Texas Toddler Was Kidnapped 51 Years Ago by Babysitter — Now, She May Have Been Spotted in South Carolina

Melissa Hightower, then 21 months old, was last seen at her Fort Worth, Texas, home on Aug. 23, 1971
A 21-month-old girl who was allegedly kidnapped by her babysitter in 1971 may have been spotted more than 1,000 miles away from where she was taken.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, on Thursday, the organization received an anonymous tip of a possible sighting of Melissa Highsmith, who would now be 52 years old, in Charleston, S.C. The tipster said that a person who resembles the age-progression photo of Highsmith was spotted on Daniels Island.

Melissa’s missing person’s poster indicates she was last seen as a toddler at her Fort Worth, Texas, home on Aug. 23, 1971.

Melissa’s younger brother, Jeff Highsmith, 42, tells PEOPLE his sister was abducted decades ago by a woman claiming to be a babysitter, after their mother put an ad in the local paper looking for childcare while she worked as a waitress.

“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 of kids of her own,” Jeff says.

“She was supposed to meet my mom at her work for an interview, and she never showed up. 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 says.

Jeff says his mother hired the babysitter, and, while the mother was at work, the babysitter showed up to the apartment his mother shared with a roommate to pick up Melissa.

Years later, the roommate reportedly told Jeff the babysitter who showed up to get Melissa did so in an “odd” choice of outfit.

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“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,” he describes.

The roommate handed off Melissa, and that was the last time anyone who knew the girl ever saw her.

While Jeff admits he’s never met Melissa — he was born years after she was abducted — he says he’s committed to finding his big sister.

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

Jeff says the NCMEC has not yet been able to confirm if the sighting is in fact his sister, and PEOPLE’s request for comment from the organization was not immediately returned.

Anyone with information on the case is asked to call 911, the NCMEC at 1-800-THE-LOST, or Fort Worth police at 817-335-4222.

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