Hundreds of thousands of young children have fallen victim to a kidnapping.

In the United States alone, a child goes missing or is abducted every 40 seconds, according to the Child Crime Prevention & Safety Center. 

About 840,000 people go missing every year, of which 85% to 90% are estimated to be children, according to the FBI. 

These United States kidnapping cases are stories of individuals who were captured as young children, but eventually found their way back to their families days, weeks, months and years after they were taken. 

Many of those who were kidnapped as children now, in their adult lives, share their stories with others and are involved in advocacy work around missing children. (Sylvain Gaboury/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)


  1. Melissa Highsmith
  2. Elizabeth Smart
  3. Jaycee Dugard
  4. Carlina White
  5. Kara Robinson Chamberlain
  6. Alicia Kozakiewicz
  7. Ben Ownby and Shawn Hornbeck

1. Melissa Highsmith

Melissa Highsmith was reunited with her family in November 2022 after being separated for over 50 years. 

According to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, the family had moved to the Fort Worth area and were in need of a babysitter. Highsmith’s mother placed an ad in the local paper seeking one. 

A woman responded to the ad and on August 23, 1971, the babysitter picked up Highsmith from her mother’s apartment, where a roommate had been watching her, and she was never seen by the family again, until November 2022.  

In November 2022, after many efforts by the family to find Highsmith, they submitted DNA to 23andMe, where matches came back of three children of a couple named John and Melanie Brown. 

Melanie, who turned out to be Melissa, was still living in Fort Worth, Texas. 

“One of our sisters called her daughter – the youngest one – and her daughter led us to her mom,” Jeff Highsmith, Melissa’s younger brother, told Fox News Digital in November 2022. 

Melissa reconnected with her family after 51 years on Nov. 22, 2022. 


2. Elizabeth Smart

Elizabeth Smart was abducted from her family’s Salt Lake City home when she was 14 years old on June 5, 2002, by Brian Mitchell.

Her sister, Mary Katherine Smart, who shared a room with her, was the only witness to the kidnapping, and woke her parents a couple of hours after the crime was committed when she felt it was safe to do so, according to 

When questioned by an officer while out, Smart eventually revealed her identity and was reunited with her family in March 2003. 


In 2009, Smart testified that she was drugged, starved, tied to a tree and raped as often as four times a day while she was in captivity. 

Smart’s captor was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted on kidnapping charges. His wife, Wanda Breeze, also went to prison and was released after 15 years. 

A close-up of Elizabeth Smart talking to a mic

Elizabeth Smart is now an inspirational speaker and an author. (Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for Lifetime)

Today, Smart is married to Matthew Gilmour and she is a mother of three. She is an inspirational speaker and is a published author with two books, “My Story” and “Where There’s Hope.” 

“Your safety should always be a priority,” Smart said in an interview with Fox News Digital in December 2022. “And trust your gut. No matter what it is. If it’s a party, there will be another party. If it’s a date, and you don’t feel safe, don’t worry about offending your date. Your safety should be a priority. Don’t take chances when it comes to your safety.”

“Make sure you have a plan before you go meet up with someone that you’ve never met,” she continued. “Or maybe you have met someone and something happens. Think about what you would do in different scenarios. Talk about it with your family. Talk about it with your friends. Build your support network. Talk to them about what you’re doing. Let people be involved in your life.” 

She also launched the mobile app “Guardian” with the Portland-based tech company Q5id that helps quickly locate missing children and adults nationwide. 

3. Jaycee Dugard

Jaycee Dugard was held captive for 18 years. 

When she was 11 years old, she was zapped by a stun gun at a bus stop near her home in South Lake Tahoe, California, in 1991. 


She was taken by Philip Garrido and his wife Nancy. 

She was held hostage for 18 years, where she was repeatedly raped, according to CBS News. During her time in captivity, she gave birth to two of Garrido’s children, one when she was 14 and another when she was 17, according to the outlet. 

Jaycee Dugard speaking at event

Jaycee Dugard wrote a memoir in 2011 called “A Stolen Life.” (Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images)

Phillip and Nancy entered guilty pleas to the kidnapping of Dugard on April 28, 2011, according to the Crime Museum. Phillip, who was a registered sex offender before the kidnapping, received 431 years to life in prison, while Nancy received a sentence of 36 years behind bars. 

Dugard published a memoir, “A Stolen Life,” in 2011 telling her story.

4. Carlina White

In August 1987, when Carlina White was 19 days old, she started to run a fever, so her parents Joy White and Carl Tyson, took her to Harlem Hospital in New York, according to ABC News.

A women named Ann Pettway, who was disguised as a nurse, kidnapped the baby and raised her under the alias Nejdra Nance. 

As the girl aged, she began to become suspicious of her alleged mother. This led her to search the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s website in 2010, where she saw a baby photo similar to her own. 

She was put in touch with her real mother, Joy White. DNA tests confirmed a match and the two were reunited after 23 years in January 2011. 

Pettway was sentenced to 12 years behind bars. 

5. Kara Robinson Chamberlain

In 2002, Kara Robinson Chamberlain was abducted by a serial killer named Richard Evonitz. She was playing at a friend’s house when she was approached by Evonitz, who put a gun to her neck, telling her to come with him, according to Chamberlain’s website. 


She was held captive and assaulted for 18 hours. She escaped when he was asleep, and went to law enforcement to give the details of the man who took her, according to the site. 

After a high-speed chase in Sarasota, Florida, Evonitz shot himself, according to People. 

Kara Robinson

Kara Robinson Chamberlain was abducted by serial killer Richard Evonitz from her friend’s yard in 2002. (Kara Robinson Chamberlain)

Today, Chamberlain is married and has two boys. 

She has done a lot of advocacy work over the years, is co-host of the podcast “Survivor’s Guide to True Crime,” and was the focus of the 2023 movie “The Girl Who Escaped: The Kara Robinson Story” and the 2021 documentary, “Escaping Captivity: The Kara Robinson Story.” 

6. Alicia ‘Kozak’ Kozakiewicz

Alicia ‘Kozak’ Kozackiewicz’s case was one of the first widely covered cases involving online predators. 


“I met somebody online who I thought was my friend, who could understand me,” Kozak recalled during a 2021 interview with Fox Nation host Tomi Lahren during an episode of “No Interruption.” “That’s what predators do. They look to find vulnerabilities in a child. And the next thing I knew, I was in a car, and this man was squeezing my hand so tightly that I thought he had broken it.”

Kozak’s abductor, whose name she won’t speak, according to Fox News Digital, took her from Pittsburgh to his home in Virginia. She was held captive for four days. 

“He chained me to the floor with this dog collar next to the bed. I was raped and beaten and tortured in that house for four days,” Kozak told Fox News Digital in April 2023.

Alicia Kozak

Alicia, at 13 years old, was rescued by FBI after four days with her captor. (Courtesy of Alicia “Kozak” Kozakiewicz)

On the fourth day of being held hostage, her attacker told her they were going to “go for a ride.” 

“I knew in that moment there was nothing I could do,” Kozak told Fox News Digital. “I knew he was going to kill me.”

That same day, she heard banging on the door, which turned out to be the FBI. The FBI was brought to the location after someone saw a video of Kozak, which was livestreamed by her abductor, and recognized her from a missing person poster from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. He called the police. 

“I remember dragging that cold, heavy chain out, and trying to put my hands up but also trying to cover myself at the same time. I had no clothing on. I was staring at the end of a gun,” Kozak told Fox News Digital. 


She was returned to her parents and spent the following years as a motivational speaker and has been an advocate for internet safety. 

7. Ben Ownby and Shawn Hornbeck

Ben Ownby and Shawn Hornbeck were both kidnapped by the same man, Michael Devlin, who is now serving 72 life terms, according to the Crime Museum. 

Hornbeck was 11 when he was kidnapped in Missouri while he was riding his bike to a friend’s house. He was held captive for four years. While he was missing, his parents set up a foundation to help look for missing children, called the Shawn Hornback Foundation, according to the source. 

Devlin kidnaped a second child, Ben Ownby, on Jan. 8, 2007, and a neighbor gave the police a description of the suspicious white truck, which took them to the location of both boys, according to the Crime Museum. 

Both of the children were reunited with their families. The finding of the two boys is referred to as the “Missouri Miracle.” 

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