The face of the 11-year-old Mesa girl never ages, even as we grow older with time.
She vanished on Jan. 2, 1999.
Even now, 21 years after the fact, the coming of another January brings thoughts of the little girl named Mikelle, who loved her red teddy bear and playing princess, who kept her bedroom neat as a pin, who one moment was riding her little sister’s bicycle and the next was never heard from again.
For us, it remains a mystery.
But for Mikelle Biggs’ younger sister Kimber, now 30, Mikelle’s disappearance remains her life’s defining moment, a loss that has shaped everything else ever since.
A mother herself now, to a little boy named Tayven, Kimber has become a “helicopter mom,” always hovering, always in view.
“Playgrounds, I stand next to the equipment, instead of under the ramadas,” Kimber explains. “I also listen to my gut. … Even if it’s just my anxiety getting me worked up, I will always listen to what every nerve in my body tells me. I learned at nine years old that if your gut says something is wrong, then it is.”
That chilly afternoon in 1999 reads like a scene out of Stephen King. Kimber had gotten a new bike that Christmas and Mikelle wanted to ride it. They played outside the family home near the intersection of El Moro and Toltec streets. As their curfew neared, Kimber felt cold and went inside.
“I remember looking both ways to cross the road,” she said, “and seeing her blonde hair blowing behind her as she rode and the feeling of peace.”
Kimber was gone for maybe 90 seconds, two minutes tops.
“I came back outside and saw my bike laying in the road. I remember being confused and not being sure what I was looking at,” she recalled.
“As I walked closer, a dark feeling came over me and a gut instinct told me something was wrong. I got mad and yelled into the emptiness that she would be in trouble. I ignored that gut instinct and took my bike home. ... I felt like I was floating home. At the time I assumed it was because I was cold, (but) now I know it was most likely shock and fear.
“The image of my bike on its side with the tire still spinning, and the blue haze of that January evening blurring things a bit, that’s the most vivid (thing I remember).”
What stands out to me are the days that followed:
The massive Mesa police investigation, the twisted innuendos that accompanied this whodunit, and the somber, pained dignity of Mikelle’s parents, Darien and Tracy, who have since divorced. For them, I have always wanted this tale to have a happy ending, or at least some ending at all.
Instead, Mikelle’s story reminds us that some stories never end. Some moments leave their mark on us forever, sometimes for bad, but also – if we allow it – for good.
Said Kimber: “Sometimes now I think ‘what if,’ and imagine us raising kids together and having girls nights listening to the music of our childhood. One of her favorite songs was Don’t Worry, Be Happy by Bobby McFerrin, still a favorite of mine.
“But so much has happened over the years. My parents divorced and I got an amazing new little sister from my dad remarrying. She reminds me so much of Mikelle sometimes. I often think if that never happened would I still have my son? My sister? It’s definitely a bittersweet thing to think about.”
But think about it we do, every new year without fail, every Jan. 2 without end.