It was 31 years ago that Tara Calico disappeared while on a morning bike ride near her home in New Mexico.
Over the years, a photo of a young woman or teen girl and child with their hands and mouths duct-taped has drawn intense interest in the case. Some, including Calico’s family members, have suspected the girl in the photo is her.
The FBI in early October announced it is offering up to $20,000 for information that could lead to her whereabouts or an arrest and conviction of those who are responsible.
“Tara had her entire future ahead of her when she vanished,” said James Langenberg of the Albuquerque FBI Division in a statement. “Law enforcement has never given up the search for this young lady, checking out numerous tips and conducting countless interviews over the course of more than 30 years. But it’s time for someone to come forward and help us finally bring Tara home.”
The FBI has said Calico was 19 years old when she disappeared on Sept. 20, 1988, after going on a bike ride. She was last seen on a neon pink Huffy mountain bike and was wearing a white T-shirt with ‘1st National Bank of Belen” on it, white shorts with green stripes, white ankle socks, and white and turquoise Avia tennis shoes.
The woman was last seen riding on Highway 47 in Valencia County at around 11:45 a.m. when she disappeared, the agency said.
According to News Ltd, the mysterious photo of a young girl and boy was eventually shown to her mother, Patty Doel. A book in the photo, “My Sweet Audrina” by VC Andrews, was Calico’s favorite book, Doel had said.
Investigation Discovery’s CrimeFeed said that a woman shopping at a grocery store in Port St. Joe, Florida, found the Polaroid photo in a parking lot.
Doel, who died in 2006, also stated that a scar on the leg of the girl in the photo was identical to her daughter’s scar.
A windowless white van was spotted in the parking lot near where the photo was discovered, reports have said.
Michele Doel, Calico’s stepsister, said that the photo does not make sense.
“When people ask me, ‘Is that her?’ If I had to say yes or no definitively: Yes, that is her,” she told People magazine in 2018. “I still look at it and it looks exactly like her — exactly like her. But it doesn’t make sense.”
Tara’s older brother, Chris, told the magazine that her mother didn’t want to admit that her daughter died.
“And if photographic evidence of a young woman alive—even though she’s in extremis—is something to latch on to,” he told the publication.
Anyone with any information about the disappearance of Tara Calico should contact the Valencia County Sheriff’s Office by calling 505-866-2400 or the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI.