Tara Leigh Calico disappeared one morning in 1988 during her morning bike ride. The complicated story that traces what happened to her is only just starting to be told. But has it been solved? Tara was an energetic and vibrant young girl who loved activities. Her morning bike ride was a ritual her mother had started to worry about, as there was often a vehicle that tailed Tara as she biked along the side of the road. But Tara was undeterred and refused to carry the mace her mother suggested.
She’d ridden her bike through this neighborhood for years now, it made no sense to get worried about things all of a sudden. It was September 20, 1988 that Tara didn’t return from her bike ride. She had told her mother she’d be back by noon, as her boyfriend was coming to meet her at 12.30. Noon rolled around and Tara didn’t. Her mother, Patty Doel, went out looking for her in the car but there were no signs anywhere.
When the police got involved they started to search more closely up and down the highway. They sound Tara’s walkman smashed on the side of the road – her mother thought this was Tara’s way of marking her trail as she’d been abducted. As time went on and no further clues were forthcoming, the family had to start grappling with the idea that Tara had been kidnapped or worse.
A year later, a woman came to the police with a photo she’d found in a parking lot outside a convenience store. The photo showed a girl and younger boy tied up, with tape over their mouths, in the back of a vehicle. The woman who turned it over to the police was obviously concerned and thought it had originated with a white windowless van that was in the parking lot at the same time.
But the van disappeared before she could do anything about it. Many believed that this photo, found a year after Tara had disappeared, depicted her and another missing boy, Michael Henley. The families of Tara and Michael banded together to help find their children and deal with their grief.
Many experts were called in to try to determine if the children in the suspicious photo really were Tara and Michael. The families themselves were convinced, but the police relied on experts to verify such claims. The girl in the photo had a scar in the same place on her leg as Tara, but the boy was slightly more of a long shot. A book lay beside Tara in the photo and Patty claimed it was one of Tara’s favorites. But, sadly for Michael’s family, the remains of a boy found in 1990 led to a positive identification with Michael, and it was determined the boy had wandered off and died. Tara, though, was still out there, and gaining more and more media coverage.
A Sheriff of the area came forward twenty years after Tara’s disappearance to say he knows what happened. His version of the story was that boys were tailing Tara in a truck and, in a terrible accident, crashed into and killed her. They attempted to cover up their mistake by hiding the body and telling no one. But any disputed this claim on the lack of evidence or arrests. This case to find out what happened to Tara was relaunched in 2013, and we are still waiting for answers.