew that oscar was
the bar at the
We believe that article was a middle man for trafficking kid, and we think that ask
broke up the conversation stating a careful thought
but her were made to your old and actually visible now going through shot, at least at my theory and
There's somebody question with terror that we need to have that she will not talk to us.
Well, why? Wouldn't you talk to us? We never
He met her like she suffer never once he was never a suspect.
The whole story is like needed like it, and this doesn't make any sense
so what happened to twenty one month old, Melissa Highsmith were basically left with three possible outcomes. One we shared with you was the possibility that molests was sold in an illegal adoption. We do believe this is a plausible theory.
But there is another possibility to, and it would be irresponsible of us to ignore it on the basis that it's an uncomfortable possibility that no one wants to speak of, but probably every parent can relate to elsie was a young, newly single mother
she had to find housing, transportation, child care in a job with very few resources. She didn't have many options. She worked long hours and was likely exhausted by all of the responsibility she was shouldering as a single mother. Is it possible that there was an accident in which melissa was accidently shaken to hard or pushed against something and suffered a fatal injury or in some other manner ended up debt we know also has a short fuse. It's not a pleasant or comfortable place where our minds to go
but we will always remain true to the goal of our work and that is to examine and explore all possibilities, no matter how uncomfortable they may be was
ruth johnson, a real person who responded to the classified, had the outer placed in the paper and came to the door that day with the intention of keeping melissa
we don't have the answers, but Melissa's family remains hopeful. The answers will come, especially considering new technologies. We have today like genetic genealogy
at the time of melissa's disappearance. She was just a couple months shy of her second birthday. She had brown, hair and hazel eyes. She has a birthmark on her upper back near her neck, described by her family as a tomato birthmark, a reddish spot that was several inches in diameter at the time she vanished. If you have any information regarding the disappearance of Melissa Highsmith, we urge you to call any law enforcement agency. You can reach she overheard a conversation between her
father oscar and her aunt, oscars sister anne. In that conversation, they said something to his sister Oscar sister said something to the effect of. We know that that is in your real child, and we know where you got her. She never confronted her dad about it. She's just sorted kept it a secret that she heard that overheard that and so that create a doubt for her. That's the reason why she was willing to go with just to get a dna test according to Becky and the rest of the family. Oscar. Is
rate man. He is a great father, he's a good grandfather. He is just a wonderful stand up. Human being I mean
I'm not surprised that he's gotten away with it if he'd, if he did do something, but I also I am not saying that he did do something it's just the family were
something we want to see something, and my brother has focused on that
and he focuses on that because.
I don't know. I think I think you see what you want to see. You know rate
well said that when she sat down and met Becky for the first time she was in shock at how much she looked similar to my mom. In the end, they did do a dna test, but they didn't do it through ancestry and they just can't let that go. They can't let that go.
meeting her and seeing her speaking to her. They can't let it go that that looks so similar to mom
That brings us to the end of episodes. Three hundred and seventy two I'd like to thank everyone who spoke with us for this story. Special thanks to Vincent strange from gone, could be sure to check out his show where, if you listen to pod casts, if you ever missing, but one that you'd like to have people on the show, there's a case emission form at the vanish pod, castor com. If you like to join in on the discussion, there's a page and discussion group on facebook, I'm on twitter at the vanished pod and also on instagram, if you like our show, please give us a five star waiting in review. You can also support the show by contributing hunky dory next week will be taking a break to spend some time, remembering all that we are grateful for enjoying the company of our loved ones. We hope that you do the same and we'll be back with a new attitude from the seat of washington on December, fair thanks for listening.
As our loyal listeners no felonious floor
has researched its fair share of heinous crimes, but nothing
in preparing for the evil in this third season innocence sold when it
ten year old girl vanishes her parents embark on a desperate
west to find her in the process.
Cover evidence that their daughter had been lured into the hands of dangerous child sex traffickers and expose similar cases of vulnerable girls being targeted list,
two full loneliest florida innocence sold exclusive
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Transcript generated on 2022-12-15.