The disappearance of Tara Leigh Calico is one of those cases I think about now and again. My mind always goes back to the Polaroid picture that people assumed to be her tied up with duct tape over her mouth and her favorite book sitting at her side (not to mention a little boy in the same predicament next to her on the bed) So today friends, we're going to look at the case of Tara Calico and try to find out everything there is to know.
As always reader discretion is advised.
On the 20th of September, 1988, in Belen New Mexico 19 year old Tara Leigh Calico set off on her daily bike ride at around 9.30am. She liked to listen to her Walkman during the ride and that day she was listening to a Boston cassette.
Tara regularly rode along Mexico state road 47 as she liked to keep fit and even planned to play a few games of tennis with her boyfriend around lunch time that same day. She would never make it to her 12:30 Tennis date or her university class at 16:00, as she disappeared that same morning, never to be seen again.
The teenage girl neglected to meet her boyfriend or return home. Smashed fragments of her Walkman and the cassette tape were spread out in 3 pieces along the trail. (The tape was found 3 miles from her home, and another piece of the Walkman was found 19 miles away.)
Tara and her pink mountain bike had completely disappeared and neither has been found 'til this day.
(image: Charley project)
Tara’s mother, a woman named Patty Doel, said that she thought the broken Walkman was a trail or clue left behind by Tara. She searched endlessly for her missing daughter up until her death in 2006. Sadly she died without ever knowing what really happened.
Now Tara didn’t take anything with her that would indicate that she had decided to disappear voluntarily and nothing was missing from her room, rather, everything was left behind. Her life seemed to be on track- she was very organized, did well in school and university, had a part time job and was working towards a career in psychology. From all outward appearances, she had no turmoil in her life that would provoke her to leave it all behind.
The only information there is to go on is the witness accounts of a vehicle that was spotted tailing the girl (a 1953-54 Ford pickup according to allthingsweird88 blog). It was described as a pick-up truck with a camper shell roof. According to Calico’s mother, she used to ride along with her daughter but decided not to continue as she believed a vehicle was following her. She had suggested Tara carry some form of protection when cycling alone, but Tara had nothing of the sort with her the day she went missing.
Tara’s Charley projectpage notes that there was bike tire marks on the ground where the cassette tape was recovered. Was it evidence of a scuffle?
Fast-forward 9 months and 1,400 miles away in Florida. A woman finds a disturbing Polaroid picture in the car park of a convenience store in Port St. Joe, Florida. According to the woman it was found on the ground where a white windowless van was previously parked. Below is an example of what the vehicle may have looked like.
The photograph shows a bare-legged young woman with her hands behind her back and a piece of black duct tape across her mouth. She’s lying on a pile of mismatched blankets and pillows with various patterns, and small boy lays next to her in the same predicament.
An empty plastic cup is near the girl’s feet. They appear to be in the back of a windowless van. Could it be the very van that drove off that day that left this disturbing Polaroid behind? A book is next to the girl, and was identified as “My Sweet Audrina” by V. C Andrews.
I’ve never read this title, however our old pal Wikipedia tells us “The story features diverse real-world subjects such as brittle bone disease, rape, posttraumatic stress disorder, diabetes, and autism in the haunting setting of a Victorian era mansion near the fictitious River Lyle.”
You can read more about the book (here) if you’re looking for clues. The reason the book was of significant interest was because V.C Andrews was Tara Calico’s favorite writer, and many believe that the girl in the photo is her- including her own mother. (The book was also number one seller in the early eighties, though, so take from that what you will.)
(image from unsolved mysteries)
For a while the little boy next to the girl was thought to be missing child Michael Henley.
Henley went missing during a camping trip with his father. It turns out the little boy had wandered off and was attacked by a wild animal. His remains were discovered two years later in 1990 so the theory that the two New Mexico kids had been abducted the same year and were somehow connected was dismissed.
A couple of interesting points about the picture are that Calico’s mother claims the girl in the picture has a scar on her calf that is the same as a scar Tara Calico had sustained in a crash previously. I can’t really see what she is referring to in the image, but my best guess is the purplish line near the edge of the picture.
The girl is wearing an “Egghead” software T-shirt according to allthingsweird88, which a quick Google dates as an “80’s vintage T shirt and it appears to have little Einstein’s on it.
(As a side note, is it me, or does this picture remind anyone of the Johnny Gosch images we looked at this month?)
I’m not sure what I think about the Polaroid. It’s defiantly disturbing if it’s not staged. But is it Tara Calico? Let’s look at the similarities:
(Images of Tara)
-Both girls are Caucasian.
-They are both brunette.
-The girls own mother believes that it’s her and thinks they both have the same scar.
-The book next to the girl is by one of the missing girl’s favorite authors.
What about the differences?
-Their eyebrows look really different, but so are the angles of the pictures and I’m unsure if Calico shaped and maintained her brows with makeup products or if that was their natural shape. The look very different to me, though.
-The girls seem to have different shaped eyes and the color is not clear in the Polaroid picture. However saying that, the bound and gagged girl looks fatigued and the studio portrait of Tara is posed and lit.
-Their jaw lines look different but again their positions are complete different angles and weigh loss can affect the shape of a person’s face. Tara apparently took care of her appearance so she may have looked different without her usual hair and makeup.
There were also other photos found, but they weren’t released. I think one of them is floating around online, and is a topless girl (the same one from the Polaroid? I don’t know) in bondage, as well as another with a woman on a train with bandages around her head and large glasses sitting next to an unidentified adult male. I'm not sure of the connection other than they were all once mentioned in the same breath on a missing persons profile apparently. (I didn't find that page when looking)
On top of that, there this photo was anonymously mailed to police and shoes a picture of a young boy with a black sharpie “gag” drawn over the mouth. Whether or not this has something to do with anything, I have no idea.
The image can be viewed in the (link here)
So now onto something that seems more related (for lack of a better term)
When searching around online for mentions are Tara Calico being hit by a vehicle or stalked in any way I found a comment on Reddit Unresolved where someone posted a link to an incident report (which as far as I can tell was filed in the 2000's Correct me if I'm wrong)
Here’s a portion of it. Click the (link here) to view the full report.
The report seems to be revolved around an old school friend of Tara Calico, “Melinda Esquibel”, who seems to be investigating the case to make a documentary in the hopes of digging to find the remains of the missing girl. Apparently the information leading to the whereabouts of Calico’s remains was gained via word of mouth at social gatherings in the town over the years. No names of who provided the alleged location were given, suggesting it was just small town gossip.
Then further down in the report there’s a quite interesting portion, I’ll post two shots of it here and you can go to the (link here) to read the rest. But the general story is (according to former deputy Frank Methola who was informed by a “Mr. Henry Brown”) that a group of guys followed Tara in their vehicle because they knew she drove up and down that stretch of road routinely. One of the guys was a young man by the name of Lawrence Romero junior who stabbed Tara to death after they hit her with the truck and took her to an isolated area to rape her. After that they dumped her body nearby but retrieved it when the search started and decided to store it in the basement under a Trailer Romero Jr. Lived in.
The more I go through the report, the more I get the feeling that Tara was the victim of a murder and possible sexual assault, was probably hit by a vehicle and her body was disposed of either somewhere isolated or on buried on someone’s property.
Her bike was most likely taken too, probably to erase any evidence of foul play I’m not saying that’s what I believed 100% happened but it just seems like the most obvious answer. Occam’s razor and all that.
So what actually happened to Tara Calico that day?
The case remains unsolved.
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