After decades of fruitless investigations, false leads and disappointments, the family was notified on Nov. 6 about a DNA match that showed Mr. Highsmith had a grandchild he didn’t know about. It was one of Ms. Walden’s children. The match was based on samples submitted to 23andMe, the genetic testing company, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Sharon Highsmith, 45, said on Monday that Ms. Walden told them that she thought they were trying to scam her. She said she would pray for them. But then Ms. Walden started reading articles about the Highsmith family. The girl in the missing poster had a birthmark on her back. So did Ms. Walden. Her husband studied the baby photos on the family’s Facebook page. Soon she had a change of heart, she said.
Ms. Walden said she then asked the woman who had raised her — the woman she thought was her mother — about her real identity. Yes, she was told, she had paid $500 for her in 1972. She was Baby Melissa, the woman said.
Further DNA testing confirmed it. At a church in Fort Worth on Saturday, Ms. Walden met with her father, Mr. Highsmith, and her mother, Alta Apantenco, 73, in a tearful reunion filled with hugs and prayer. They gave interviews to a local TV station, and the story was picked up by news outlets around the world.
“It was very emotional,” Ms. Walden said in an interview. “One of the first things that came to my mind was, ‘I finally have a mother and a father that want me, and they love me. I finally have people that love me.’”