Did Convicted Rapist Kidnap Missing Girl?

Mikelle Biggs' mother "wanted to look him in the eyes."

May 13, 2009, 6:47 PM

May 14, 2009— -- Arizona's maximum security prison at Florence was not a place suburban parents Tracy and Darien Biggs ever expected to visit. But their former neighbor, Dee Blalock, was serving a 187-year prison sentence at the facility, and the Biggses were determined to speak to him, believing he had the key to what happened to their eldest daughter, Mikelle.

Mikelle disappeared Jan. 2, 1999, at age 11 while waiting for an ice cream truck on a corner of her Mesa, Ariz., neighborhood. Her bicycle was found with the wheels still spinning and two quarters for ice cream discarded on the ground. There were no witnesses, no body found and little evidence.

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.

When Mikelle vanished, police immediately ran a check on all the registered sex offenders in the area. They were surprised to discover that dozens of sex offenders were living within a mile radius of the Biggs house in the child-filled neighborhood.

As police searched for any trace of Mikelle, local families launched block-watch meetings to keep an eye on strangers ... and on each other.

"If you're my neighbor, and I see that you're living next to me, and I see something suspicious going on, I guarantee you I'll be calling 911," Blalock told a local newscast at the time.

Blalock appeared to be an outspoken advocate for law and order. He lived about two blocks from the Biggses and was described by neighbors as "friendly" and "personable."

But nearly two years after Mikelle Biggs vanished, the neighborhood got another shock when Blalock was convicted of raping and brutally attacking his neighbor, Susan Quinnett.

"He tried to snap my neck three times," said Quinnett. " He did successfully break it in one place. He put me in a chokehold. ... He choked me until I gave over and fainted."

Quinnett said she had complained to police about Blalock's unwanted advances.

"He was coming up on me. He was drunk. He reeked of beer," she said. "He was putting his hands on me ... in my yard. I called the police. I said, 'The guy is just creeping me out. He's stalking me. ... I've tried to tell his wife.'"

Neighbor Attacked in Her Home

Quinnett did not know that Blalock was more than a local nuisance, but was, in fact, a registered sex offender. He had convictions in three states, but the law at the time did not require the community be notified.

Quinnett said police never followed up on her complaint, and on the night of the attack, he was waiting for her inside her home.

"He was hiding behind the refrigerator and ... had his pants unzipped, and he was exposing himself to me."

Quinnett said she was shocked and asked him what he was doing there.

"I tried to take a few steps, and he already ... had come forward and grabbed me ... and twisted my arm, and started ... forcing me to the ground."

Mesa police described Blalock's attack on Quinnett as brutal.

"One of the worst beatings I've ever seen," said Det. Jerry Gissel.

Quinnett survived the attack. She said she immediately suspected Blalock might also be responsible for Mikelle's disappearance and contacted the Biggses to tell them about her suspicions.

"I had talked to Tracy," she said. "I told her I felt very strongly. He was their closure. He was the answer."

Quinnett was so certain that Blalock was responsible that she offered to drop all charges against him if he would confess to taking Mikelle.

"I can't imagine not ever knowing what happened to your daughter," she said.

"I said, 'If he could bring some comfort or closure to them, I will walk away from this,'" she added. "[Authorities] said, 'We can't do that because ... it's the state versus Dee Blalock.'"

The Biggses had never heard of Blalock, but they soon learned that police had visited him in the early morning after Mikelle disappeared. Police said Blalock's wife provided an alibi for Blalock, claiming he had been in the garage the entire night.

Police also learned Blalock had seen Mikelle before. He told detectives he had seen her going to her piano teacher near his house.

Mother of Missing Girl 'Wanted to Look in His Eyes'

The Biggses decided the only way to find more answers was to deal with Blalock directly.

After Blalock was sentenced for his attack on Quinnett, the Biggses sent him a letter in prison, asking him directly if he had taken their daughter.

"I told him, 'If I'm wrong ... I won't be able to do enough to apologize to you,'" said Darien Biggs, "because that's a terrible thing to be accused of. ... But I don't care ... if I have to accuse a million different people until I find the right one."

Blalock answered in writing that "I need to make things right with you and your family."

He agreed to meet with the grieving parents.

"I was nervous," remembered Tracy Biggs. "I was kind of shaky."

Darien Biggs described the visit as one with an enormous mission.

"Tracy wanted to look in his eyes," he said. "She just wanted to look in his eyes and know whether or not he was guilty."

The Biggses spoke to Blalock in the prison for an hour and a half.

"He just denied, denied, denied, denied," said Darien Biggs. "He got mad a couple times ... but he never walked away."

The Biggses said they reached a consensus about him immediately.

"As we were walking away, I remember telling Darien, 'I think he did it,'" recalled Tracy Biggs. "His movements ... his jitteriness ... he couldn't look you straight in the eye -- just things ... that would indicate that he was lying."

For Darien Biggs, the full impact of the encounter did not hit home until the next day.

"I was sitting three feet from this guy," he said. "You know, the only thing protecting him was that, you know, glass between us."

Still Searching for Missing Mikelle

Although the Biggses said they believe Blalock was responsible for their daughter's disappearance, they do have doubts -- "just enough to keep me from going down there and getting myself thrown in jail," Darien said.

Mesa police detectives Gissel and Domenick Kaufman said they are investigating Blalock and described him as a promising lead in the case.But they emphasized that the case is still open and that Blalock has not been named as an official suspect.

Blalock repeatedly has denied involvement in Mikelle's disappearance.

In the meantime, Mesa police have interviewed thousands of people and gathered more than 800 items of evidence. The most significant piece of evidence is the pink and purple bicycle Mikelle was riding when she went missing.

Kaufman believes the bicycle is the key to the investigation.

"It's been checked for fingerprints, DNA," he said. "And obviously, we still keep it packaged after that initial processing just in case there's some new technology that comes about that we don't know about today."

While investigators hope for a break in technology, they also hope there may be a crack in the offender's conscience.

"We've got to come up with something that's going to ... allow the person who did this to ... feel good about coming forward," said Gissel. "Because it's not fair for this family to go like this. It won't be complete until, you know, this person comes forward and says, you know, 'I'm the one responsible. This is what happened.'"

"I'm confident that we will solve this case," Kaufman said. "Maybe not today, maybe not in a year, but we will solve this case."

Gissel, who has been working on Mikelle's case since the beginning and is retiring this year, said that even when he turns in his badge, he will keep searching.

"I will tell you this: I will always be thinking about it. I will always be thinking about something that can be done."

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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