Tara Leigh Calico
Missing Since: 09/20/1988, Missing From: Belen, New Mexico, Classification: Endangered Missing,
Sex: Female, Race: White, Date of Birth: 02/28/1969 (53), Age: 19 years old, Height and Weight: 5’7, 120 pounds,
Clothing/Jewelry : A turquoise and white pair of Avia sneakers, a white t-shirt with “1st National Bank of Belen” written on it, white shorts with green stripes, white ankle socks, a gold butterfly band with a diamond inset, a gold amethyst ring, and half-inch gold hoops were also there.
Associated Vehicle: Neon pink Huffy mountain bicycle with yellow control cables and sidewalls; Dirty white or light gray-colored 1953 Ford pickup truck with a white handmade shell
Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian female. Brown hair, green eyes. Calico has a large scar on the back of her right shoulder and a scar on her calf. She has a dime-sized brown birthmark on the back of one of her legs. She has a lazy eye and has a cowlick on her right temple. She has previously had braces on her teeth, and her ears are pierced.
At 9:30 on September 20, 1988, Calico left her home on Brugg Street in Belen, New Mexico to go biking. She borrowed her mother’s bicycle because the tire on her own was flat. At around 11:45 a.m., she was last seen on Highway 47 in Valencia County, California, riding her mother’s neon pink Huffy mountain bike with yellow control cables and sidewalls. Her home is about two miles away from this place. She was never again seen.
Calico rode her bike the 36 miles along the route every day. Witnesses reported seeing a 1953 Ford pickup truck in dirty white or light grey with a white handmade shell pursuing Calico. It is unknown if the truck has anything to do with her alleged kidnapping. She didn’t appear to be aware of the truck. The bicycle of her mother has never been found. Along with this case summary, there is a picture of it. There may have been foul play in Calico’s disappearance.
Calico was described as a productive, self-sufficient individual who enjoyed making lists to plan her days. She likes to run. She asked her mother Patty Doel to pick her up if she was not home by 12 o’clock on the day of her disappearance because she was worried about keeping to her schedule.
At 12:30 p.m., Calico and her boyfriend were going to play tennis. She also had class at 4:00 p.m. that day. She had just graduated from Belen High School and was a sophomore at the University of New Mexico in Valencia when she vanished. She intended to study to become a psychiatrist or psychologist and had a high grade point average. She worked at a nearby bank as well. Calico disappeared, leaving behind her handbag, school supplies, and sneakers.
The day she was last seen, around 12:05 p.m., Doel set out to find her. She called the police when she couldn’t find her along her typical biking path. Doel discovered a Boston cassette tape belonging to Calico at the side of the road the following day. It appeared as though she had dropped it while she was riding away from her home because it was three miles distant and on the other side of the roadway.
Later, a piece of Calico’s Sony Walkman was found close to the lonely John F. Kennedy campground, 19 miles east of Highway 47. Doel thought her daughter dropped the things on purpose to leave a trail. There were some bike tracks and skid or scuffle-like marks close to the cassette tape.
Years of rumors have persisted that Calico was the unidentified female in a Polaroid picture found on June 15, 1989, nine months after her disappearance, in Port St. Joe, Florida. Before the picture was discovered, a white Toyota cargo van was parked there.
The image was discovered on the ground in a St. Joe convenience store parking lot. On some sheets and a pillow with blue stripes, it showed a young woman with long legs and a boy with shorter legs. Their hands were bound behind their backs, and their mouths were taped shut. The picture was taken in the back of a late 1980s white Toyota cargo van without any windows.
According to Polaroid representatives, the photo had to have been taken after May 1989 because up until that point, that kind of film was not available. The image also shows a squirt gun, a plastic cup, and a copy of V.C. Andrews’ book My Sweet Audrina. Calico also happens to be a fan of V. C. Andrews. The book’s spine appears to have a phone number written on it, but some of the numbers are unreadable. According to experts, there are 300 possible numbers, 57 of which are real.
Authorities think the girl in the photograph was spotted strolling along the Port St. Joe beach just before the Polaroid was discovered. Witnesses reported that the girl was being verbally ordered around by a group of adult unidentified Caucasian males. The image also showed a boy who cannot be identified; both he and the girl are bound and gagged. This case summary is posted along with pictures of the girl and the boy created using a computer.
Some people thought the boy in the photograph was Michael Henley, a nine-year-old boy who went missing in the same region of New Mexico as Calico in April 1988. His mother recognised the young man in the picture as her son. In 1990, the Zuni Mountains held the remains of Henley.
After looking at the image, the FBI was unable to identify either the girl as Calico or the boy as Henley. The girl has a scar on her calf that resembles the scar Calico received as a result of injuries sustained in a car accident, and her hairline and ear are similar to Calico’s. It is unknown if the boy and girl were being held against their will when the photo was taken or if it was staged.
Over the years, two additional images resembling this one have been discovered. A Polaroid that showed a girl’s face with her mouth taped over was discovered close to a residential construction site in Montecito, California. This Polaroid was taken on film that wasn’t available until June 1989. Although the picture was hazy, Doel claimed that she believed the girl in the picture to be her daughter. Similar to Calico, she has a cowlick on her right temple and a lazy eye. The pillow in the first image is similar to the blue-striped fabric the girl is lying on.
The third Polaroid image depicts a woman who is loosely bound in gauze and has her eyes covered in gauze. She is wearing a large pair of black-framed glasses. On the passenger seat of an Amtrak train, a man is seated next to her. Doel was unsure if the girl in the picture was her daughter and thought it was possible that it was a cruel joke.
According to information available to police, two teenage boys approached Calico on the day she vanished, followed her around, and harassed her before accidentally hitting her with their truck. Investigators think the boys killed her after she threatened to call the police and drove her away from the scene in their car. There may have been multiple other people involved in the crime’s cover-up.
No suspects have been publicly named, and this information is not confirmed. The same general area where Calico went missing, according to the authorities, is likely where her body is.
Up until fifteen years after Calico vanished, her mother and stepfather remained a part of the household before relocating to Florida. Doel passed away in 2006, and Calico’s natural father passed away in 2002. She still has her stepfather and siblings. Her case remains unsolved.
- Valencia County Sheriff’s Department 505-865-9604
- Federal Bureau of Investigation
- Albuquerque, New Mexico Office 505-224-2000