The mysterious disappearance of a 19-year-old girl 35 years ago may finally be solved as detectives prepare to arrest the suspects, police told The Sun.
The sinister snap was discovered in a Florida parking lot in August 1989, sparking an investigation – and many assumed that the girl was Tara.
After the heartbreaking photo went viral, families came forward to claim that they realized the couple looked distressed.
Calico’s family is sure that the girl in the photo is Tara, meaning she will have to live for months after she goes missing.
But law enforcement has been divided over the photo – with different agencies giving inconclusive results.
For decades, the Polaroid has been a source of hope and suffering.
Now, nearly 35 years later, the Valencia County Sheriff’s Office has revealed that there has been “significant progress” in the investigation.
Detectives say they have enlisted the help of the FBI – and now believe there is enough evidence to arrest and charge the suspects in the case.
It marks a major breakthrough in a decades-long mystery.
Lieutenant Joseph Rowland, case manager for the Valencia County Sheriff’s Office, told The Sun: “Law enforcement believe they have identified offenders in connection with Tara’s disappearance. Calico.
“We are looking to charge and arrest the offenders.
“New evidence found stems from investigative work October 2020 to date.
“The district attorney’s office has appointed a team of prosecutors to review the investigation.
“This case has obvious challenges given its age and circumstances.
“Legal experts are now being briefed and caught up in 34 years of investigative work.”
At a sensational press conference earlier this month, it was revealed that the names and details of “persons of interest” would remain private for now.
Lieutenant Rowland said detectives will continue to ask the public for any information about Tara’s disappearance.
Melinda Esquibel, Tara’s former classmate, has spent years investigating her disappearance – and described her case as “a great injustice”.
“I believe Tara’s case is a great injustice in the Valencia County Sheriff’s Office and hope that now the right people are working on this case so that justice can be done,” she said. speak.
Melinda believes her friend was stalked by a group of local boys after turning down one of the boys who asked her out on a date.
I feel like me and my team have solved the case
And she thinks the teenager was killed the same night she disappeared and was buried just 20 miles from where she was killed – not kidnapped by the man behind the Polaroid.
Speaking to The Sun last year, Melinda said: “I know that the family believes it was or could be her, but the data I’ve gathered shows it can’t be her.
“There’s no data I have that leads to that girl being Tara.”
She sets off for the 36-mile run at 9:30 a.m. — a route she rides most mornings, often with her mother, Patty Doel.
But her mother stopped cycling with her because she thought she was being followed by a motorist.
Patty encourages Tara to start carrying a mace in self-defense, but she rejects the idea.
Tara was last seen driving along the highway at 11:45 a.m. – with witnesses claiming to have seen her being followed by a light-colored Ford pickup.
She asked her mother to come pick her up if she didn’t come back at 12 o’clock that fateful night because that afternoon she had plans to go play tennis with her boyfriend.
When she did not return, Patty searched along the route and contacted police after failing to find her.
The 19-year-old girl was never seen again, only debris from the Sony Walkman and the cassette tape found along the trail.
Melinda theorized about Tara’s disappearance after interviewing hundreds of people and assembling a case file containing a whopping 25,000 entries.
Melinda told The Sun: “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 the arrest.
“So I have to leave that to them. I don’t know if anyone will make any arrests in this case.”
From her years as a detective, she thinks a group of local boys hit Tara off her bike before robbing and killing her.
And Melinda assumed that Tara was buried just 20 miles from where she was brutally murdered.
My belief that this case is solvable comes from a large number of people who have talked about it over the years.
Lieutenant Joseph Rowland
“I have information that there is a possibility that this boy and his friends will arrest her four days before her actual arrest on September 16, 1988,” she said.
“This means it’s pre-calculated and thought out.”
Paying tribute to her beloved classmate, Melinda said: “Tara has a bright light around her. She is cheerful, serious, intelligent, playful and kind.
“That’s how I remember her. She was an upperclassman and we met in the marching band.
“She showed kindness to me and I will never forget it. She showed kindness to me when it was not necessary.”
Last year, Lieutenant Rowland told The Sun he believed the case could be resolved.
But he said one of the challenges “is that there is very little physical evidence”.
And Mr. Rowland said the FBI confirmed it was not Tara in the photo.
“A body has yet to be found. No DNA was found during the initial investigation. The investigation has been ongoing for more than thirty years now.”
But he added: “I believe this case is solvable given the large amount of people who have been talking about it for years.
“Belen was a much smaller town in 1988 and most people knew each other. I believe the person or people responsible for her disappearance were locals.”