A Cold Case in the Valley of the Sun
10 years ago, 11-year-old Mikelle Biggs was abducted in Mesa, Arizona, a middle class suburb of Phoenix. Will her kidnapper ever be brought to justice?
Shortly before 6 PM, January 2, 1999, 6th grader Mikelle Biggs and younger sister Kimber, then 9, thought they heard the approach of an ice cream truck. Securing two quarters from her mother, the sisters went to the nearby intersection of El Moro and Toltec in central Mesa to wait for the truck. A neighbor recalled seeing the pair standing under a streetlight. When Kimber got cold and raced home for a jacket, Mikelle was left alone with her bike for approximately 90 seconds. East Valley Tribune, 1/1/09. When Kimber returned to the intersection, her sister Mikelle had vanished.
Mikelle’s bike, and her ice cream money, were left at the scene. FindMissingKids.com, 3/11/07. Police theorized that Mikelle was placed in a vehicle and driven away. East Valley Tribune, supra.
Read more in USA & Canada
Authorities Mobilize Quickly, but Case Grows Cold
This case had all the earmarks of a sex crime, and pre-pubescent victims are frequently killed before, during, or swiftly after the sex crime is committed. Detectives interviewed more than 400 people, and collected in excess of 800 pieces of evidence. They followed more than 10,000 leads, rappelled down mineshafts, hypnotized witnesses and consulted with the FBI, who conducted polygraphs, voice stress tests, and worked up a perpetrator profile. And after ten years there has been no arrest, nor has the girl’s body been found. No firm evidence about what happened to Mikelle has been uncovered, “no suspect has been publicly identified, and no potential suspects have been ruled in or out.” Arizona Republic, 1/2/09.
Principal investigators Jerry Gissel and Domenick Kaufman admit to a profound sense of dissatisfaction with the case grown cold. “It’s a frustrating feeling,” Gissel said. “I don’t have any other unsolved cases.”
The investigators do have a short list of suspects, but claim there isn’t enough evidence to charge any of them with the abduction.
Family Holds a Funeral
Five years after the kidnapping, the family of Mikelle Biggs held a funeral, interning a white coffin empty of anything but stillborn dreams. Though they have given up hope that Mikelle will be found alive, they remain convinced that the perpetrator will be caught. In fact, father Darien Biggs believes he knows who committed the crime. He has, in fact, met that man face-to-face.
The Matter of Dee Blalock
Darien Biggs suspects one Dee Blalock, who resided in the same Mesa neighborhood at the time of the abduction. Blalock seemed an affable fellow to some, but he had a dark history; he was a registered sex offender in three states. ABC News, 5/16/09. Not long after Mikelle went missing, Blalock’s misogynistic fury was unleashed on one of his neighbors, Susan Quinnett.
Quinnett had considered Blalock no more than a “nuisance.” But one night Quinnett came home to find Blalock waiting for her in her house. He beat her mercilessly and raped her. ABC News, supra. Det. Jerry Gissel said it was “one of the worst beatings I have ever seen.” Fortunately, Quinnett lived to identify her attacker.
Quinnett also suspected that Blalock was behind Mikelle’s disappearance. She was so certain that she offered to drop all charges against her attacker if he would admit that he abducted the girl. Yet because felonies are prosecuted in the name of the people, the state could not consider such a deal. Dee Blalock was tried and convicted of Quinnett’s rape and assault, and was sentenced to 187 years in Arizona’s maximum security prison at Florence. ABC News, 5/14/09. That means he has victimized his last woman.
Of course, the story doesn’t end here.
Blalock Agrees to Meet With Biggs
Darien Biggs wrote a letter to Dee Blalock requesting a meeting at Florence. He got an encouraging reply from the lifer: “I need to make things right with you and your family.” Blalock agreed to meet with Darien and his wife Tracy.
Blalock’s note hinted strongly that he would admit to abducting Mikelle, but nothing of the sort came out of him at the 90 minute meeting. “He just denied, denied, denied,” said Darien Biggs. Tracy got the impression he was lying. Since then Blalock has consistently denied any involvement in the abduction of Mikelle Biggs. So why did Blalock write that he needed to “make things right?” Why did he agree to meet with the parents at all?
The tantalizing note followed by the fruitless meeting may have been nothing more than a mean-spirited act by a bored lifer. Either that or Blalock had intended to confess but was talked out of it by a ‘jailhouse lawyer’ or a real one. My money would be on the latter, but that’s far short of anything a prosecutor could use.
So Where is Justice for Mikelle Biggs?
The detectives working the case say they do not yet have the evidence to charge anyone with Mikelle’s abduction. Dets. Gissel and Kaufman are mindful of Blalock but have not named him as an official suspect. They need something that will break the case, be it a new witness, a confession, or a new forensic technique to process the one piece of physical evidence they have- Mikelle’s bicycle. Det. Kaufman thinks the bicycle may be a key, but the forensic tools to use it haven’t been developed yet.
The police also have a composite sketch of a man who attempted to molest a girl at an apartment complex on Christmas day of 1998, just days before Mikelle’s abduction. The nearness in time suggests a possible connection.
On May 16, 2009 ABC’s 20/20 discussed the case in a segment on people who have gone missing. Hopefully a viewer will come forward with information.
“I’m confident that we can solve this case,” said Det. Kaufman. “Maybe not today, maybe not in a year, but we will solve this case.” This author wishes them Godspeed.