Tara Leigh Calico was just 19 years old when she disappeared on a bike ride in 1988. Could the advances in modern forensic technology bring her home?
Tara was a much loved and gifted student. She was responsible, kind and organized. Above all, she was fiercely independent. She attended the University of New Mexico and majored in Psychology. As 19-year-old Tara set out on a bike ride one day, she said something that would later send chills up her mother's spin.
Animal-loving Tara was “the type of girl you’d want to bring home to your mother.” She was very athletic, ran track, played tennis and rode her bike every day. On September 20th, 1988, she set out on her morning bike ride telling her mother, “If you don’t hear from me by noon, come look for me.”
She biked the New Mexico State Road every day; her mother Patty used to ride it but stopped after being followed by a car had frightened her in early 1988. Tara refused to stop and on the morning of her disappearance, had to borrow her mother's bike as hers had a flat tire...
Was It Her Mother They Wanted?
When there was no sign of Tara at noon that day, Patty went out in her car to search for her with a sick feeling in her stomach as she remembered the last words her daughter said to her. After hours of searching showed no sign of Tara, Patty called the Police.
The Police began to investigate and learned the first half of her bike ride was normal. As she biked back home to get ready for a tennis match with her boyfriend, two ranch hands saw her cycling toward her home, completely unaware she was being followed by a white truck.
When a second motorist confirmed Tara was being followed, the police immediately suspected foul play. They found bike tracks and an oil slick on the West side of the highway. Her Boston cassette tape and a piece of her walkman were found not far from the scene of the tracks.
A Chilling Polaroid Changes Everything
The rest of Tara’s Walkman was found 20 miles away at the foot of the Manzano Mountains two days after she vanished. But that was the only evidence until a year later. A terrifying photograph was found that appeared to be of Tara, bound and gagged with a young boy.
The woman who found the Polaroid outside a convenience store in June 1989, admitted to seeing a white van before she entered the store. When she came out, the photograph was where the van had been parked. The girl in the picture looked like Tara, but who was the boy?
Is Tara With The Boy?
The young boy in the Polaroid was believed to be Michael Henley, who vanished four months before Tara. Police were unable to verify the identity of the tragic souls in the picture, but in 2008, then-Sheriff Rene Rivera told the world he exactly what happened to the missing teenager.
How Could He Know?
Sheriff Rivera believes that Tara was hit by a truck on her way home and when she threatened to have the culprits arrested, they panicked and murdered her. He claims to know who did it but no one has been charged. The case was reopened in 2013, and with advances in forensics, it could potentially be solved.