For decades, police and investigators have been stumped by a disturbing Polaroid showing a young girl and child bound and gagged in the back of a van.
It has long been believed to be connected to the disappearance of 19-year-old Tara Calico, who disappeared while bicycling on September 30, 1988.
Many people believe that Tara is the grey-haired female in the photo who appears bound and gagged next to a young kid who has yet to be named.
The suspicious photograph was found in an August 1989 parking lot in Florida, prompting authorities to launch an inquiry. Families came forward, saying they recognized the distraught couple after the disturbing photo went viral.
The Calicos were optimistic that the girl in the photo was Tara, so she must still be alive some months after she vanished. Different law enforcement agencies that looked at the picture came to contradictory conclusions.
The discovery of the Polaroid camera decades ago brought both joy and sorrow. After over 34 years, the case is still unsolved despite widespread media coverage.
A friend of the missing kid who has spent years looking into her disappearance has just stated that the girl in the photo is not Tara.
Melinda Esquibel, a former classmate of Tara’s, speculates that the local boys may have stalked Tara after she turned down a date from one of them. Instead of being kidnapped, she thinks the youngster was slain the night she vanished and buried about 20 miles from the crime scene.
But now we have to wonder, if that’s not Tara, then who is in the photo?
Melinda told The Sun Online, “I know that the family believes it is or could be her, but the data I have gathered shows that it cannot be her.”
“None of the data I have leads to that girl being Tara.”
Tara Calico went on a bike ride near her Belen, New Mexico, home, but she never came back.
She left around 9:30 in the morning to ride the 36 miles, a trip she frequently did with her mother, Patty Doel.
But her mother no longer rode bikes with her because she feared a motorist was following her.
Tara turned down Patty’s suggestion that she start carrying mace for self-defense.
Tara was reported missing at 11:45 a.m. after witnesses said they saw her being pursued by a white Ford pickup truck as she rode along a highway.
She had planned to play tennis with her boyfriend later that day, so she had asked her mother to come and get her if she hadn’t returned by midday.
Patty went looking for her along the path and called the police when she didn’t return.
The 19-year-old was last spotted near a trail where pieces of her Sony Walkman and cassette tape were discovered.
She conducted hundreds of interviews and compiled a case file with over 25,000 things before arriving at her conclusion about Tara’s death.
Melinda told The Sun Online, “I feel like me and my team have solved the case, but I’m not the authorities, and there’s not much I can do about making arrests.
“Therefore, I have to leave that up to them. I have no idea if anyone will ever make any arrests in this case.”
Her years of experience as a detective have led her to believe that a gang of local youths knocked Tara off her bike and then abducted and m*rdered her.
Melinda believes that Tara was m*rdered within 20 miles of her burial site.
“I have information that it was a possibility that this boy and his friends were going to grab her four days before the day she was actually taken on September 16, 1988,” she said.
This would indicate that the act was planned.
“Regardless, I believe they knew her route, she was stalked and followed.
“The boys hit her bike and it knocked her off. She took off running and they followed her, grabbed her, assaulted and then m*rdered her.
“I think her body is buried within 20 miles of where she was hit.
“The details are gruesome of what happened and then what happened in the aftermath.”
You should check out other Polaroid photos in Jeffrey Dahmer’s apartment.
Melinda’s interest in the case began on the 20th anniversary of her death when a news report was published.
She said: “Back in 1988 this entire event was very traumatising to the community.”
“I had blocked it out until my mother had cut out the article and mailed it to me in California. When I read it I started crying and the wounds just ripped right open.”
“I couldn’t believe I had forgotten what had happened all those years ago.”
A group of Melinda’s high school friends greeted her when she returned to New Mexico and informed her, “Oh Melinda, the whole town knows who did it!”
“They proceeded to tell me a bunch of stories that were pretty shocking to me,” she said.
“It was at that moment that I knew I had to do something.”
Melinda began her investigation by gathering information about the Sheriff who was in office during Tara’s death. She then interviewed hundreds of people from the neighborhood.
“Several years back in 2017 an investigator reached out to me after listening to my podcast,” she said.
“He said he could help turn me into a proper investigator so I could actually make data sets that were viable to authorities with all the information I was collecting.”
“He spent years training me and in the process, we put together a professional team of investigators that I would hold up over any law enforcement in New Mexico any day, and we put the case together.”
“I shared my findings with the FBI. I never shared it with the Sheriff’s office because they were not interested in going through it with me.”
“They just wanted me to turn it over.”
Melinda’s file has grown to almost 25,000 items in size.
“There are always new leads that come in. I add it to the data sets and link charts, so that is a living and breathing document,” she said.
“The thing that is frustrating is that a lot of the information that comes in is a rumor, so I have to see how the information fits into what we have as actual reports, timelines, etc.”
Melinda, a close friend of the late Tara, eulogized her by saying, “Tara had a bright light around her.” She was witty, serious, bright, playful, and generous.
“That is how I remember her. She was an upperclassman and we met in the marching band.”
“She showed me kindness and I will never forget that. She showed me kindness when she didn’t have to.”
“It says a lot about a person’s character when they do the right thing when nobody’s looking.”
“She and I had more things in common than I ever realised.”
He said: “My belief that this case is solvable comes from the large amount of people who have talked about it over the years.”
“Belen was a much smaller town in 1988 and almost everyone knew each other. I believe that the person or persons responsible for her disappearance are local.”
For the current updates, you can visit thetecheducation.com.