When two men of color go missing, a White officer is suspected
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Naples, Fla. — On January 11, 2004, when Terrance Williams handed over some gas money and said, “I’ll see you later, momma,” his mother Marcia did not realize that it would be the last time she’d see her son. Nor could she have known that her search for Terrance, a 27-year-old Black man, would lead her to suspect that a White police officer was involved, and that the officer had also been implicated in the disappearance of another young man of color, a 23-year-old Mexican immigrant named Felipe Santos.
That officer, Collier County Sheriff’s Deputy Steven Calkins, was fired in August 2004 after an internal investigation determined that he lied about his interaction with Terrance Williams. But he has never been criminally charged in connection with the case.
Now, a deposition given by Calkins in 2020 in a civil lawsuit brought by Marcia Williams will air publicly for the first time on “Never Seen Again,” a new Paramount+ docuseries about missing persons cases. The first two episodes of the series are dedicated to the Williams and Santos story, and are narrated and executive produced by filmmaker and actor Tyler Perry, who became involved in the case after seeing a TV report about it.
“I remember flipping through channels one day and I came across this story and I was shocked and outraged at what I was seeing,” Tyler Perry says on “Never Seen Again.” “And I immediately thought, ‘What can I do to help? What can I do to bring attention to this?'”
Marcia Williams remembers how, in the immediate aftermath of her son Terrance’s disappearance, she and other family members launched an intensive search around Naples. “They blew the telephones up,” she recalls. Terrance had last been seen by his roommate, Jason Gonzalez, driving his white 1983 Cadillac to a party with coworkers on the evening of January 11. Hoping that Terrance’s Cadillac could provide a lead to his disappearance, Marcia’s family tried the town’s tow companies.
It turns out a tow company did indeed pick up Terrance’s white Cadillac at the Naples Memorial Gardens Cemetery on January 12. “I went to the cemetery and I spoke with the workers there,” recalls Marcia, “and they told me that a cop put him in the back of his cruiser and drove away with him.”
Steven Calkins was the cop identified by the cemetery workers. Contacted at home by his department’s dispatch a few days after Terrance Williams’ disappearance, Calkins initially denied having had any interaction with Terrance — and even failed to recall towing a Cadillac from the cemetery on January 12. But as Marcia continued to press the sheriff’s office for answers, the deputy’s superiors asked him to write an incident report. In that report, Calkins completely changed his story, from not remembering anything to outlining a very detailed account of his interaction with Terrance.
For Marcia Williams, the story of her son’s disappearance is about to get more complicated. Two months after he went missing, Marcia wrote a letter to the editor of the Naples Daily News with a plea to help find her son. In short order, she received a call from the local Mexican consulate.
“I receive a phone call from the Mexican consulate.” recalls Marcia, “And I’m like, ‘Oh my God, they found my baby, they found my baby!’ They were calling me to let me know that there was a young man, Felipe Santos, missing.” Felipe Santos was a 23-year-old undocumented Mexican worker who disappeared in October 2003, three months before Terrance vanished. And the last person Felipe was seen with was Deputy Steven Calkins.
“They’re both disappearing with the same deputy after being put in the same deputy’s car,” says Tyler Perry. “If this is a coincidence, then he is the most unlucky man in the world, that this could actually be something that happened to him twice. I just don’t see how that is possible.”
In 2018, Tyler Perry enlisted Ben Crump — a civil rights attorney famous for representing families of Black victims of police violence — to launch a wrongful death lawsuit against Calkins on behalf of Marcia Williams.
“We often say Black Lives Matter when people we know are unjustly killed,” says Crump, “but we also have to say Black Lives Matter when the person is Black and missing.”
Two years later, in December 2020, Calkins was compelled as part of the civil suit to sit for a four-and-a-half-hour deposition, excerpts of which are included in the Paramount+ series “Never Seen Again.” During this sworn testimony, Calkins explains not having taken Terrance Williams to jail with the memory that the young man “seemed like a really nice guy.” For the most part, however, the former police officer said he was unable to remember his encounters with Terrance and Felipe. And he grew angry when a plaintiff’s attorney tried to jog his memory.
A court appointed arbitrator ultimately ruled against the lawsuit, citing a lack of evidence. When Crump’s attorneys missed a filing deadline to take the suit to trial, the judge sided with the arbitrator, dismissing the case. Crump’s team is now hoping to use Calkins’ deposition to get the federal Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division to reopen the investigation.
Through his attorney, Calkins declined an interview request. He is currently living in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
“I just want answers for Marcia and the Santos family to know what happened,” says Tyler Perry, “I think that’s only fair. And whatever we have to do to make that happen, it’s my hope that we do it.”