Name: Tara Leigh Calico
Age: 19 years old (time of disappearance)
Last seen: September 20, 1988
Location: Belen, New Mexico
Tara Leigh Calico is a Caucasian female with brown hair cowlick on the right temple, hazel eyes, one of which is a lazy eye. She is 5’7 tall and weighed 120lbs at the time of her disappearance. Tara has a large scar on the back of her right shoulder, a dime-sized birthmark on the back of one of her legs.
She was last seen riding a neon pink Huffy mountain bike with yellow control cables and sidewalls. She was wearing a white t-shirt with “1st National Bank of Belen” on it (size medium), white shorts with green stripes, white ankle socks, and white and turquoise Avia tennis shoes. She was also wearing a gold butterfly ring with a diamond insert, a gold amethyst ring, and half-inch gold hoop earrings.
Tara Calico was born on February 20th, 1969, in New Mexico, to parents Patti and David Calico. Her parents divorced not long after Tara was born, then Patty re-married a man named David Doel. Tara lived with her mother and stepfather in Belen, New Mexico.
Tara graduated from Belen High School and was enrolled as a sophomore at the University of New Mexico, in Valencia to study psychology. She was described as a hard-working person, with high grades. She was also a super active person who loved running, cycling, and playing other sports.
She loved her days to be organized and they would usually start off with a 60km bike ride, which took her about 4-5 hours.
The disappearance of Tara Calico
On the morning of September 20th, 1988, Tara had her day planned, as usual, she was gonna go on her bike ride, then meet her boyfriend for tennis at 12:30 pm, after that she was gonna go to class at 4 pm. But she was running a little bit late that day because her bike ride started at 9:30 am.
Before Tara left for her bike ride, she told her mum if she didn’t come home by 12 pm to come and pick her up, as her mum knew the route she always took on her bike ride. Her mum uses to go on the bike rides with her until she felt like there was someone who was following them, which made her feel uncomfortable so she stopped going. Her mum always told Tara to take pepper spray with her, but Tara thought she was just being overprotective.
Tara left for her bike ride at 9:30 am, her bike tire was flat so she took her mums bike, which was a neon pink Huffy mountain bike that had yellow cables.
Tara left her house on Bronx Street and headed towards highway 47, which is where she spent the majority of her cycle. It got to around 12 pm and Tara hadn’t come home so her mum, Patty drove down the route Tara always rode, but there were no signs of her daughter Tara. This made her feel worried because of her past experience with someone possibly stalking her, but she drove along the route another time but still couldn’t see Tara anywhere, so she called the police.
When police received Patty’s phone call, they began their search by going along the bike route Tara took, searching for any potential clues, as well as surrounding areas of the route. They spoke to a few witnesses, they did see Tara riding her bicycle, but none of them had seen anything out of the ordinary. Other witnesses told police they had seen a dirty white or a light grey 1953 Ford pickup truck, which had a handmade shell, following Tara.
They went on to say that Tara didn’t seem to notice this truck following her because she had her headphones in, she was listening to her Boston cassette tape on her Sony Walkman.
The last time Tara was seen, was by a witness at 11:45 am, 2 miles away in Valencia County.
The following day Patty went along the route again, to see if there was something she missed or if there were any clues. 3 miles away from her home she found Tara’s Boston cassette tape as well as some skid marks and bike tracks in the same area.
There were reported sightings of Tara Calico in the Southern area of the United States between 1988 and 1989, but none of them were confirmed.
The case went cold until June 15th, 1989, when a woman found a Polaroid photo in a parking lot of a convenience store in Port St. Joe, Florida.
The polaroid was found in the parking lot where a white Toyota Kagura van, with no windows, had been parked. The woman who found the polaroid told the police that the van was driven by a man with a mustache who was in his early 30s. Police searched the area for any clues or witnesses who may have seen anything.
They were able to find witnesses who said they had seen the girl in the photo, walking along the beach in Port St. Joe.
After this discovery, the photo was examined by polaroid and they said that the image had to have been taken after May, this was because the film the photo was taken on was not available before May. Police also set up roadblocks and conducted safety checks however, neither the man nor the van was found.
Tara’s mum Patty, saw the polaroid on Current Affair and immediately identified the girl in the photo to be her daughter Tara. The girl in the polaroid photo had a scar on her leg, which was identical to the one Tara had, it was in the exact same spot. In the photo, there is also a book next to the girl called My Sweet Girl Audrina, which was one of Tara’s favorite books.
The family of the boy in the polaroid was identified by his family as 9-year-old Michael Henley. Michael disappeared in April 1988 while camping in the Zuni Mountains, in Northwest New Mexico.
Investigators on the case had the polaroid examined multiple times at different places. One was conducted at the Scotland Yard and they concluded that they were 85% certain it was Tara Calico and Michael Henley in the photo. It was also examined by the Los Alamos National Laboratory, they said it wasn’t Tara and Michael in the photo. The FBI also analyzed the polaroid however, their results were inconclusive.
A number is seen on the book next to Tara in the photo, but due to the quality of the image, they were unable to determine all of the numbers.
Two additional photos surfaced in the following years; one was found in June 1989 in Montecito, California. The girl in the image had a cowlick and a lazy eye, which Tara also had, the girl is also laying on a blue striped pillowcase, which is similar to the one from the first polaroid. Patty was conceived this was her daughter in the image, despite it being blurry. The other image was found in February 1990. Police determined this photo to be a prank and Patty has said she is not certain if this is her daughter.
In 1990, the body of Michael Henley was found just 10km away from his campsite in the Zuni Mountains. This was approximately 120km from where Tara disappeared. Michael’s autopsy results determined his cause of death to be due to exposure to the elements and police believe he had just wandered off. He was then ruled out of being the boy in the polaroid photo.
Tara Calico’s case went cold again until June 2009, when new information was released on the case. Valencia County Sheriff Rene Rivera told the public he had information that he believed could solve the case. Witnesses had come forward saying two teenage boys had seen Tara on highway 47 during her bike ride and started harassing her. The boys had accidentally hit her and didn’t know what to do so they took her from the scene, Tara had then threatened them about telling the police which made them panic and murder her. They then buried her in the general area she was riding her bike in but they have never located her body and no suspects were ever identified to the public.
In October 2013, a task force was set up to look into the disappearance of Tara Calico. No new leads or information has not been disclosed to the public.
There were 22 pages of police reports that were released through public records. The first report is dated 18th April 1997, which listed three suspects: Lawrence Romeo jr, Dave Silva, and Leroy Chavez, this report also listed a possible gravesite of a missing female, however, no charges were ever made in the disappearance of Tara Calico.
The second report is dated April 15th, 2010, which mentioned a documentary filmmaker who reportedly went to school with Tara, and was trying to film a documentary on the case. While researching the case, she said she was followed and felt like she was in danger and reported it to the police. In a meeting about this report, police mention the same three suspects as they had mentioned in the previous report, but one of them was deceased. The report also listed a possible location of Tara’s body but there was no evidence found in the area.
There was another report made on the 6th November 2013, which mentions an interview with the Valencia County former Sheriff’s deputy Frank Methola. Frank states that in his time with the Sheriff’s department he followed up on multiple leads in regards to Tara’s disappearance, including an interview with a man named Henry Brown who was on his deathbed and wanted to make a confession. Henry stated that shortly after Tara’s disappearance, he was in the basement of a man named Lawrence Romero jr and noticed a body of a young woman who was wrapped in a blue tarp and was buried in a makeshift grave. He added that Romero along with the two other boys, mentioned in the first report, Dave Silva and Leroy Charez were also there in the basement and participated in the murder of this young girl.
Henry then went on to say that they explained how they knew Tara rode along Highway 47, as they hit her with their car and put her in the back then went on to sodomize and rape her before murdering her. Tara had told them she was going to tell the police and send them all to jail, which made them panic and murder her. This report was very similar to the first report, just without the extra details. They first hid her body in a bush but then moved her after all the searches began into the basement. Henry added that the three men threatened to kill him if he told anyone, and the reason why they got away with this for so long was because Romero was the son of a sheriff who hired Rene Rivera to cover up the whole thing.
He also mentioned Tara’s bike and how they took it to a dump shortly after the murder. Another witness named Donald Dutch also came forward to police in 2013 and presented them with the exact same story as Henry Brown had told police.
After Frank Methola presented this to Rene Rivera, Rivera told him to bring it all to him and then these reports and recordings could no longer be found.
Rivera was investigating the death of Romero. After Romero’s suicide, a witness said that they had found a note Rivera left behind confessing to his part in the murder of Tara Calico. However, this note cannot be located and was never logged into evidence, which leads to some sort of police cover-up.
The last report was dated August 6th, 2014, which said the task force was coming to an end due to the lack of evidence, and the case was closed. The case has never been officially solved.
Tara’s mother and stepfather stayed and lived in the same house for 15 years, just in case Tara ever came back but eventually moved to Florida. Sadly, in 2006 Patty passed away, Tara’s biological father also passed away in 2002.
If you have any information regarding the disappearance of Tara Leigh Calico please contact Valencia County Sheriff’s Department at 505-865-9604. You can also contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation New Mexico at 505-224-2000, the FBI is offering a $20,000 reward.