Real Name: Tara Leigh Calico
Nicknames: No known nicknames
Location: Belen, New Mexico
Date: September 20, 1988
Date of Birth: February 28, 1969
Weight: 120 lbs.
Marital status: Single
Characteristics: Brown hair with a cowlick, green eyes, large scar on back of right shoulder, brown birthmark on the back of one leg, large scar on her calf.
Details: At 9:30am on the morning of September 20, 1988, nineteen-year-old Tara Calico left her home in Belen, New Mexico to go on her normal thirty-four-mile bike ride. She was last seen riding her neon Pink Huffy bike with yellow control cables and sidewalls on her usual route along Highway 47 when she vanished, with a suspicious vehicle following her.
Tara's bike has never been recovered and she has never been found. Her Sony Walkman was found by her mother, Patty, the next day, and although there were several reported sightings of her in the southern United States in 1988 and 1989, none of them could be confirmed, and her case remains unsolved.
On June 15, 1989, a Polaroid photo showing two bound and gagged teenagers was found in Port St. Joe, Florida. It was found near a convenience store where a white Toyota cargo van had been parked. The girl in it was believed to be Tara; the boy next to her was believed to be another missing New Mexico youth named Michael Henley.
Factory analysis determined that the photo was recently taken. The FBI has not been able to determine if the teenagers in the photo are Tara and Michael. However, a forensic artist compared pictures of the missing teenagers to the photo and was 85% sure that they were the ones depicted.
Suspects: There are no known suspects, but witnesses report seeing a dirty white or light gray colored 1954 Ford pick-up truck with a white handmade shell following her.
Extra notes: This case first aired on the September 20, 1989 episode. It was also profiled on America’s Most Wanted, 48 Hours, and The Missing. The photo was on A Current Affair on July 28, 1989. It was excluded from Amazon Prime episodes.
Results: Unresolved. It was later proven that the boy in the photo was not Michael Henley. Authorities believe he was not the victim of kidnapping or foul play but instead died from prolonged exposure to the wilderness after getting lost in the forest on a camping trip with his father and a family friend. His remains were found in 1990 just a few miles from the campsite in New Mexico where he was last seen. His disappearance is no longer considered connected to Tara's.
The Calicos moved to Florida in 2003. Patty died in 2006. Tara's biological father died in 2002, but her stepfather, John Doel, is still alive and hopes that she will be found. Two other photos believed to be of her have surfaced in the years since her disappearance; however, the last one, showing a woman with bandages over her face on an Amtrak train with a man sitting next to her, is believed to be a prank.
Investigators no longer believe that Tara was the girl in the photo. Instead, they have learned from witnesses that she was most likely killed on the day of her disappearance. A man named Henry Brown made a deathbed confession to police. He said that, shortly after her disappearance, he had been in the basement of a man named Lawrence Romero Jr. While there, he noticed what appeared to be a young woman's body, wrapped in a blue tarp and buried in a makeshift grave.
Romero, a man named Dave Silva, and another man with red hair told Henry that the body was Tara's. They said that on the day of her disappearance, they, along with a man named Leroy Chavez, were in a truck when they noticed her riding her bike. They struck her with their truck and abducted her. They took her to a grave pit and raped her.
When Tara threatened to go to the police, Romero stabbed her to death, while Silva, Chavez, and the other man held her down. They originally hid her body in a nearby bush. However, as searches began for her, they moved her body to the basement. Henry told investigators that the men threatened to kill him if he went to the police. He also said that the men got away with the crime because Romero's father, Rene Rivera, was the Sheriff at the time. Sheriff Rivera also allegedly helped cover up the crime. He apparently found a note written by Romero, confessing to Tara's murder, and destroyed it.
Henry also told investigators that he believed the men later placed Tara's body in a pond near one of their houses. He also said that her bicycle had been disposed of at a junkyard. Another man also came forward and told police that one of the suspects had confessed to him as well. Unfortunately, all were deceased by the time this information came to light. Sadly, Tara's body has never been found.
Recently, a friend of Tara's, Melinda Esquibel, has created a podcast and started her own investigation into Tara's case. She is also working on a documentary about it. In October of 2019, the FBI offered a $20,000 reward in the case.
- Tara Calico Website
- Tara Calico on Wikipedia
- Tara Calico on the Charley Project
- Tara Calico on the Doe Network
- Belen cyclist fails to return
- Mystery photo launches probe
- Couple in photo may be missing New Mexicans
- New Mexicans seek ray of hope in Port St. Joe (Page 1) (Page 2)
- Hale helps solve TV mystery
- TV Show to Feature 1988 Disappearance
- Discovery of child’s bones leaves questions unanswered
- Where's Tara Calico?
- Parents of missing woman try to move on
- Police reopen Tara Calico disappearance
- Tara Calico mystery: Polaroid photo of two bound children has stumped detectives for decades
- Renewed hope for answers 29 years after disappearance of Tara Calico
- Tara Calico Update: New leads, clues emerge in cold case of ‘Polaroid photo’ girl who disappeared while riding her bike
- FBI Media Alert: FBI Offers $20,000 Reward in Tara Calico Case
- FBI Offers $20,000 Reward in Tara Calico Case
- New Mexico State Police - Tara Calico Case Documents