Gone in 90 Seconds: The Abduction of Mikelle Biggs

Mikelle Biggs perked up when she thought she heard the music of an ice cream truck around 5:30 pm on January 2, 1999. The 11-year-old immediately decided that she wanted a popsicle and begged her mom for some money. She and her younger sister, Kimber, then ran outside, each clutching two quarters. Kimber brought the family dog with her, and Mikelle hopped on Kimber’s brand-new pink and purple bicycle. As they made their way to the corner of their street, they were joined by several other children from their Mesa, Arizona neighborhood who had also been lured outside by the faint sound of music.

After a few minutes, some of the kids started getting restless. There was no sign of the ice cream truck, and the music wasn’t getting any closer. A few of the children gave up on waiting and went home, but Mikelle was determined to get a popsicle. She amused herself by riding in circles around her sister. By 5:50 pm, Kimber decided she wasn’t willing to wait any longer. It was getting dark, and the temperature hovered around 60 degrees — fairly cold for Arizona. The 9-year-old was getting chilly and told her sister she was going to go home. She quickly ran back to their home, just four houses away from the corner. When her mother realized Kimber had come back alone, she sent her back out to get her sister. Kimber retrieved a jacket and headed back to the corner; she was gone for just 90 seconds. In that short amount of time, Mikelle had disappeared.

Mikelle was very bright and was considered a gifted student. She was very creative; she made her family a board game as a Christmas present that year. She enjoyed reading and loved art, and she also played the clarinet in her school band. She was a very friendly child, but could be somewhat reserved around people when she first met them. She was well-educated on the concept of “stranger danger” and was not the kind of person who could be easily tricked. She likely would have tried to fight off an abductor. She had always felt safe in her neighborhood, though, and she and Kimber often waited for the ice cream truck on that corner.

As Kimber approached the corner that night, her initial reaction was one of annoyance: it appeared that Mikelle had carelessly thrown her new bike to the ground. Its wheels were still spinning, as if Mikelle had jumped off of it while it was still moving. Her annoyance turned to fear when she realized that Mikelle was nowhere to be seen — and the two quarters she had been holding were on the ground near her bike. Frightened, Kimber ran back home and told her mother that she couldn’t find Mikelle.

After a panicked search of the neighborhood yielded no sign of Mikelle, Tracy Biggs called 911 and reported her daughter missing at 6:15 pm. Police responded immediately, and they realized from the start that they were most likely dealing with an abduction. It appeared that Mikelle had tried to start pedaling for her home and was snatched right off the bike before she got very far from the street corner.

Police and volunteers conducted a thorough search of the neighborhood that lasted until 2:00 am. Helicopters using infrared technology flew overhead, and bloodhounds were brought in to try and determine which direction Mikelle had gone. Unfortunately, they were only able to track her scent for a few feet from the discarded bicycle; detectives determined that she had most likely been taken away from the area in a vehicle.

By the next morning, it seemed that everyone in the Mesa area had heard about the missing child. Hundreds of people showed up to assist in the search, many from the local Mormon church Mikelle attended. They passed out missing person fliers, hung up posters, and searched through nearby canals and orange groves. Over the next week, they would distribute more than 50,000 flyers across a 45-square-mile area.

Police set up six roadblocks throughout the neighborhood, and questioned each driver as they entered and exited the area. Detectives fanned out and spoke with every registered sex offender in the neighborhood; each one they spoke with was able to account for their whereabouts during the time Mikelle went missing.

Investigators called every ice cream vendor in the city of Mesa, but none of them had any ice cream trucks in Mikelle’s neighborhood that Saturday night. Considering that none of the children actually saw an ice cream truck that evening, it’s possible that whatever they heard in the distance was actually something else.

Police continued to canvass the Mesa area, checking in garbage cans, dumpsters, sheds, and backyards. They spoke with each resident at least once, but most of them hadn’t seen anything unusual the night Mikelle went missing. A few people mentioned seeing a copper-colored Jeep leaving the area around the time that Mikelle disappeared, and after police told the public they were searching for the vehicle, more than 300 tips were called in about it. After one caller reported seeing such a Jeep pulled over in the desert to the northeast of Mesa, more than 100 deputies from Maricopa County were sent to that area. They spent 24 hours combing through the scrubby desert terrain, but found nothing related to Mikelle’s disappearance. The owner of the copper-colored Jeep was eventually identified and cleared of any involvement in the case.

Shortly after Mikelle’s disappearance, an email was sent to her father from a person claiming to be Mikelle’s abductor. He said he would be willing to return Mikelle in exchange for a ransom. Detectives were able to determine that the message had come from a home in Phoenix. After conducting aerial surveillance of the area, a SWAT team was sent in to retrieve Mikelle. They soon realized that Mikelle had never been there; the message had been a cruel hoax by a 12-year-old boy. Mikelle was still missing

Each day, the search area was expanded. Deputies used bloodhounds, ATVs, and horses to search through the desert surrounding Saguaro Lake and the mountainous terrain on the outskirts of the city. They found nothing that advanced the investigation.

Detectives investigated a rumor that Mikelle had been the victim of a hit and run driver who panicked and hid her body, but determined that this was unlikely. Even a minor impact with a car leaves evidence behind on the street, and there was nothing to indicate any accident had taken place. Kimber’s new bicycle wasn’t damaged at all, and there were no car parts or blood found anywhere in the street.

Mikelle’s abduction had a huge effect on the Mesa community. The area had always been considered safe, and there were always children playing in the streets. Now, parents kept their children close to them, refusing to let them out of their sight for even a moment. They were especially terrified by the speed with which Mikelle had disappeared; they believed they might be dealing with an experienced kidnapper who was preparing to strike again. Police felt mounting pressure to find the perpetrator, and they continued to work the case 24 hours a day.

A month after Mikelle disappeared, there had been little progress in determining what had happened to the little girl. Tips were starting to dwindle, so police announced that they were offering a $60,000 reward for information leading to Mikelle or to her abductor. Unfortunately, even the large amount of money being offered failed to bring in any new leads.

With no witnesses to the abduction and no suspects, police grew desperate. Using information gathered from psychics, they asked nearly a dozen Mesa residents to submit to voluntary searches of their homes and property. Detectives admitted that they normally wouldn’t rely heavily on tips from psychics, but with a child’s life at stake, they were willing to try anything. All but one of the homeowners they asked consented to the search; several said they only agreed to it because there was a child involved. None of the searches turned up any evidence, and police stated that the one uncooperative homeowner was not considered a suspect in Mikelle’s disappearance.

By March, detectives had completely exhausted all leads in the case, but continued to go through the neighborhood and reinterview residents, hoping someone would remember something pertinent. They constantly reviewed the case file to make sure that nothing had been missed, but they were unable to develop any solid leads.

As 1999 drew to a close, the case was essentially cold, but detectives refused to give up on it. They promised Stacy and Darien that they were going to keep at it until they found their daughter, but they still had no substantial theories. Mikelle’s picture and information was included in a mailing that was sent to nearly 80 million homes all over the United States, and they were hopeful this would generate some new tips.

In the first year of the investigation, police questioned thousands of residents and interviewed more than 500 psychics. They spoke with representatives from every ice cream vendor in the state of Arizona. They followed up on hundreds of potential sightings of Mikelle from Pennsylvania to California and combed through more than 7000 tips, They conducted numerous physical searches, dug through approximately 40 abandoned mine shafts. They looked into the possibility that Mikelle had been sold to a human trafficking ring in Mexico. Nothing brought them any closer to finding the person who took Mikelle.

By May 2000, the Mesa Police Department had spent more time and money on the investigation into Mikelle’s disappearance than they had on any other case in their history. Yet they had little to show for it; they still had no idea what happened to Mikelle or who was responsible for her disappearance. Although they continued to follow up on leads, they admitted that they were no longer receiving many tips about the case and the investigation was at a standstill.

Tracy and Darien Biggs made a public plea for information on the second anniversary of their daughter’s disappearance. They were sure that someone in the community had to know something, and they pleaded with them to come forward, even if they did so anonymously. At the same press conference, a psychologist noted that most sex offenders tend to go through periods of remorse, especially around holidays or the anniversary dates of their crimes. They asked for the offender to come forward, get treatment, and finally end the family’s agonizing wait for information about Mikelle’s fate.

Sporadic searches for Mikelle continued to be conducted, and her missing posters could still be seen all over the state of Arizona and beyond, but the case had fallen out of the headlines and would stay out of them until the fifth anniversary of Mikelle’s disappearance. Tracy and Darien announced that they no longer believed that Mikelle was alive, and that they were fairly certain they knew who was responsible for her death. The man they named was one of the registered sex offenders that officers had questioned in the initial days of the investigation, and police continued to maintain that the man had not been named a suspect despite what the Biggs family believed.

The man, Dee Blalock, lived just two blocks away from Mikelle. He had likely seen her around the neighborhood and she took piano lessons at a home next to his. After her disappearance, he had participated in the search for her and had attended several vigils held in the neighborhood. Police were aware of his checkered past: he had previous convictions in three different states, including child molestation and kidnapping. He was initially questioned by police just hours after Mikelle went missing, and they confirmed that he had an alibi for the time period of her abduction. He had allowed them to search his home at that time, and they found nothing incriminating.

Nine months after Mikelle’s disappearance, Dee was arrested after a violent attack on a female neighbor. He had been waiting in her house when she returned home one night, and put her in a chokehold before beating and assaulting her. He most likely believed that the woman was dead, but she regained consciousness after he left and was able to identify him to police. She later told police that she believed he might have been the person responsible for taking Mikelle. Detectives have never found any evidence linking him to Mikelle’s case, and he is currently serving a life sentence for the brutal attack on his neighbor.

In March 2018, Mikelle’s case resurfaced in the headlines after someone found a dollar bill in Wisconsin that had a handwritten note from someone claiming to be Mikelle. Around the edge of the dollar, someone had printed “My name is Mikel Biggs kidnapped from Mesa AZ I’m Alive.” The dollar bill had been printed in 2009; Mikelle would have been 21 years old at that time, but the writing looks like it was written by a child and her first name is spelled wrong. For those reasons, detectives believe it is likely a hoax. Unfortunately, even if it is not a hoax, there is virtually no way for them to trace where the dollar bill might have been before it appeared in Wisconsin.

Mikelle’s case is still considered active and unsolved by the Mesa Police Department, and they are uncertain if she is alive or dead. Despite the lack of physical evidence, Tracy and Darien believe that Dee Blalock abducted their daughter; they are still hoping to learn what happened to her so they can bring her home and give her a proper burial.

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