Missing Mikelle: Family Grapples With Daughter's Disappearance

Kimber Biggs, the last to see her sister Mikelle alive, grappled with guilt.

May 12, 2009, 1:03 PM

MESA, Ariz., May 13, 2009— -- Jan. 2, 1999, is a day that will forever haunt Kimber Biggs. It was on that fateful day that her big sister, Mikelle, disappeared forever from their Mesa, Ariz., neighborhood while waiting for the ice cream truck.

Kimber was only 9 years old when her 11-year-old sister vanished. And because she was the last person to see Mikelle alive, she would grapple with the disappearance for years, blaming herself for what happened.

If you have information that might help solve the mystery of what happened to Mikelle Biggs, please contact the Arizona Police Department on their website, http://mesaaz.gov/police/, or by phone (480) 644-2211.

"[Mikelle's] like 'Oh, I hear the ice cream man,' so she went inside and got the money and came out," Kimber told ABC News' Elizabeth Vargas. "We thought he was on the other side of the neighborhood...and we waited."

But Kimber got cold and tired of waiting, so she decided to head home for her jacket, leaving her sister alone.

"Kimber came in and [said], 'I don't think the ice cream man is coming,'" their mother, Tracy Biggs recalled. "And I was like, 'It's so close to dinner anyway, and it's time to come in. And so go get Mikelle and tell her to come in.'"

But when Kimber went back outside to look for her, Mikelle was nowhere in sight. The only signs of Mikelle that remained were her bicycle and two quarters to buy ice cream, which were strewn on the street and sidewalk. An evening that began with the tantalizing bells of an ice cream truck would end with the eerie sirens of police cars.

Mesa police immediately responded to the call, where neighbors and friends frantically searched for missing Mikelle. With no witnesses, the police launched a full-fledged investigation and explored promising leads -- questioning all ice cream truck drivers in the area to following e-mail tips.

Everyone in the household dealt differently with Mikelle's mysterious disappearance. Mikelle's three younger siblings were confused and frightened.

"I was scared to go to sleep alone for the longest time," Kimber recalled. "I didn't want to be near the window... And I wouldn't go out alone in the dark...It was scary."

Classmates Blame Kimber for Mikelle's Disappearance

The night Mikelle disappeared, her brother, Nathan was 4 years old.

"All he really understood was that bad guys took her... It was just beyond his comprehension," Tracy Biggs told ABC News of her son.

Kimber recalled a night when her parents were out searching for Mikelle and she and her siblings stayed at a friends' house. Nathan wet the bed and came crying to Kimber.

"I was trying to help him get changed and cleaned up, and he said, 'What's going on?' and I said, 'Mikelle's not safe,' and then he started crying, you know, 'Well, where's mom and dad?'"

For Kimber, being the last known person to see Mikelle alive has taken its toll.

"I blamed myself for a while," Kimber told Vargas. "I remember... I was sleeping on the living room couch one night, and my aunt came in and heard me crying. And she asked me what was wrong and I said, 'It's my fault.' And she had to comfort me. She had to convince me that it wasn't my fault."

But the kids at school didn't make it any easier on her, blaming her for her sister's disappearance.

"[They] were stupid and they'd ask, 'Well, why'd you leave her alone'? And I would just start crying at school," she told ABC News. "So it made me think, 'Well, it is my fault, because all the kids think it is.'"

"She said, 'If I hadn't left her, she would still be here," recalled Tracy Biggs. "And that's when I first started telling her: 'You're just a little girl, you couldn't have stopped it from happening.'"

Even though she heard those words from her mother many times, Kimber said it took six years before she truly believed that Mikelle's disappearance wasn't her fault.

"It wasn't until I got...older...more mature, that I really was [like], 'OK. It was not my fault. I couldn't have done anything,'" she said.

Family Tries to Find Closure in Unsolved Case

Five years after Mikelle's disappearance, her family shifted its focus from searching for Mikelle to hunting for her killer. The case remained unsolved.

To try to get some closure, they held a funeral for their beloved daughter and buried an empty casket, which finally brought Kimber and her family a little peace.

"There wasn't such an empty space..." Kimber told us. "There's a hole in our family now, but I think that hole has kind of healed a little bit."

When Mikelle went missing, Kimber became the oldest child, playing a major role in her younger sister's life. Lynelle, the youngest sibling, is about the age that Mikelle was when she went missing.

"I hang out with Lynelle all the time," Kimber said. "She sleeps over at my apartment once in awhile and we have a girl's night. And I...love being a big sister to her, because I don't get to have that anymore."

Kimber yearns for her older sister and for a relationship that will never be.

"One of my good friends, she has an older sister. And they're about the same age difference as me and Mikelle. And ...sometimes she complains about, 'Oh, I hate having an older sister.' And I was like, "You don't know how lucky you are,'" Kimber said.

If you have information that might help solve the mystery of what happened to Mikelle Biggs, please contact the Arizona Police Department on their website, http://mesaaz.gov/police/, or by phone (480) 644-2211.

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