Authorities say you have about 48 hours to find a missing or kidnapped person before the task becomes more difficult. That’s because, after two days, perpetrators typically have plenty of time to wrap up their crimes, cover their tracks, and flee the scene. But in Mesa, Arizona, one 10-year-old missing persons case broke all the rules.
After a decade with no results, investigators had long declared the case of a kidnapped girl ice cold. But when an anonymous man found a shocking tip amidst a collection of cash donations to his local Girl Scouts troop, investigators wondered if the kidnapper might actually still be out there—and if they had a real shot of finding him.
On January 2, 1999, 11-year-old Mikelle Biggs was pedaling her bike in circles just four houses down from where she lived with her parents and three siblings in Mesa, Arizona. Clutching several quarters in her hands, she eagerly awaited the ice cream truck.
Then, just 90 seconds after her younger sister, Kimber, had last seen her, Mikelle was suddenly gone. Her bike laid in the middle of the road—tires still spinning—and the quarters she’d held were scattered across the asphalt.
With no sign of her daughter anywhere, Mikelle’s mother, Tracy Biggs, desperately called the police. Immediate evidence suggested “she was running from somebody,” said detective Jerry Gisse. “It wasn’t somebody that she knew or wanted to be with.”
And so began one of the most intensive investigations ever conducted by the Mesa Police Department. National news aggressively covered the disappearance of the sixth-grade honor student who aspired to be a Disney animator.
The night Mikelle disappeared, investigators set up road blocks and interviewed passing motorists. Meanwhile, authorities posted fliers with her class photo all over Mesa. That was only the beginning…
In the following weeks, investigators consulted psychics on the whereabouts of the 11-year-old girl. They even tracked down and questioned every single ice cream vendor in the state! Unfortunately, no meaningful evidence turned up…
Investigators looked closed to home, too. Just two blocks from the Biggs’ family home (pictured) lived a man with a criminal record that included child molestation. Nothing the authorities found, however, indicated he’d been involved in Mikelle’s disappearance.
News 9 via the Washington Post
From there, investigators interviewed 20 sex offenders in the region—that also proved to be a dead end. Leaving no stone unturned, authorities even suspected Mikelle’s father, Darien, pictured here with Tracy. But he, too, ended up with a cleared name.
ABC News / YouTube
Years passed. Despite receiving 10,000 tips from the public, conducting 500 interviews, collecting 800 pieces of evidence, and searching 35 abandoned San Tan Mountain mine shafts, investigators couldn’t find Mikelle. The case had officially gone cold.
Fast forward to 2009—10 years after Mikelle’s initial disappearance—and investigators in Mesa received yet another tip. This one, however, didn’t come from an Arizona resident. Strangely, it came from 1,500 miles away in Neenah, Wisconsin.
On March 14, 2009, a man had walked into the lobby of the Neenah police department and handed over a dollar bill he’d found “in a collection of money for Girl Scout Cookies,” Neenah Police Chief Kevin Wilkinson (pictured) said. The dollar was far from ordinary…
Ron Page / USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
Written along its perimeter in scratchy, childish handwriting was a simple message: “My name is Mikel [sic] Biggs kidnapped From Mesa AZ. I’m alive.” This discovery was a revelation for investigators.
There were discrepancies with the bill, however, and Chief Wilkinson noted them despite not having known about the original 1999 case. “The oddity in the note,” he said, “is that her first name is spelled wrong… it would sway you to believe that it might not be legitimate.”
But other evidence suggested it was worth following up. “Why would you pick that,” Chief Wilkinson wondered, “a case that’s nearly 20 years old? It’s somebody who knew something about that case.”
For that reason, the dollar bill was too crucial to ignore. “We don’t get a lot of tips anymore,” Mesa Detective Steve Berry said. “But we occasionally do. We always follow up on it. We always hope that might be the one that breaks the case.” Would it be?
Unfortunately, optimism wasn’t high with investigators. “There was a little spring of hope for a second, and then reality set in,” Neenah Detective Adam Streubel added. “There is nothing you can do with [the evidence], which is rather frustrating.”
Collecting fingerprints on the bill would’ve been useless; the bill could’ve changed hands hundreds of times. Still, the handwriting could be matched if they had other meaningful evidence to compare it to. But what did the family think of this 10-years-too-late discovery?
Kimber Biggs—who’d held onto her sister’s red teddy bear for decades—tried analyzing the handwriting on the bill until it made her sick thinking about the fate of her sister. Mikelle would have been 30 by that point.
East Valley Tribune
“Is [the bill] a hoax?” Kimber asked. “Did someone play a cruel joke?” She suspected so. “The fact that her name was spelled wrong [on the bill] is kind of discredited. I don’t think that would be something she’d do.”
Regardless, as of 2018, the Biggs family remained committed to finding out the fate of their beloved Mikelle. “Someone knows something,” Kimber said, “and someday we will have answers.”
Kimber hoped the public’s focus on the dollar would bring renewed interest in her sister’s case. She promised to discover Mikelle’s ultimate fate no matter how long it took.
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