Tara Leigh Calico was born on February 28th, 1969 in Belen, New Mexico.
On Tuesday 20th September, 1988, Tara left her home at around 9:30am to go on her daily bike ride along New Mexico State Road 47. Tara, who was 19 at the time, rode this route every morning and was sometimes accompanied by her mum, Patty Doel. Patty stopped riding after she felt she had been stalked by a motorist. Patty advised Tara to start carrying Mace, but Tara rejected this idea.
Tara asked her mum to come and get her if she wasn’t back by noon, as she had plans to play tennis with her boyfriend at 12:30pm. Patty went out to look for Tara, but when she couldn’t find her, she contacted the police. Pieces of Tara’s Sony Walkman and a cassette tape were found along her route, which Patty believes Tara did to mark her trail. Several witnesses saw Tara on her bike, and other witnesses saw a light-coloured pickup truck (possibly a 1953 Ford) with a camper shell follow her closely behind.
On 15th June, 1989, a polaroid photo of a young woman and boy, both bound and gagged, was found in a parking lot of a convenience store in Port St. Joe, Florida. The woman that found the polaroid said that a white windowless Toyota cargo van had been parked in the parking space where the photo was found. She said that a man in his 30s with a moustache was driving the vehicle, and although police set up roadblocks, the man nor his vehicle have ever been found.
According to Polaroid officials, the photo was taken after May 1989 as the film used in the photograph was not available until then. The photograph was aired on the TV show A Current Affair and friends who watched the show thought that the woman in the photograph resembled Tara. Tara’s mother was called in, and she positively identified Tara as being the woman in the image. She said that a scar on the women’s leg was identical to one Tara had from being involved in a car accident, and that one of Tara’s favourite books My Sweet Audrina by V.C. Andrews, was lying next to the woman.
Scotland Yard officials positively identified Tara as being the woman in the photo, but the Los Alamos National Laboratory disagreed. The FBI also analysed the photo, but their results were inconclusive.
The boy in the photograph is still unknown. It was first thought that it could be Michael Henley, a boy also from New Mexico who disappeared in April 1988. Michael’s mother said she was “almost certain”, but the police do not think that it is. Michael’s remains were found in June 1990 in the Zumi Mountains, about 7 miles (11 km) away from his family’s campsite from where he disappeared from. Police believe that Michael got lost and died from exposure.
Since then, there have been a few other photos which have been said to be Tara. In 2009, pictures of a young boy were sent to Port St.Joe police chief, postmarked June 10th and August 10th 2009 from Albuquerque, New Mexico. One letter contained a photo printed on copy paper of a young boy with sandy hair, and on the photo someone had drawn in black ink over the boys mouth, as if he had been gagged. The second letter contained the original image of the boy. On 12th August 2009, The Star newspaper in Port St.Joe received a third letter, the same image of the boy with a gag drawn over his mouth, with the same post mark Albuquerque, August 10th 2009. None of the letters had a return address, or any indication of the child’s identity. This lead investigators to believe it was related to Tara’s disappearance.
In 2008, the sheriff of Valencia County reported that he had information about Tara’s case. He said that it had been reported that two teenage boys had accidentally hit Tara with a truck, they panicked and Tara then died from her injuries. According to the sheriff, the boys knew Tara and they drove up behind her in a truck which caused an accident. Tara died as a result of this, and those involved covered it up. The sheriff has said that he knows the names of those involved, but due to not having Tara’s body, he could not make a case. It has never been made public what evidence led to this conclusion.
Tara’s step father, John Doel, said that the sheriff should not have made those comments if he was not willing to arrest anyone, and that strong circumstantial evidence should be enough for a conviction.
Tara’s case still remains open, and in 2019 the FBI announced they are offering up to $20,000 for information leading to the identification or location of Tara.
True crime, missing, unsolved, USA