Prior to the highly publicized kidnappings of Elizabeth Smart and Amanda Berry, Tara Calico's bizarre disappearance rocked the southwestern United States. After leaving on a bicycle ride, 19-year-old Calico, from Belen, NM, disappeared on September 20, 1988. The case never reached a resolution, but it remains open and under federal investigation.
It wasn't just the kidnapping that shook citizens - there was a photograph discovered in a Florida parking lot located roughly 1,600 miles away from where Calico had disappeared. The photo featured a boy and young woman, and many believe the woman to be Calico. The people in the photograph appear distressed, but it is unclear if this is truly the case or simply the result of a sinister prank. Many infamous crime scene photos have shocked the public, and this particular picture is also alarming because of its ambiguity: were the people shown in the picture slain victims?
The disappearance of Tara Calico and the suspicious Polaroid are both unsolved mysteries which, for more than 30 years, have left investigators, family members, and citizens questioning everything and mourning a young woman's tragic disappearance.
Witnesses Reported Seeing Calico During Her Bike Ride
Investigators interviewed at least seven individuals who reported seeing Calico on her bike ride; all of them claimed to have seen Calico riding north toward her home. Of the seven witnesses, five recalled seeing an old pickup truck following Calico along the highway.
They also reported seeing Calico wearing headphones and listening to her Walkman. The search party later discovered Calico's bike tracks, cassette tape, and a piece of her Walkman within a three-mile radius from where the witnesses said they saw her.
Her Mother Retraced Calico's Bike Route By Car, But Found No Sign Of The Teen
When Calico didn't arrive home by noon from her bike ride, Doel left home to search for her daughter. She drove her car through the 17-mile bike route that Calico took but did not see her daughter. Doel then drove the bike route again to see if she could spot Calico - but to no avail.
Worried, she called the local hospital to see if her daughter was there, then contacted the rescue unit and Valencia County Sheriff's Department to report Calico missing.
Police Immediately Started A Search Party For Calico
Calico entered the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) system as a missing person, and an exhaustive two-week search ensued, which involved state police, the military, local volunteers, and aircraft. Neither Calico nor her mother's bicycle turned up. The search team did notice bike tracks veering off the road and a Boston cassette tape, which Calico was listening to on her Walkman.
In addition, they found the front view window piece of Calico's Walkman.
Several Labs Have Examined The Mysterious Photograph In An Attempt To Verify If Calico Is Pictured
To figure out if Calico is the young woman in the Polaroid found in 1989, her parents had the photo analyzed by Scotland Yard in London. The lab examined the picture and determined that it was, in fact, Calico. However, the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico also analyzed the photo and concluded it was not. The FBI then conducted an independent investigation into the photograph as well, but the results were inconclusive.
Investigators remain baffled by the photo; the only clue they have determined from the image is that the photographer likely snapped it after May 1989, as the specific film used was unavailable until that date.