Tara Calico

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Tara Leigh Calico
Born Tara Leigh Calico
(1969-02-28)February 28, 1969
Disappeared September 20, 1988 (aged 19)
Belen, New Mexico
Status Missing for 26 years, 8 months and 13 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.

The photograph[edit]

The two unidentified persons seen in the Polaroid found in June 1989. It is suspected the female is Calico.

On June 15, 1989, a Polaroid photo of an unidentified young woman and a boy, both gagged and seemingly bound, was found in the parking lot of a convenience store in Port St. Joe, Florida. It was theorized that the woman 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, about 7 miles from his family's campsite where he had disappeared, and 75 miles from where Calico disappeared. Police believe that Henley wandered off and died of exposure.[1]

Her mother believed the woman in the photo was indeed her daughter due in part to what appeared to be a scar on the woman'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 woman. Scotland Yard analysed the photo and concluded that the woman was Calico, but a second analysis by the Los Alamos National Laboratory disagreed.[2] An FBI analysis of the photo was inconclusive.[3]

Two other Polaroid photographs, possibly of Calico, have surfaced over the years, but they have yet to be released to the public.[4]

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.[5]

Later developments[edit]

Twenty years after her disappearance, Rene Rivera, sheriff of Valencia County, claimed that he knew what had happened to Calico. According to Rivera, boys who knew her drove up behind her in a truck and some form of car 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.[3] 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.[3]


  1. ^ Paul Buchanan (22 July 2013). J. Patrick O'Connor, ed. "The Polaroid". Crime Magazine. Retrieved 1 September 2014. 
  2. ^ Linthicum, Leslie (September 14, 2008). "Mystery of Tara Calico". Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, New Mexico). 
  3. ^ a b c Garcia, Clara (20 September 2008). "Twenty years ago today, Tara Calico disappeared into thin air". Valencia County News-Bulletin (Belen, New Mexico). Retrieved 11 September 2014. 
  4. ^ "New Letters Stir 20-Year-Old Unsolved Mystery of Apparent Child Abduction Photos". Fox News. Associated Press. August 29, 2009. Retrieved September 11, 2014. 
  5. ^ "Tara Calico may have been alive in 1994 [Archive] - Sitcoms Online Message Boards - Forums". sitcomsonline.com. Retrieved 22 April 2015. 

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