A young New Mexico girl disappears into thin air 31 years ago: the story becomes a mystery with the discovery of some chilling photographs. Even today, an FBI team continues to look for it
At 9:30 on September 20, 1988, Tara Calico, an 18-year-old from Belen, a quiet town in New Mexico, leaves the house with her bicycle: her boyfriend is waiting for her for a game of tennis. To Mama Patty and John, her stepfather, Tara says she is waiting for her for lunchtime. Two hours later, not seeing her come back, her boyfriend and stepfather go around looking for her, following the only route that Tara could have done, along State Road 47. Exactly the way that her mother had advised her not to do, because she had happened to be molested by passersby.
The family warns the police, who start the search and find some pieces of the walkman on the roadside that the girl used to listen to music while riding her bike. The shopkeepers, questioned one by one by the police, almost all remember that girl they often saw cycling, but nobody is able to say if that day, or the previous one, had passed. The only clue in the agents’ hands is the presence of a white pickup truck pulling a roulette marked area. But nothing else comes out, and for almost a year silence falls on Tara’s name: nobody has seen her anymore.
On June 15, 1989, almost a year later, a woman found a Polaroid photo in the parking lot of a supermarket, probably fallen from a white van that she herself sees leaving. In the dramatic image, which will travel around the world, you can see a girl and a child tied and gagged with insulating tape, lying on the bed of what could be a trailer. The woman also manages to provide the police with an identikit of the man: he is tall, thick, with a mustache, between thirty and forty years of age. But despite the imposing deployment of agents and the numerous checkpoints, the van is not found, and it is not possible to identify the man in any way. The photo, meanwhile, is analyzed by Polaroid laboratories, which manage to establish that it is a recent image, taken with a film on the market only a few weeks ago. An important confirmation comes from the forensic analysis laboratories of Scotland Yard, according to which the girl in the photos is Tara. But a subsequent analysis by the “Los Alamos National Laboratory” has denied everything: it looks like her, but it’s not her.
Patty and John see the photo on television, broadcast by a program that deals with missing people, and are convinced that the one in the image is their Tara. Not only would hair growth be compatible with the time that has elapsed since it disappeared, but a scar identical to one that the girl had procured a few years earlier in a car accident would be seen on her leg.
Even the boy in the photo, about 10 years old, convinces other desperate parents to see their baby. The Henley couple believe it is Michael, 9 years old, who also disappeared in April 1988 from a camping in New Mexico where the family was spending a vacation. A hope that will be rendered vain a year later, when Michael’s poor remains are found about ten kilometers from the campsite: according to the autopsy, the child died of hunger, thirst and hardship, after having voluntarily left.
The child in the photo becomes the second mystery of this story: despite the efforts, it has never been possible to give it a name.
Twenty-one years later, on August 12, 2009, David Barnes, police chief of Port St. Joe, Florida, receives two anonymous envelopes dated June 10 and August 10, sent from Albuquerque: they each contain the same Polaroid that portrays a blond boy. in the position where the alleged Tara had been photographed twenty years earlier. In one of the photos, a black gag with a marker was drawn on the young man’s mouth, on the other hand he has nothing. On the same day, the local newspaper “The Star” receives another envelope containing the same photo, with the boy’s face gagged with a marker. For the police, it is a message from the man who kidnapped Tara Calico twenty years earlier.
Over the years two other similar photos have emerged, one found in California, the other on a train: both portray a gagged girl, but this time the FBI has chosen not to disclose them. And to add to the case also the statement by Rene Riviera, sheriff of the county of Valencia, who claims to know the story: Tara had been kidnapped by some boys and loaded on a truck that shortly after had had an accident in which the girl was dead. In the absence of the body, he could not name names. For the police, who have however investigated, this is a completely implausible version.
In 2013, a quarter of a century after his disappearance, the FBI created a team of six investigators to investigate the disappearance of Tara Calico again, offering $ 20,000 in reward to anyone who can provide information on the case. According to Special Agent James Langenberg, team leader, “It is time for someone to come forward to finally bring Tara home. Law enforcement never stopped looking for her. ” Even today, investigations have led to nothing: Tara has literally vanished into thin air.