The Mystifying, Unsolved Disappearance of Tara Calico

The unsolved disappearance of Tara Calico back in September of 1988 remains one of the most bizarre and unsettling true crime cases of the last forty years.

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It’s one of those situations that shouldn’t lead to someone going missing. Calico, a 19-year-old student at U of NM, went for a typical 36 mile bike ride.

Only, she didn’t return. Her mother was supposed to go look for her at noon if she didn’t return, and when her daughter didn’t turn up, Calico’s mother called the cops.

All they were able to find in an ensuing investigation was Calico’s Walkman. Other than that, nada. Eyewitnesses who saw her riding on the usual path also noticed a light-colored Ford truck with a camper on top following Calico, but no one witnessed an abduction.

Theories abound as to what happened to her, but almost literally nothing was found…Until June of 1989. A woman leaving a convenience store in Florida found a Polaroid photograph on the ground. In the picture was a young woman and boy bound and gagged, looking very frightened.

The photograph ended up in the hands of TV show A Current Affairwhich broadcast it nationally in 1990. The resulting firestorm reached all the way to Tara Calico’s family, who became convinced the woman in the picture was their daughter. It was compounded by the fact that the other person in the picture looked eerily like a young boy who had disappeared not even 75 miles from where Calico herself vanished.

Unfortunately, the kismet of the situation was complicated by the fact that the boy, Michael Hensley, was later found not five miles from where he’d gone missing. Apparently, he’d wandered off of his camp site and died of exposure.

However, there are a few details about the photograph that relate strangely to the unsolved disappearance of Tara Calico. First off, the mother saw a scar in the exact location where her daughter had once been injured. Not only that, her favorite book by VC Andrews lay prominently in the foreground of the shot, almost like a clue for anyone really paying attention.

I watched Who Took Johnny? tonight, about the disappearance of Johnny Gosch in 1982, and I have to say that this case, combined with that one, really has opened my eyes to the possibility that there are indeed widespread human trafficking rings operating in the US, even today. The fact that they don’t get more attention bothers me.

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