The Disappearance of Tara Calico:
On September 20, 1988, Belen, New Mexico 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 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. The woman who found that photo said that it was found in the parking space of where a white windowless Toyota cargo van driven by a man with a mustache believed to be in his 30s was parking when she arrived at the store; however, the man was never caught nor brought to interrogation.
Calico’s 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. An FBI analysis of the photo was inconclusive.
Twenty years after the Polaroid photo from the Port St. Joe parking lot was found and shared by the media, pictures of a boy not confirmed to be the one in the photo were sent to the Port St. Joe police chief, David Barnes. He received two letters, postmarked June 10 and Aug. 10, 2009, from Albuquerque, N.M. One letter contained a photo, printed on copy paper, of a young boy with sandy brown hair. Someone had drawn a black band in ink on the photo, over the boy’s mouth, as if it were covered in tape as in the 1989 picture. The second letter contained an original image of the boy. On Aug. 12, The Star newspaper in Port St. Joe received a third letter, also postmarked in Albuquerque on Aug. 10 and depicting the same image, of a boy with black marker drawn over his mouth. None of the letters contained a return address or a note indicating the child’s identity, making the officials there believe it may have something to do with the disappearance of Tara Calico. The letters were sent the same time a self-proclaimed psychic woman called about her, saying she have met a runaway in California with whom she worked in a strip club; this girl was eventually murdered. The caller said she had dreams suggesting the runaway may have been Calico and that she may be buried in California (searches led to nothing). The photos were given to the FBI for further investigation in hope of finding fingerprints or possible DNA evidence.
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. 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.
Let’s start with the Polaroid. I really do understand why it would be that Tara’s mother believed the young girl in this photo was her daughter. If I were her mother, I would as well. I would believe it and see it simply because it’s both what I want to see and believe. It’s a way that we as human beings hold on to hope.
The fact is the young girl in this picture is not Tara Calico. Most likely this picture was some sort of joke and it has nothing what so ever to do with Tara Calico.
Clearly both individuals in this picture do not look despite what some choose to see, terrified. The boy has a similar look on his face as my son did as a young boy when I was making him clean up after himself. It’s a forced look of being hurt or upset.
The young girl looks annoyed more than anything.
The scar Tara’s mother saw could simply be a blemish in the film or a bruise. When I enlarge the photo it does not appear to be a scar at all. It really does look like a blemish in the film itself.
The VC Andrews book? Well here is a sad truth and I can’t believe even I admit to reading them, back in the 80’s you’d be really hard pressed to find any young girl who didn’t read every single one of them and have one as her favorite book ever. If only our parents knew what those books were about…The book in and of itself is not even a coincidence because it was something just about every girl back in that time frame had as part of her book collection.
The witness who found the picture strikes me as pretty darn odd. First, who the hell remembers in vivid detail the car we parked next to, then remember it’s occupant when we are running into the store?
Here’s why I do not buy her story, she had a really vivid description of a white windowless Toyota cargo van, with a man in his 30’s with a mustache. Despite the police setting up roadblocks and checkpoints they never found this vehicle or it’s occupant. What’d he do drive it into the ocean?
None of that means the witness lied. I believe wholeheartedly that she did in fact find that photo, but not in the way she reported it to police.
We as human beings have this creative way of seeing something the way we want to if we have trouble with processing what it is that we are really looking at or hearing. So what that means is that while yes the woman did in fact find the photo, her brain was struggling to comprehend not only what she was seeing but how it got to that location at that point in time. Part of her story is based off the deep seeded belief she had about windowless cargo vans and the men who drive them. I don’t believe she found that photo the exact way she reported it. She found it and wanted to be helpful, the rest of her story sort of falls off of a cliff after that.
Last but not least, the girl in the photo is younger than Tara is in some of Tara’s last photo’s. It’s simply not possible that these are the same two individuals.
I don’t feel the need to address what this person said as it has not one shred of credibility.
I like this part of this case the most because Sheriff Rivera was actually on to something. While I don’t agree with how he presented it he actually provided the most accurate account of what did in fact happen to Tara Calico. .
It was widely reported that Sheriff Rivera had some sort of informant that disclosed to him about some boys driving up behind Tara and hitting her with the truck they were driving. The only problem with this is that he didn’t have an informant at all.
I believe Sheriff Rivera came up with the informant part of his story so that it would give it more credibility because after all he wasn’t going to name anyone…he admitted to the media that he had known for years who killed her, he had enough evidence to get arrest warrants but never did because he had no body? Really?
Despite the fact that I find parts of his story ridiculous he is correct in part of what he says.
She was killed by individuals that were local, in fact she knew her killers. The manner in which she died however was not some sort of car accident, she was beaten to death. Whether or not someone thought she was going to die and then beat her as he panicked, I don’t know. What I do know is that if you were to put the pictures of the suspects in front of me from that era I could point out the responsible individual. I believe the individual also sustained some sort of injury to his hand through the course of Tara’s murder. Note it’s not “individuals” that were responsible for her death, although I do believe more than one individual helped cover it up.
It is also well known that Sheriff Rivera was not well liked in fact many in his very own community believe him to be untrustworthy. The fact remains however, he was one of the only people who claimed to have known what happened to Tara Calico who happened to be pretty darn close to right.
It’s never to late to open up and say something about this case, it’s also never to late for Sheriff Rivera to actually provide real information in an effort to substantiate his claims. I can substantiate mine because I am an empath and see it for what it is and how it happened (not to be confused with someone who is a psychic). At this point as of today Tara has been missing for 27 years and 6 days isn’t it time the truth were finally told so she could be heard?
Cristal M Clark
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Wikipedia of course then:
- Paul Buchanan (22 July 2013). J. Patrick O’Connor, ed. “The Polaroid”. Crime Magazine. Retrieved 1 September 2014.
- “The Polaroid” By Paul Buchaman, July 22, 2013.
- New Letters Stir 20-Year-Old Unsolved Mystery of Apparent Child Abduction Photos
- Linthicum, Leslie (September 14, 2008). “Mystery of Tara Calico”. Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, New Mexico).
- Garcia, Clara (20 September 2008). “Twenty years ago today, Tara Calico disappeared into thin air”. Valencia County News-Bulletin (Belen, New Mexico). Retrieved 11 September2014.
- “New Letters Stir 20-Year-Old Unsolved Mystery of Apparent Child Abduction Photos”. Fox News. Associated Press. August 29, 2009. Retrieved September 11, 2014.
- “Tara Calico may have been alive in 1994 [Archive] – Sitcoms Online Message Boards – Forums”. sitcomsonline.com. Retrieved 22 April 2015.
- Case File 257DFNM, The Doe Network
- Tara Leigh Calico, The Charley Project
- Vanished: The Tara Calico Story, documentary by a friend of Calico (Vanished: The Tara Calico Story at the Internet Movie Database)
- Gutierrez Krueger, Joline (June 8, 2006). “Patty Doel waited for Tara until the day she died”. Albuquerque Tribune (Albuquerque, New Mexico). Archived from the originalon March 7, 2008. Retrieved 12 September 2014.