|Tara Leigh Calico|
|Born||Tara Leigh Calico
February 28, 1969
|Disappeared||September 20, 1988 (aged 19)
Belen, New Mexico
|Status||Missing for 25 years, 9 months and 12 days|
Tara Leigh Calico (born February 28, 1969) disappeared near her home in Belen, New Mexico on September 20, 1988. Her case, believed to be a kidnapping, received extensive coverage on A Current Affair, Unsolved Mysteries, and America's Most Wanted. It was also profiled on The Oprah Winfrey Show and 48 Hours.
On September 20, 1988, Calico left her home at about 9:30 in the morning to go on her customary bike ride. She told her mother, Patty Doel, to come and get her if she was not home by noon. Doel went searching for her daughter along her usual bike route, but could not find her and contacted the police. Pieces of her Sony Walkman and a cassette tape were discovered along the route and Doel believed that Calico might have dropped them in an attempt to mark her trail. Several people saw Calico riding her bicycle, which has never been found. No one witnessed her presumed abduction, although several witnesses observed a 1953 or 1954 Ford pickup following her. It is not known if this vehicle was connected to her disappearance. All efforts to locate the pickup have failed.
On June 15, 1989, a Polaroid photo of an unidentified young girl and boy, both bound and gagged, were found in the parking lot of a convenience store in Port St. Joe, Florida. It was theorized that the girl in the photo was Calico and that the boy was Michael Henley, also of New Mexico, who had disappeared in April 1988. According to investigators, the picture had to have been taken after May 1989 because the particular film used in the photograph was not available until then. Despite much conjecture, the identification of the boy in the photograph as Henley seems unlikely because his remains were discovered in 1990 in the Zuni Mountains, not far from where he had disappeared. Police believe that Henley wandered away from the site and died of exposure, about 75 miles from where Calico disappeared.
Her mother believed the girl in the photo was indeed her daughter due in part to what appeared to be a scar on the girl's leg, similar to one Calico had received in a car accident. In addition, a paperback copy of V.C. Andrews' My Sweet Audrina, said to be one of Calico's favorite books, can be seen lying next to the girl. Scotland Yard analysed the photo and concluded that the girl was Calico, but a second analysis by the Los Alamos National Laboratory disagreed. An FBI analysis of the photo was inconclusive.
There were several reported sightings of her in 1988 and 1989, mostly in the southern half of the United States, but none of these sightings could be confirmed.
Twenty years after her disappearance, Rene Rivera, sheriff of Valencia County, announced that he knew what happened to Calico. According to Rivera, boys who knew her from school drove up behind her in a truck and some form of accident followed. Calico later died and those responsible covered up the crime. Rivera states he knows the names of those involved, but that, without a body, he cannot make a case. He has not released whatever evidence has led him to this conclusion. No arrests have been made and the case remains open. Calico's stepfather, John Doel, has disputed these claims, saying that the sheriff should not have made these comments if he was not willing to arrest anyone and that strong circumstantial evidence should be enough for a conviction.
- Mystery of Tara Calico, Leslie Linthicum, 14 September 2008
- Twenty years ago today, Tara Calico disappeared into thin air, Clara Garcia News-Bulletin, 20 September 2008
- "New Letters Stir 20-Year-Old Unsolved Mystery of Apparent Child Abduction Photos". Fox News. August 29, 2009.
- Case File 257DFNM, The Doe Network
- Tara Calico :Gone Without A Trace
- Joline Gutierrez Krueger: Patty Doel waited for Tara until the day she died, By Joline Gutierrez Krueger, June 8, 2006, Columnists : Albuquerque Tribune[dead link] Archive copy at the Wayback Machine
- Tara Leigh Calico, The Charley Project
- New Letters Stir 20-Year-Old Unsolved Mystery of Apparent Child Abduction Photos, Published August 29, 2009, Associated Press