Frenzied Coverage of Gabby Petito Case Conversely Sheds Light on the Unseen

Frenzied Coverage of Gabby Petito Case Conversely Sheds Light on the Unseen

gabby petito

The heart-wrenching story of Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito’s disappearance and demise has captivated not only America, but the world. As billions around the globe have followed the unfolding story of the 22-year-old missing Long Island native, parents, siblings, and young adults have imagined facing such a devastating loss of their own daughter, sister, or friend. Gabby Petito and her fiance, Brian Laundrie have become the objects of fascination in the American media, leading to new conversations surrounding Missing White Woman Syndrome.

While the compassion evoked by the vast media coverage of the case has certainly created a powerful momentum and an outpouring of sympathy, for many families who are also missing loved ones, a raw sadness hangs in the air. Increasingly, an array of advocates are pointing out that—while, of course, a case such as Petito’s should be elevated, covered, and supported—countless missing persons of color disappear each year with little more than a murmur emerging from the media or the public at large.

The striking disparity is known as “missing white woman syndrome,” and while the response to Gabby Petito’s story may stand in the annals of time as a textbook example of the phenomena, conversation around the case has conversely provided space for examination of the complexities of race and equality issues within the media and society as a whole.

As Thomas Lauth—founder of Indianapolis-based and internationally operational Lauth Missing Persons—traces the pattern of missing white woman syndrome, while monitoring the evolution of the Petito case on the ground, we examine the many factors that propelled Petito’s case into the spotlight. Demand is growing for all missing persons to finally be given a voice in equal measure—with the hope that all of those left behind might experience a level playing field in terms of opportunity to seek the answers they long for.

Gabby Petito: A Singular Missing Persons Case

Gabby Petito was described in a Washington Post article as a “blue-eyed, blonde adventure-seeker”; a description that drew criticism from political science expert Hakeem Jefferson of Stanford University for its “unnecessary racializing.”

Having garnered a sizable social media following as she shared her adventures across several platforms, eyes were already turned towards the Gabby Petito when news of her disappearance emerged in the press and online. The young woman was on the road with her fiancé, Brian Laundrie, 23, in a white Ford Transit Connect Van, making a cross-country trip. A “van life” blogger, Petito was documenting their journey when circumstances took a turn towards tragedy.

Speaking to USA Today, Lauth highlighted how the combination of factors in Petito’s case had made for headlines. Material entering the public sphere such as the couple’s own Instagram images and Youtube video footage, police body camera footage of a distressed Petito captured during a road-side stop in Utah on August 12th, and several witness sightings documented on TikTok that described Laundrie’s behavior as aggressive collectively created an intimate picture of a case that was ripe for public scrutiny.

On September 1st, Laundrie returned to the home he shared with Petito and his parents in North Port, Florida, without his fiancée. Growing increasingly concerned about their daughter and having received odd text messages from her phone, Petito’s own parents reported her missing on September 11th. On September 14th, the day before he would be named a person of interest in the case, Laundrie reportedly told his family he was going hiking in Carlton Reserve. He was not seen again, and his family maintain that they know nothing of his whereabouts.

On September 19th, Fox News described Petito as “America’s daughter,” transforming the tragic story of a missing woman into a symbol within the collective consciousness of countless Americans. On the same day, the FBI announced the discovery of a body in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, matching Petito’s description. Two days later, it was confirmed that Petito had been found, and that her case was now a homicide investigation. Meanwhile, police continued their search for Laundrie, who at time of writing remains at large.

The Darker Side of a Social Media Frenzy

Speaking to Indianapolis and Central Indiana news outlet WTHR, Lauth shared that in his decades of work, he can think of several cases of missing white women that have received exceptional national media attention—so-called missing white woman syndrome cases—alongside unusually substantial resource mobilization in the name of finding them. “Natalie Holloway, Elizabeth Smart, Lauren Spierer and now Gabby Petito,” said Lauth.

In the case of Gabby Petito, alongside around-the-clock media coverage, another type of phenomena was taking hold. A vast number of members of the public had put on their detective’s hats and taken to social media in order to form their own investigations, and share their own conclusions. TikTok, Twitter, and Instagram users scoured every capture they could find looking for clues, while use of the TikTok hashtag #gabbypetito crept towards and then exceeded 1 billion views. Experts speculated that the swell of amateur sleuthing may coincide with the rise of true crime podcasts and documentaries in recent years.

Speaking to the New York Times, criminal justice and media researcher Danielle Slakoff of California State University expressed a worrying concern that this kind of coverage threatens to turn active cases into “entertainment.” Insensitive or monetized posts can lead to the spread of misinformation, or worse yet, derail police investigations as those responsible for finding authentic clues are left scrambling as they try to sift through such swathes of information. Adding further to the sense of hysteria, television personality Duane Chapman, known as “Dog the Bounty Hunter” announced that he was joining the search for Brian Laundrie, although police have so far dismissed his tips.

The Roots of Missing White Woman Syndrome

In his conversation with WTHR, Lauth shared a sad observation: “The general public and the media have really been attracted to what’s called, “The Missing White Woman Syndrome,” better known as “Damsel in Distress Syndrome.”

Lauth describes the phenomena first coined by late American news anchor Gwen Ifill at a journalism conference in 2004. Since adopted by social scientists, the term “missing white woman syndrome” refers to a tendency towards heightened media coverage of young, attractive, white, upper-middle-class women who are missing when compared to women of color, women of lower social class, older women, men, boys, and LGBTQ missing persons.

On the phenomena, Ifill said, “If there’s a missing white woman, we are going to cover that, every day.” When asked if the response would have been the same had Petito been a woman of color, speaking once again to WTHR, Lauth said, “We wouldn’t be having this interview.”

Another aspect of missing white woman syndrome recently placed under the spotlight is the way in which missing person cases are framed. Research indicates that coverage of missing white women tends to emphasize their roles as mothers or daughters—and fundamentally as innocents—while coverage of missing women of color tends to place focus on the victim’s problems, implying a level of complicity in their disappearance.

Lauth laments the role that harmful stereotypes play in the profiling of victims of color. “They’re missing because they’re doing drugs somewhere or they’re missing because they’re in prostitution,” he said, giving examples of the bias seen within missing persons narratives. “Instead, a lot of these cases are people of color who are endangered.”

Pushing Back Against a Broken Pattern

To give context to the disproportion seen in the Petito case, we can turn to the statistics shared by nonprofit organization the Black and Missing Foundation. In 2020 alone, 543,018 people were reported missing in the United States. Of those, nearly 40% were people of color. Meanwhile, a report issued by the Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center revealed that at least 710 Indigenous people vanished from the state of Wyoming—where Petito’s body was found—between 2011 and 2020, most of whom were women and girls.

Writing for USA Today, Suzette Hackney posed a powerful thought on behalf of those who are under-represented: “They aren’t all pretty and blonde. They don’t have a social media following. But their families deserve America’s sympathy and news coverage; their stories are no less important.”

Earlier this year, the FBI compiled a list of active missing persons cases of people under the age of 21, each in need of fresh leads. Scrolling through the many faces of those whose families still wait in hope of answers, the aware will likely find themselves reminded of the 2016 study that revealed missing persons of color to be “significantly underrepresented” in local and national news reporting when set against their tally among the FBI’s open missing persons case list.

Offering a silver lining to the dark cloud of tragedy that has fallen over the Petito case, a jump in awareness of such disparities is beginning to spread through the public sphere. While missing white woman syndrome may lead those motivated by profit to leverage its effect in the name of engagement and revenue, a push-back has emerged on social media. A number of TikTok users are using their platforms to increase awareness of minority missing persons cases that had previously remained largely unseen.

Lauth is poignantly aware that wealth and class can further compound the difference in resources that are mobilized between the spectra of missing persons cases. With this in mind, he encourages clients and followers alike of the Lauth Missing Persons’ investigative team to create GoFundMe pages, hold vigils, contact the media, and be available for interviews in order to drive awareness and interest in their loved ones’ cases.

Speaking on Tuesday 29th September at their first press conference since the discovery of Gabby Petito’s body, the Petito family stressed that while they are grateful for all of the attention that has fallen on Gabby’s case, they want every other family to get the same treatment. Having announced the founding of the Gabby Petito Foundation, the family outlined their desire to provide resources and guidance to others who were searching for a family member. “We’re hoping that through our tragedy, in the future, some good can come out of it,” Gabby’s father Joe explained.

The Petito Case Continues as Awareness Grows for the Previously Unseen

Authorities hope that Petito’s fiancé will soon come forwards and shed light on the events that led to Gabby Petito’s death. While considered a person of interest, Brian Laundrie has not been named as a suspect by the FBI. A warrant has, however, been issued for his arrest in relation to the “use of unauthorized devices.”

According to a federal indictment, Laundrie is alleged to have used a debit card and PIN number for charges exceeding $1,000 from an account that is not his own following Petito’s death, between the dates of August 30th and September 1st. Two separate rewards totaling $30,000 have been offered to anyone who provides a lead that reveals Laundrie’s whereabouts to law enforcement officials. Meanwhile, public discourse around the phenomena of missing white woman syndrome continues to surge, giving hope that a shift in the way missing persons cases are reported and received may be on the horizon.
For the many who are still holding on to hope following the disappearance of a loved one or family member, private investigations firm Lauth Missing Persons provide an array of free resources to help forge vital search momentum, as well as expert advice drawing on their decades of experience investigating missing persons cases in the field. While the bias of missing white woman syndrome may still remain prevalent, the self-driven nature of today’s information sharing means that the scales can tip just as quickly as an idea might spread. Lets hope that a tipping point has been reached, and this is only the beginning.

How to Avoid Vanishing in a National Park

How to Avoid Vanishing in a National Park

national park

Many of us crave the freedom of getting out into nature, but the beautiful wilderness of a national park undoubtedly comes with its own dangers. Factors such as unpredictable weather patterns, dangerous wild animals, navigation challenges, precipice-filled terrain, and even toxic algal blooms—as seen in the tragic recent disappearances in Yosemite National Park—should not be underestimated.

While we can get so far by reading up on the National Park that we’ve set in our sights as a dream destination—and adhering to guidelines and signage once we get there—we can’t always trust that every risk ahead will come with a clear and visible warning. With that in mind, we asked the missing persons investigations team here at Lauth Missing Persons to outline their best tips on how to avoid vanishing in a National Park. Read on to discover what they said.

Do Your Research

Unless you’re a rugged local, there is a good chance that you won’t be familiar with the hazardous animals native to the National Park in question, and the rules and regulations that have been put in place to keep adventurous visitors safe. Jump online to familiarize yourself with the terrain, wildlife, and best routes—picking up a map as you go.

Precautions Before You Set Off

Alongside reading general guides on the National Park’s trails, wildlife, and conditions, don’t forget to check for an in-the-moment update before you set off. Getting the latest weather report can help you avoid getting caught in a freak storm, while checking local bulletins and social media pages will alert you any worrying wildlife sightings, trail collapses, facility closures, and algal blooms that you should know about. Share a final itinerary plan with a friend or family member before you set off, so that someone knows at least where you should be along the way.

Know Your Limits

One of the most common pitfalls that leads people to go missing in National Parks is simply biting off more than they can chew. Understanding the distance that you are hoping to cover, the challenges of the terrain in question, and what is realistic for you to achieve is vital for keeping you and your traveling companions safe out in the wilderness.

Bring The Right Clothing

Heading up into the mountains on a sunny day might seem like a call for shorts, a t-shirt, and nothing more, but never forget that wild-landscape weather can change in the blink of an eye. Strong and supportive footwear will keep you mobile as you move into remote areas, and carrying a full selection of layers will mean that you can keep yourself warm, dry, and alive if conditions get dicey.

Stay On the Trails

While National Parks invest heavily in maintaining safe trails for public use, it remains necessary to be alert to where the trail ends, and peril begins. Between the sheer scale of trying to mark every trail and the aim to interrupt the environment as little as possible, it is expected that visitors remain self aware. While the promise of a better view around an untrodden corner might seem tempting, crumbling rock faces, deep canyons, and slippery scree slopes can make deviation dangerous.

Respect Animal Life

Each National Park issues its own guidance on sensible distances to maintain between yourself and its native animal populations. While Yellowstone recommends staying at least 100 yards from wolves and bears, make that distance even greater if you suspect the animal in question may have young in tow. Do your homework on how to behave in proximity to wildlife; pick up some bear spray and stay in groups when traveling into bear country.

Carry Food and Water Responsibly

Whatever the duration of your planned trip, aim to carry double the water you should need. There is no way of knowing if the contents of waterways within a National Park are safe to drink, and if something goes wrong you’ll be covered. As far as food is concerned, keep everything edible under wraps, and never feed animals or leave your leftovers behind. Animals who become used to seeking food from humans may become a threat to you or other visitors.

Bring a First Aid and Emergency Kit

Taking a first aid kit with you when hitting the trails is just common sense. If you’re going further from the beaten path, consider adding emergency flares and survival equipment, and ensure that at least one of your party is first aid trained.

Be Road Safe

While we might imagine that the hostilities of nature are the most perilous things within National Parks, road accidents remain a real threat to visitors. Blind corners, wandering wildlife, and lost tourists can all increase the risk of accidents.

Take Your Safety Seriously

Here at Lauth Missing Persons, we know that a lack of awareness of the world’s dangers can result in serious consequences. While our missing persons investigations team are dedicated to finding those who have vanished, we’d much prefer that you take precautions and kept yourself safe in the first place.
If you ever need help finding a missing person, our team of missing person specialists are ever-ready to take action. Learn about what we do, or contact our team today to find out more.

When Your Loved One Goes Missing Here Are the First Places to Check

When Your Loved One Goes Missing Here Are the First Places to Check

missing persons investigations

Missing persons investigations are always a great source of distress. The disappearance of a loved one is a nightmare that none of us want to face. However, there is a lot to be said for being prepared for the worst as we hope for the best. Knowing what to do when someone we care about becomes a missing person can make all the difference in bringing them home safe and well.

When a partner, friend, or family member vanishes unexpectedly, we can find ourselves in panic mode, and in missing persons investigations, time is often of the essence. While there are many reasons why a person may disappear—not all giving reason for alarm—precaution is always the prudent course, because time may be of the essence. To help you navigate this moment in the name of your loved ones best interests, the missing persons investigations team here at Lauth Missing Persons recommends taking the following steps:

The First Places to Check

When worried about the whereabouts of a loved one, it can be easy to miss an obvious explanation. Missing persons specialists recommend taking a deep breath and taking an analytical approach to checking all the potential places that the person may be, or that might indicate their whereabouts.

  • Check the person’s home. If you can’t do that in person, contact someone close by to assist, or reach out to the local authorities for help with a wellbeing check.
  • Check their place of work and frequent hangouts, such as health centers, sports clubs, and entertainment venues.
  • Contact or visit colleagues, friends, and family members to see if anyone knows where the missing person might be, or where they were last seen.
  • Check social media for any indicators of your loved ones plans or recent communications.
  • Contact nearby hospitals in case your loved one has been admitted.

As you search for a missing person, keep your phone with you in case anyone—including your loved one—tries to get in touch, or shares information. Keep notes on anything you discover. Be careful not to delete or alter any social media or phone messages, or clean up where your loved one has been in case missing person investigators later need to look for evidence.

When to Contact the Authorities

It is never too soon to contact the authorities when concerned about a missing person. Having checked in all of the logical places—or sooner if the missing person is vulnerable or your instinct tells you that there is cause for concern—you can reach out to your local law enforcement agency to file a missing persons report.

Keep in mind that procedure in cases of missing persons varies from state to state. In some areas police may not be able to act for 24 or 48 hours unless there is reason to suspect a crime, or the missing person in question falls into certain vulnerability categories, such as being under 18, or over 65 years of age; suffering from physical illness; suffering from mental illness; experiencing depression, or suicidal thoughts.

What Else You Can Do

It can feel frustrating when the authorities are not acting with the urgency that you feel they should, however there are lots of other steps that you can take in the interest of finding your loved one:

  • Enlist the help of friends and family to create a search party, launch a social media campaign, and put up flyers in your neighborhood.
  • Alert the media, providing photographs and a description of your loved one so that they can help you raise awareness across a much larger audience.
  • Reach out to organizations working to find missing persons, such as the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUS),  the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the Black and Missing Foundation, the international I-Famila Interpol database, and the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC).
  • Encourage the local authorities by offering your assistance; providing data, photographs, and DNA samples of family members; requesting a phone trace; and requesting canine support if mounting a private search.
  • Hire a private investigator to help you find your loved one. Missing person specialists can commit more time to searching for your loved one than local authorities agents may be able to, are able to access wider resources than members of the public, and can harness expert knowledge and experience.

If your loved one has gone missing, the missing persons investigations team at Lauth Missing Persons is ready to take action and find their trail. Learn more about what we do or contact us today for immediate action.

How to Find a Missing Person Overseas

How to Find a Missing Person Overseas

Your loved one is on the other side of the world, having the adventure of a lifetime. They check in at the same time every day—that was, until yesterday, when you didn’t hear from them at all. Today, the hours pass in slow motion, and the window for their second missed check in comes and goes. What do you do when someone goes missing overseas?

The idea of the disappearance of a loved one is alarming under any circumstances, but when someone we care about goes missing overseas, the prospect becomes even more daunting. The reality is that most people don’t have a clear sense of what steps to take when somebody vanishes. Whether a family member, a friend, a partner, or a colleague, a clear course of action can help you safeguard their wellbeing. If your loved one goes missing overseas, the missing persons investigations team here at Lauth Investigations recommends taking the following steps.

Try To Make Direct Contact

Your gut may be telling you that something is wrong, but all sorts of things can cause a person to go incommunicado abroad—including time differences, poor communications infrastructure, or losing their phone and luggage. Attempting to contact them through every avenue available will clarify the situation, so try to reach out by phone and text, by email, and on social media. Also look for any public conversations they have had on social media with others that will indicate all is well.

Contact Others Who May Be Aware of Their Whereabouts

Reach out to friends, travel companions, and colleagues who may have more information or be aware of the missing person’s movements. If a group were travelling together, reach out to the families of others to see if they have been in contact too. Consider contacting hotels, local venues, travel agents, and airlines. While these third party professionals may not be able to share details with you, they will be able to prompt your loved one to make contact when they see them, and will be able to share information with the authorities if they later become involved.

Reaching Out To the Authorities

When someone goes missing overseas, it is vital to file a missing persons report both with local authorities, and with the authorities of your/their home country. If the person in question is a U.S. citizen, you can also contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Embassy and consulate staff will be able to advise on the best way to locate a person in their area, and will also be able to check local reports for hospitalizations or arrests, and connect directly with local authorities and organizations. If the person missing overseas is a minor, or considered vulnerable in some way, the country in question may be able to issue an Amber Alert or equivalent. Prepare to provide as much information as possible, including:

  • Full name
  • Recent photographs
  • Passport/ID number
  • Place and date of birth
  • Citizenship status
  • All known itineraries and plans, past and future
  • Overseas contact details
  • Names and contact information for known friends and associates

What Else To Do When Someone Is Missing Overseas

When a loved one is missing overseas, it is easy to feel powerless. However, there are lots of other steps that can be taken. You can create a social media campaign to raise awareness of the missing status of your loved one. You can also contact local media outlets with details and photographs so that they can help you raise awareness. If you choose to travel where the missing person was last seen, consider if you will need help from an interpreter, and what resources you will require when you get there.

Some travel insurance policies cover search and rescue, so consider if your loved one may have a policy that you can initiate a claim from. Explore local organizations that provide support for missing person investigations—these may be able to advise you on further resources and strategies such as offering rewards within a culture that is potentially unfamiliar.
When concerns run high—and certainly when local authorities are unhelpful—turning to an international private investigators firm with missing persons specialists ready to go out in the field can be indispensable. Here at Lauth Missing Persons, we offer a highly skilled and experienced team with just the skill set required to locate someone missing overseas. If you need help in locating your loved one, contact our team today.

Missing Long Island Woman, Gabby Petito, Vanished While on Vacation with Boyfriend

Missing Long Island Woman, Gabby Petito, Vanished While on Vacation with Boyfriend

What began as a quest for adventure has now turned to tragedy in the case of one Long Island family who is missing a daughter. Gabby Petito, 22, disappeared while on a cross-country road trip with her boyfriend, leaving her family without answers. Her last known whereabouts were reportedly Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park, travelling in a white 2012 Ford Transit van with Florida plates.

Gabby was last seen in person by her family was when she arrived home in June for her little brother’s high school graduation. It wasn’t long afterwards that Gabby set out on a journey with her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie—Gabby’s second cross-country trip. Rather than seeing the country from her cramped car, Gabby made the decision to downsize her life so it could fit into the aforementioned Ford Transit. A prolific social media user, Gabby had documented her trip on YouTube. In July, Gabby Petito wrote on social media, “All the places it’s brought us so far have been amazing! As soon as we got to the Great Sand Dunes, I didn’t want to leave, there was so much to hike!”

Gabby’s mother, Nicole Schmidt, reported that her daughter had been keeping in regular contact with her during the trip. Their last FaceTime was either August 23 or 24, and Schmidt continued to receive text messages from her daughter—though she was not sure if the text messages came from her daughter or not. Between August 25 and 30, Schmidt received a number of text messages, but she wasn’t able to contact Gabby or Laudrie after August 30. On September 11, her family reported her missing.

Investigators are unsure of Gabby’s exact movements between August 24 and August 30, as they have not yet been able to contact Laundrie. After returning to his home in North Port, Florida, Laundrie hired an attorney, and has not yet begun cooperating with the authorities. “We talked with his parents, who did not make him available,” said Josh Taylor, the spokesman for the North Port Police. This has left investigators and Gabby’s loved ones to try and piece together her movements from her social media pages. Family friends have stated that the last post on Gabby’s Instagram was very uncharacteristic of her typical sort of post. Gabby’s friend, Nikki Passannante told the New York Post, “A two-word caption is very odd for Gabby. Usually, it’s a deep meaningful caption or otherwise she’ll detail her travels. This doesn’t really seem like she posted it, in my opinion.” Lanundrie has been described as missing by investigators who hope to speak with him and get any information on Gabby’s last known whereabouts.

This case has attracted fervent media attention, which was only further inflamed by the discovery of a body in Grand Tenton National Park. Investigators have said that the body’s description matches Petito, but will not have confirmation on this until an autopsy can be performed on Tuesday.

Petito was described by police and on a GoFundMe page as 5 feet 5, 110 pounds, blond with blue eyes.

“She has a triangle tattoo on left arm with flowers and a ‘Let it be’ tattoo written on her right arm. She has a Belly button piercing,” the post said.

A Missing Girl and a Polaroid: The Mysterious Disappearance of Tara Calico

A Missing Girl and a Polaroid: The Mysterious Disappearance of Tara Calico

tara calico

At 9:00 am on September 20, 1988, a hazel-eyed 19 year-old named Tara Leigh Calico set off on a bike ride from her home in the sleepy New Mexico town of Belen. Keen cyclist Tara had borrowed her mother’s neon pink Huffy mountain bike because her own was damaged. She was last seen at 11:45 am, making her way along Highway 47 in Valencia County. When Tara left home that morning, nobody could have imagined that she would soon be classed a missing person.

Tara Calico had made plans to play tennis with her boyfriend that afternoon. Having expected her home by lunchtime, Tara’s mother Patty Doel began to worry, and decided to set out in search of her daughter. Unable to find a trace of Tara, Patty contacted the Valencia County Sheriff’s Office. Missing person investigations quickly sprung into action, and police spoke to a witness that had seen a light-colored pickup truck driving alongside Tara. They discovered broken pieces of the young woman’s Walkman and cassette tape on the roadside, but no other signs or leads were forthcoming.

A Mysterious Polariod Is Discovered

tara calico

Almost a year later, in June of 1989, a shopper made an alarming discovery in Port St. Joe, Florida. Some fifteen hundred miles from where Tara Calico had gone missing, the woman found a polaroid photograph in the parking lot of a Junior Food Store. She’d noticed the small printed picture after a white Toyota van pulled away from the parking spot. To her alarm, the woman realized that it depicted a young woman and a little boy, bound and gagged in the back of a van, so she called the police.

Local police immediately began searching both for the van and the possible captives suspected to be within it. Road blocks were set up around the area, but the vehicle was never found. Having both gone cold, the two cases were not connected until July 28, when Tara’s father Joel received a call from a friend who had seen the Polaroid image on a Current Affair television show.

The Sheriff’s apartment agreed that the girl in the image shared a likeness with Tara, although they couldn’t be sure. Simultaneously, the case of missing 9 year-old, Michael Henley, was also tied to the photograph. The boy had vanished in April of that year when hunting with his father around 75 miles from the location of Tara’s disappearance.

Uncertainty And Poor Communication

The Polaroid was analyzed by both the FBI and Scotland Yard, with the former concluding that it wasn’t Tara, and the latter concluding that it was. Michael Henley’s parent’s were convinced that the Polaroid depicted their son, but their suspicions were dispelled when the boy’s remains were found in 1990, not far from where he had gone missing. Mother Patty pointed out that the girl in the image shared the same scar as Tara on the back of her right shoulder. A book by one of Tara’s favorite authors was also visible beside the girl in the van.

Adding to the anguish of Tara’s parents, two more Polaroids appeared in the years that followed; one blurrily depicting a young woman’s face, and a second showing a bound young woman with an unidentified male on an Amtrak train. The identity of the individuals in all three Polaroids has never been confirmed.

As the search continued, a diversity of false leads led missing person investigators on several wild-goose-chases in their hunt for Tara Calico. In 2008, Valencia Sheriff Rene Rivera claimed that he knew what had happened to Tara, describing witness accounts of two teenage males seen harassing Tara before knocking her from her bicycle with their vehicle. Rivera indicated that they may have disposed of her body having killed her by accident, but refused to name the suspects citing a lack of evidence. Tara’s father Joel was reportedly greatly distressed that no arrests were made.

Reaching Out For Additional Missing Person Assistance

In their quest to discover what happened to their daughter, Tara’s parents never gave up hope. Each year, they brought Tara gifts and kept her room ready, just in case she ever returned home. Tragically, both Patty and Joel passed away without ever learning what happened to their daughter. Tara’s siblings and friends continue to search for answers.

For those who face the immense burden of a missing loved one today, there are more options available when it comes to seeking missing person assistance. The team here at Lauth Investigations are ever-ready to turn expertise, cutting edge resources, and more than two decades of experience to following the trail of your missing loved one. We can also assist with establishing effective Go Fund Me campaigns, so that friends and family members can focus on the search rather than fretting about finances. New resources such as Interpol’s I Familia database also aid us in taking missing person investigations international. To discover more about how we can assist, contact our team today.