How Tyler Perry is helping to find justice for Black man who disappeared after getting into cop car

Terrance Williams Poster (Courtesy Naples Daily News)

On January 12, 2004, Terrance Williams, a 27-year-old father of four, had moved to Florida to help take care of his mother. He had a suspended license, but he still drove to a party. The next day, he didn’t come back home. His mother, Marcia, started searching for him as Williams would not leave without informing anyone.

His family filed a missing person report and not long after, his missing car (a white Cadillac) was found by a family member. It was abandoned at a local cemetery and a police officer got it towed. Police officer Steven Calkins of the Collier County Sheriff’s Department signed the tow ticket, according to reports. Meanwhile, Williams was nowhere to be found.

Workers at the cemetery around North Naples told officials that they saw Williams entering the back of Calkins’ police car. Calkins initially said he had never met Williams or had his car towed but he later changed his story and said Williams had car problems so he just gave him a ride to a gas station. Calkins said he drove Williams to the Circle K gas station and then dropped him off. No one has ever set eyes on Williams again.

Williams was the second man to disappear after an encounter with Calkins. A 23-year-old Mexican immigrant and Immokalee resident called Felipe Santos vanished in October 2003 after his brothers said they saw him get into Calkins’ patrol car. Both men are yet to be seen, and according to the Collier sheriff’s office, the two are presumed dead.

Their disappearances have attracted the attention of many including activists and filmmaker Tyler Perry, who has offered a $200,000 reward for tips and is ready to tell Williams’ story in an upcoming docuseries. Calkins has never been arrested or charged in the disappearances. In late 2004, he was fired from the Collier County Sheriff’s Office after an internal investigation that found he was “deceptive in a polygraph and gave inconsistent statements about Williams’ disappearance,” Naples Daily News reported.

Marcia, who has been searching for her son for 18 years now, sued Calkins in a 2018 wrongful death action on behalf of Williams’ estate and four children. But late last year her legal team missed a deadline to file for a trial. The team appealed, but it was dismissed early this year by an appeals court. Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, whose firm is representing Williams’ family, said he and his team are looking at other means to seek justice. He said they will share information with the U.S. Department of Justice hoping that the agency will open a federal investigation.

Despite the defeat in court, Monica Caison, founder of Community United Effort-CUE Center for Missing Persons, told Naples Daily News that there is still hope. “I’ve witnessed it myself in 28-year cases. Something gets found that was missed. Somebody comes forward with a conscience,” Caison, who has been advocating for the families of Williams and Santos, said.

“Let’s hold out for hope. But obviously, if we’re searching in the woods, we’re not believing they’re going to be alive, still wandering around in the woods years later. We need to get to their place that they’ve been rested at. They’re not rested, but someone rested them there. And we need to get to that place and bring them home. So their families can rest.”

Perry, who will executive produce multiple episodes of the upcoming docuseries “Never Seen Again” about missing persons, hopes to get the truth about Williams and Santos.

“They’re both disappearing with the same deputy after being put in the same deputy’s car. 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,” Perry said in a press release about the docuseries.

“I just don’t see how that is possible. And I think that anybody in law enforcement can look at this and go, ‘What happened to them?’”

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: May 5, 2022


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