It has been many years since you’ve been back to El Moro Avenue in Mesa, the scene of this Valley’s most enduring and saddest mystery. Late on the afternoon of Jan. 2, 1999, precisely 20 years ago, someone snatched 11-year-old Mikelle Biggs off the quiet side street she called home. Mikelle’s little sister, Kimber, then 9, was separated from Mikelle for perhaps 90 seconds, according to police.
That was just time enough for evil to transpire. Kimber walked down El Moro shouting for Mikelle, who had been riding her sister’s pink-and-white bicycle and awaiting the arrival of the ice cream man. Kimber found her bike lying in the middle of the road, one wheel still spinning.
Twenty years later, the case continues to spin in your mind and the minds of everyone who knew and loved Mikelle.
“We don’t have answers,” Kimber Biggs, now 29, told Jason Barry of KPHO Channel 5 this week. “We don’t know who took her for sure. We don’t know where her body is. We don’t know for sure that she is alive or if she’s passed. We have no answers and that’s almost the hardest part about it.”
You return to the intersection of El Moro and Toltec Street 20 years to the day of the crime. The scene feels as inscrutable 20 years later as it did when Mikelle’s disappearance was fresh.
The details return in a rush: Mikelle’s slender face and gap-toothed smile staring out from “missing” posters in car windows everywhere. The fragile dignity of the little girl’s parents, Darien and Tracy, as they did countless interviews answering the same questions countless times.
You remember standing in Mikelle’s bedroom, reading her list of chores, seeing her beloved red stuffed bear and the picture of Jesus Christ she had pinned to her bulletin board.
Over the years, you have studied age-progressed photos of Mikelle supplied by well-meaning investigators, images meant to spur tips and leads. The pictures feel fictional to you, hollowed out, fake.
You simply cannot get beyond the reality of Mikelle perpetually frozen at age 11, never there for another birthday, another Christmas, another school graduation. This thought steals your breath like a fist to the solar plexus, because – to be painfully honest – you have never stopped holding out some small shred of hope for this child and her family.
Miracles do happen, after all. Cold cases get solved Abducted children find their way home thousands of days later. Even the most confounding mysteries occasionally end not in some remote corner of the desert with a shallow grave and desiccated remains, but with hugs, smiles and tears of joy.
Sometimes people question you about stories you wish you had covered. They seem to expect some grand event you never had the opportunity to witness up close – a presidential inauguration or a sit-down exclusive with an A-list celebrity.
Instead, you share a dream that seems increasingly unlikely with each passing year: That one day you might cover Mikelle Biggs returning home. The Biggs family is long gone from El Moro Avenue, but wouldn’t it be something to see this once young girl, now 31 years old, stride up the street she once called home and put a happy punctuation mark on one of the most tragic tales this Valley has ever witnessed?
It is a wide world out there, and though the chances feel beyond remote, perhaps somewhere in it Mikelle Biggs has fashioned a life for herself out of the worst possible circumstances. In the absence of definitive answers, this remote hope feels like the best you can and do pray standing on El Moro Avenue 20 years after the fact.