Saturday, September 20, 2003
Missing Area Woman Sought 15 Years Later
By Clara Garcia
Valencia County News-Bulletin
RIO COMMUNITIES For the past 15 years, Patty and John Doel have been waiting for any word about where their daughter might be.
The circumstances surrounding Tara Calico's disappearance the morning of Sept. 20, 1988, have baffled not only her family but local police.
Tara was 19. She had left her home in Rio Communities to take a routine round-trip bike ride on N.M. 47. She didn't return, and she hasn't been found.
"There is not a day that goes by that I don't think of her," said Tara's mother, Patty Doel. "For a long, long time, it was constantly on my mind. Now, at least, I know there is another life, but it's still hard."
The Doels are packing to move to Port Charlotte, Fla. Patty Doel said moving away doesn't mean she's giving up on Tara; it's just something that's been a long time coming.
"It's hard to leave here, but we planned to do this when we first got married.
"It's better for me being there," she said. "There's nowhere I can go here that doesn't bring back memories of Tara."
Tara's stepfather, John Doel, said it's time to move on, but he will always be thankful for the overwhelming support of the community.
Although the case is 15 years old, it's still active, said Valencia County Sheriff's Detective Rene Rivera. Information continues to stream in, and the detective said he believes it will one day be solved.
Rivera, who has worked this case for the past seven years, said he has recently received promising new information, although he wouldn't be specific.
"I've received new information within the last month and as recent as last week," he said. "There are three different avenues that we're currently looking into, and this information is something that we've never had before, and it sounds pretty credible."
New leads are not new to Patty Doel. She has been actively investigating her daughter's disappearance from the start.
One of the first clues that Tara may still be alive was a photo found nine months after she disappeared. A woman found a Polaroid photograph in the parking lot of a convenience store in Port St. Joe, Fla., of a young boy and woman bound and gagged inside the back of a van. Patty Doel is convinced the woman is her daughter.
Although some law enforcement agencies say they don't believe the woman in the photo is Tara, her mother said the resemblance and certain clues are unmistakable.
"We had an ear comparison done by Scotland Yard (in England) for us, and they gave us a definite ID that it was her," Patty Doel said. "In the photo, there is a scar on the woman's leg that is identical to a scar she received in a car accident."
Rivera said the most important thing is that the case be solved so Tara's mother can have closure.
"I want to be able to find her and be able to tell her mother that we've finally been able to locate her," he said. "If it turns out that she's dead, we want her to have a proper burial. And if she's still alive, I want her to be able to be reunited with her mom."
Rivera asks anyone with information related to the Tara Calico case to call him at 866-2405. He said the caller can remain anonymous. The Doels can be reached in Florida at (941) 697-9313 and by mail at 15504 Avery Road, Port Charlotte, Fla., 33981.