The story of Tara Calico’s disappearance has had national exposure since it occurred in 1988.
The case was even reopened in 2013, and a six-person task force that includes agents from federal Homeland Security Investigations, the New Mexico State Police, the Valencia County Sheriff’s Office, the Albuquerque Police Department and the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office continues to look at the 19-year-old’s disappearance.
While the investigation is ongoing, a film crew is wrapping up work on a documentary, “Vanished: The Tara Calico Story.”
On Sept. 20, 1988, Calico, a student at the University of New Mexico, disappeared while riding her bike about 150 yards from the Rio Communities golf course near her home in Belen.
On June 15, 1989, a Polaroid photo of an unidentified young woman and a boy, bound and gagged in the back of a van, was found in a parking lot at a convenience store in Port St. Joe, Fla. There has been much speculation on whether the young woman in the photo is Calico. Her mother, Patty Doel, believed the woman in the photo was Calico.
Up until five years ago, her case was believed to be a kidnapping and received extensive coverage on “48 Hours,” “A Current Affair,” “Unsolved Mysteries,” “America’s Most Wanted” and “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”
But five years ago, then-Sheriff Rene Rivera said in news reports that he believed she was killed, but he didn’t have enough evidence to arrest anyone.
At the helm of the documentary is Melinda Esquibel, and the executive producer is former Albuquerque resident and “Breaking Bad” actor R.J. Mitte.
“We’ve been working on the project for four years,” Esquibel said. “The task force has been doing a good job in getting the information out there and we’re waiting to wrap up the project.”
While the project is four years strong, Mitte joined a year into it and got involved because he got to know the family while he lived here when he filmed “Breaking Bad” for six seasons.
“I was friends with Tara’s sister, and I went to homecoming with one of her daughters,” Mitte said. “I was talking to them one day, and they were looking for ways for me to get involved. We then agreed on me executive-producing the documentary, and it’s been busy ever since.”
Esquibel said that once Mitte joined the project the production was taken more seriously.
“He came on, and it just really bumped our profile up,” Esquibel said. “It’s been a story we’ve wanted to tell for so long and we’ve been able to get her name out into the national spotlight again.”
Esquibel said the production is in its final stages and the documentary should be released soon. Details on releasing it nationally are pending.
“It’s going to spread like wildfire,” Esquibel said. “The case is very interesting, and the investigation is nearing its completion.”
Esquibel said she wanted to do the documentary after seeing the story on the 20th anniversary of Calico’s death saying that Rivera, then sheriff of Valencia County, knew what happened to Calico.
In the article published in the Valencia County New Bulletin, Rivera said he knew the names of the boys, now men, who committed the crime and the parents who covered it up. But without a body or her pink bike, he could not bring the case to trial, he said.
“I was her classmate, and she was my friend,” Esquibel said. “I have a few interviews to do before I’m finished.”