Details of Disappearance
Tara was last seen in San Pablo, California on June 6, 1979. She walked to Pirelli's Liquor Store to purchase a bag of sugar for her mother during the day. Tara was last seen inside the Montalvin Shopping Center. She never returned to her family's residence and has not been heard from again.
Authorities announced that Timothy Bindner had a possible connection to Tara's case, as well as the disappearances of Amber Swartz-Garcia
, Michaela Garecht
, Ilene Misheloff
, and Amanda "Nikki" Campbell
. A photo of Bindner is posted with this case summary. He maintains his innocence and successfully sued Amanda's hometown of Fairfield, California in 1997 for defamation of character.
Bindner, a married sewage treatment plant worker, came to authorities' attention after he began sending birthday greetings to young girls in the East Bay area. One child's parents contacted authorities and handed over a letter Bindner had written to their daughter. The note was printed backwards and could only be deciphered by holding it up to a mirror. Bindner claimed he sent the cards as a kind gesture because the girls were "lonely."
Bindner also visited the Oakmont Cemetery gravesite of Angela Bugay, a five-year-old girl girl who was abducted and murdered in Antioch, California in 1983. A photograph of Bugay is posted with this case summary. Bindner was never considered a suspect in her murder and another man has since been arrested in that case.
Bindner approached many of the mothers of missing girls from the East Bay area offering his assistance, including Amber and Garecht's families. He introduced himself to Amber's mother, Kim, three days after Amber vanished. Investigators asked her to maintain a quasi-friendship with Bindner in hope of learning if he was connected to any of the girls' cases. She and authorities agreed that Bindner appeared to playing mind games with victims' loved ones and law enforcement.
Many people theorize that Bindner enjoyed taunting families into thinking that he may have been involved in the presumed abductions. He was once arrested for annoying two little girls whom he was trying to lure into his van, but the charges were later dropped. Bindner often drove around in a light blue Dodge van with a license plate that said "Lov You." Inside the van was wallpapered with many pictures of children. A photograph of the van is posted with this case summary.
Bindner refers to himself as a "good Samaritan." He asked Linda Golston, a reporter for The San Jose Mercury News, to interview him at Oakmont Cemetery at 4:30 a.m. He played his favorite song on her car stereo, "Jesus, Here's Another Child To Hold." Bindner told Goldston that he thought of the missing girls as "his children." She asked him how he believed the abductions occurred and he said one child was submissive, but another fought back against her assailant. Bindner added that he was "guessing" about the girls' reactions.
Bindner wrote a letter to a law enforcement agency in the late 1980s, stating that he believed the next girl who would be abducted from the area would be nine years old. Garecht disappeared shortly thereafter; she was nine at the time of her abduction. Bindner also sent a holiday card to a profiler for the FBI in 1990. The card depicted an image of a young girl holding up four fingers. Amanda vanished in 1991 at the age of four.
Search dogs traced Amanda and Amber's scent to Bugay's grave. Authorities never had enough evidence to prove Bindner was connected to their cases, although he was known for visiting the cemetery on occasion. Bindner was given a heroism award by the California State Patrol after assisting victims in the 1989 San Francisco earthquake. He has never been charged in any of the cases.
In 2009, investigators announced that Curtis Dean Anderson, a convicted child molester and murderer, had confessed to Amber's murder a month before he died in prison in 2007, and they were closing her case and ending the search for her. Police spent eighteen months investigating his statement and couldn't find any evidence to refute it. He is also considered a suspect in the 1999 disappearance of Karla Rodriguez
Tara's disappearance remains unsolved.