Tara Calico Disappearance and the Haunting Polaroid Picture

Published: Updated: 9 comments

Tara Calico, 19, disappeared in 1988 after riding a bike in Belen, New Mexico. In June 1989, a picture surfaced in Florida depicting two children – one a teenage girl, the other a boy around ten – tied up and lying on a makeshift bed. Many people believe the girl to be Tara, but investigators never confirmed this or found her.

The Disappearance of Tara Calico

On September 20, 1988, Tara Calico left her Brugg Street home in Belen, New Mexico, around 9:30 a.m. to go on her usual 36-mile bike ride and vanished into thin air. At 11:45 a.m., a witness saw her on Highway 47 in Valencia County along her regular route. According to The Charley Project, witnesses saw a dirty white or light gray 1953 Ford pickup truck with a white handmade shell following Tara.

Before she left for her bike ride, Tara told her mother to look for her if she was not back by noon because she had plans with her boyfriend at 12:30 p.m. When Tara failed to show up at noon, her mother, Patty Doel, went to look for her but couldn’t find her. Patty contacted the police. The following day, Patty searched again for her daughter and found a cassette tape belonging to Tara three miles from their home.

Part of Tara’s Sony Walkman was recovered 19 miles from her home east of Highway 47, near the John F. Kennedy campground.

The Polaroid

In June 1989, a Polaroid picture of a teenage girl and young boy gagged and bound surfaced outside a convenience store in Port St. Joe, Florida. Many people, including Patty, believed the girl was Tara, and for a long time, they thought that the boy was Michael Henley, who disappeared from New Mexico in 1988. However, his body was found later near where he went missing. Authorities recovered other pictures but never released them to the public.


In October 2013, police re-opened Tara’s case.

Twenty years after Tara’s disappearance, Valencia County Sheriff Rene Rivera stated that he knew what happened to the young girl but had no evidence to prove it. Rivera said two teenage boys were in a truck following Tara when they accidentally hit her with their vehicle. The boys panicked and killed her after Tara threatened to go to the police. Rivera claims he knows the boys’ names but has no evidence to make an arrest.

Sports Keeda Pop reports, “On October 1, 2019, the FBI offered a $20,000 reward for anyone who could help locate Tara Calico or identify those involved in her abduction and/or murder. In the most recent announcement, authorities said they have enough evidence to take the case to court.”

Patty Doel died in 2006 without ever knowing what happened to her daughter.

True Crime Diva’s Thoughts

I’m not convinced it is Tara in the Polaroid picture.  Yes, I agree there are similarities between Tara and the girl in the pic, but I also see differences.

The eyebrows on the unidentified girl are different than Tara’s. The unidentified girls’ eyes are shaped differently from Tara’s and appear to be brown, whereas Tara’s were green or hazel. The hair is darker than Tara’s as well. Tara’s skin color is lighter, too, but the other girl could have been in the sun before someone took the picture. I also think the noses are a little different.

Tara Calico
Tara Calico

Tara’s mother believed it was her daughter because she claimed the girl in the pic had the same scar as Tara on the right calf. It could just be from bad lighting in the pic. Patty also noticed the V.C. Andrews book next to the girl and said that Andrews was one of Tara’s favorite authors. However, this particular book, My Sweet Audrina, and Andrews’ books, in general, were trendy back then.

I also don’t believe the story of the teen boys hitting her with their truck. If that were the case, police would have found Tara’s. It does almost make sense, though. They were driving a truck, and witnesses saw a truck following Tara. But was the boys’ truck the same one?

That truck would have stood out in 1988. You would have thought someone would have come forward saying who drove it, but nobody did. This was not a big area. Maybe the driver wasn’t from the area, maybe Albuquerque, which is just north of Belen.

Let’s say for a second that it is Tara in the weird Polaroid. This would mean that someone took her for trafficking. It’s a plausible theory, as this happened a lot in the late 80s, and it still happens today.

I think the little boy resembles David Borer, who disappeared from Alaska in April 1989. There are some differences, but they are similar in appearance.


I read that a witness saw the girl in that picture walking on a Port St. Joe beach with several men who appeared to be giving her orders. Now, how the witnesses knew for sure it was this girl is beyond me unless she was wearing the same clothes as in the pic.

I noticed there is the wording on the girl’s T-shirt. It looks like it could say “Missouri” or M-I-S-S something. “Mission,” maybe.

Why won’t LE release the other picture? What is the big deal? You release one but not the others. SMH

So what do I think happened to Tara?

Well, I think this was a lone kidnapper whose motive was sexual. I think he happened to see Tara on Highway 47 riding alone. He could have forced her off the road with his truck, grabbed her, and thrown her bike into his truck. He then took her to JFK Campground, where he raped and killed her.

The area is remote, so he could have disposed of her body there or taken it elsewhere, which would explain why part of her Sony Walkman was found there.


kelly February 2, 2017 - 8:24 PM

I think the girl resembles Doris Mulhern or Susan renee Reidling. I also think it is in the sleeper of a semi truck

David January 25, 2017 - 7:33 PM

My Sweet Audrina looks like a creepy book to read. I tried reading the Color Purple, and it was too depressing. Just like Gulag Archipelago. I couldn’t finish that one.

David January 25, 2017 - 7:24 PM

Also they say Parker killed a man named Billy Bowers. Another thing, the toyota in St. Joe, Florida was a Toyota cargo van, but you could mistake it for a toyota rv, or a small toyota four cylinder. The six cylinder was a four by four model which was higher. So it could either be a toyota van, a toyota truck with a camper shell, or Toyota small RV.

David January 25, 2017 - 7:20 PM

David Parker Ray was born in Belen,NM. He would have been forty nine years old. He still would be able bodied to abduct someone. His accomplice include Dennis Yancy who would have been sixteen years old. He probably knew the area. Both Parker and Yancy. They say serial killers start off in areas they know.

truecrimediva January 26, 2017 - 2:02 PM

I totally forgot about him! You’re right,he could have been the one! His killings took place from the 50s through the 90s so it’s very possible.

mayank September 30, 2016 - 9:00 PM

i think she still might be alive as her body had never been found.whats your thoughts on this??i am very curious about this case and i hope we’ll might get final results of this case..just hoping..

truecrimediva October 1, 2016 - 9:58 AM

It’s definitely a possibility but honestly, I don’t think she is.

Diane Lindsay September 30, 2016 - 1:29 PM

This is another horror story for the parents. It’s so sad that her mother never had some sort of peace before she died. At least to know where Tara is? I see a picture of a beautiful girl with her whole life ahead of her…so sad. There is a special place in hell for people that kidnap children. They can’t defend themselves and they can be naive and too trusting. I hope one day her family can find closure with the return of Tara, alive or deceased.

truecrimediva October 1, 2016 - 9:59 AM

It is very sad, Diane. I wish this world was a safer place for kids. She probably would have done great things with her life if she had been given the chance.


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True Crime Diva

True Crime Diva

I've blogged true crime since 2010, happily taking up only a tiny corner of the internet. I'm not here for attention; I'm here to tell you their stories.

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