Yesterday was the 33rd anniversary of Tara Calico’s disappearance.
Tara (pronounced Tar-uh) was a 19-year-old college student from Belen, New Mexico, who worked part time at a local bank. Tara was an incredibly active young woman; on September 20th, 1988, she planned to ride her usual 36-mile route from Rio Communities onto Highway 47 south of Belen and back.
Tara had left her tennis outfit on her bed and departed from her family’s house at 9:30 am. She asked her mother, Patty Doel, to come find her if she was not home by noon, as Tara had a tennis date with her boyfriend at 12:30 and a class at UNM-VC that afternoon. Since Tara’s own bike had a flat tire, she took Patty’s neon pink, 10-speed Huffy bike. She also had her Walkman.
At 12:05, Tara had not arrived home, so Patty went to search for her. Patty was unable to find Tara and called the Valencia County Sherriff’s Office to report her missing. The next day, Patty found a Boston cassette tape belonging to Tara on the side of the road, three miles from their home. On September 24th, Tara’s Walkman was found near JFK campground, and near it some bike tracks.
Tara nor her mother’s bicycle has never been found, but there has been information that has come out about her disappearance in the years since.
Several witnesses saw Tara bicycling that day with a white or light grey 1953 Ford pickup truck following her. It had a distinctive white homemade camper shell on the back.
Sherriff Rene Rivera publicly stated that he felt some teenage boys who were acquainted with Tara had hit her accidentally and covered up her death with the help of their parents. There was also a photograph found in Port St. Joe, Florida, that some people thought might be connected to Tara’s case as the young woman looks similar to Tara and Tara’s favorite book (which was very popular in the 80’s and 90’s) was featured in the photograph. The FBI and Scotland Yard analyzed the photo and determined that they weren’t sure it was Tara.
Some police reports regarding Tara’s disappearance were released on Scribd thanks to username Public Records Requester. (If you are curious about the other records this user uploaded, please use caution. Some contain very graphic crime scene photos that are not suitable for anyone, really.)
Within the Scribd documents, it is revealed that a Henry Brown reported to police upon his death bed a party he went to in a makeshift basement beneath Lawrence Romero Jr’s trailer. Lawrence Jr was the son of Valencia County Sherriff Lawrence Romero Sr, who was sheriff at the time Tara disappeared. Lawrence Jr was also the nephew of Billy Romero, the Socorro County Sherriff at the time. Henry reported that while in the basement, he saw what appeared to be a small body wrapped in a blue tarp, and men at the party were discussing that they raped and killed Tara. One of the men seemed to be an ex-boyfriend of Tara. Frank Methola, who took the report from Henry Brown, also notes that Lawrence Jr later was reported to have committed suicide, and there was a note left at the scene of his death which was never taken into evidence and seemed to have disappeared. Detective Methola also suggests there may have been corruption within the sheriff’s office even after Lawrence Romero Sr. left and was replaced by Rene Rivera.
In 1998, Tara was legally declared deceased, with a judge calling it a presumed homicide.
In September of 2019, a $20,000 reward was put up for information leading to Tara or her remains.
In April of 2021, a search warrant was executed in Valencia County at someone’s home after investigator’s received a tip about Tara, but the warrant is still sealed.
Though her mother, biological father, and stepfather have passed away, Tara’s siblings are still hoping for the day that her case will be solved. In addition, just three years earlier almost to the day, Debbie Lansdell also disappeared from Belen, New Mexico.
Some police reports regarding Tara’s disappearance were released on Scribd
The Vanished Podcast: The Tara Calico Story