Tara Calico Update: New leads, clues emerge in cold case of ‘Polaroid photo’ girl who disappeared while riding her bike

It’s been almost 30 years since 19-year-old Tara Calico disappeared while riding her bike in New Mexico, but new details and leads in the case resulted in authorities questioning two locals that could possibly hold the key details to cracking the case.

People reports that although authorities will not provide details on who the persons of interest are, the FBI and the Valencia County Sheriff’s Office have two people on their radar; both from around the area of Valencia County, New Mexico, where Tara lived and ultimately disappeared from. According to Valencia County Sheriff Rene Rivera, who previously worked the case for years, two teen boys from the area may be responsible for Tara’s death, along with two accomplices that helped them.

Rivera said he felt the boys’ family in the close community of Rio Communities likely assisted in covering up the crime. Melinda Esquibel, host of Vanished: The Tara Calico Investigation, confirmed that the community where she grew up and was Tara’s best friend was always considered tight-knit.

“What makes the town charming is the same thing that makes it kind of scary, that you will go to great lengths to protect your own.”

Current investigators aren’t convinced of Rivera’s theory.

As CrimeOnline previously reported, Tara Calico was just 18 years old when, on September 20, 1988, she disappeared while riding her bike on a 17-mile cycling trek in Belen, New Mexico. As she pedaled away listening to a Boston cassette on her Sony Walkman, something happened to her; something that is still unsolved today.

“She went out on her 17 mile 34 mile bike ride out to the railroad tracks and it appears on her trip she had some trouble along the way. She was getting harassed by what looked to be an older vehicle following her and a group of guys and what,” Esquibel told Nancy Grace last July.

According to Esquibel, two different vehicles were spotted by witnesses on the day Tara vanished, driving along the same road she rode her bicycle on: a primer grey Chevrolet International and a primer grey mid-50s Ford pickup truck.

Witnesses said several people inside the vehicles harassed Tara after she pulled her bike over. Boys were hanging out of the Ford pickup truck tugging at her shirt, trying to grab her. Initially, it looked like a “fun” outing to witnesses, who thought maybe it was Tara’s father and some friends helping her as she pedaled away. No one thought to call the authorities until it was too late. Tara had vanished.

Tara’s family and her boyfriend set out looking for her and discovered a number of items that clearly showed she didn’t leave by her own accord.

“There was a part of the of her Walkman that was found on the side of the road. There was a tape that was found there was a part of the Walkman. They were tire tracksand bicycle tracks where she was pushed off the side of the road. There was a marijuana pipe in the area that was found,” Esquibel said.

Later, when Esquibel began an investigation into the case, she noticed that a lot of evidence was missing. Was there a cover-up? Did someone who had connections with the Valencia County Sheriff’s office or with a prominent politician hide things so that the person of interest wasn’t arrested?

The Mystery of the Polaroid Photo

In June 1989, according to Investigation Discovery’s CrimeFeed, a woman shopping at a grocery store in Port St. Joe, Florida, spotted a Polaroid photo lying in the shopping center parking lot. The photo showed a teen girl and young boy bound up and gagged while they stared at the camera. A copy of the book, “My Sweet Audrina” by V.C. Andrews sat beside the teen girl.

Polaroid photo with two unknown children [Port St. Joe Police Department]
For years, there has been speculation that the girl in the photo is Tara, although the picture was found around 1,600 miles away from where she disappeared. Tara’s own mother was reportedly convinced that the girl in the Polaroid photo was indeed Tara. However, there has been no official confirmation to back up the speculation.

Anyone with any information regarding the disappearance of Tara Calico is urged to contact the Valencia County Sheriff’s Office at 505-866-2400 or the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI.


[Feature Photo: Tara Calico/Handout]