Marcia Roberts is haunted by her only child.
Collier County Sheriff Don Hunter
- AUDIO: This is still an open active case
- RELATED STORY: Family hopes Santos still alive after mysterious disappearance (Jan. 22, 2006)
- RELATED STORY: Calkins says he ‘didn’t do anything wrong’ (Jan. 22, 2006)
- RELATED STORY: Search is still on for two missing men (Jan. 20, 2006)
- RELATED STORY: Veteran deputy fired for failing to follow radio communication policies (Sept. 30, 2004)
- RELATED STORY: Relatives of missing man seek clues to disappearance (Jan. 24, 2004)
She used to clutch a dreadlock from the head of her missing 27-year-old son while sifting online for clues.
She used to watch “Unsolved Mysteries” in her East Naples apartment in hopes of triggering her mind into unlocking what happened to her son. He’s been gone more than two years.
And she doesn’t know where he is, or was. If he’s alive or dead.
But her answering machine has remained the same since the questions started:
“Whatever is now covered up will be uncovered and every secret will be made known, Matthew Chapter 10, verses 26 through 28.
“Terrance Williams has been missing since January the 12th, 2004. The family would like to thank you for your continued prayers and your thoughts and acts of kindness.”
And she won’t change it until she finds answers.
And she will never stop looking.
And she will never stop praying.
“My mind just wanders and I wonder if that’s good or not. I pray every night. I know God is tired of me,” she says.
And she will never give up.
Before the 46-year-old goes to bed, when she gets up, she often prays the same verses, Matthew 10:26-28 — the ones highlighted in a worn St. James Bible.
What I am telling you in the dark you must repeat in broad daylight and what you have heard in private you must announce from the rooftops.
The same verses float by on a screen saver on her computer.
“I’m not going to give up,” she says, “Oh no. Because he wouldn’t give up looking for me.”
The night he slipped from her life — Jan. 11, 2004 — Marcia said she picked him up from a Bonita Springs Pizza Hut where he worked as a cook and drove him to a friend’s house.
A day later, the last person confirmed to see him alive was a Collier County sheriff’s corporal — the same man last spotted with Felipe Santos, a 23-year-old Mexican laborer just three months before.
The corporal said he gave both men rides to Circle K convenience stores in North Naples within four miles of each other.
Williams is, or would have been, 30 on Jan. 17, this past Tuesday.
He is forever 27 in missing persons posters.
He is now among the photos of strangers’ loved ones we pass in supermarkets, pause a second to think — ‘that’s sad’ — rarely recognize them and continue on.
Williams, an attractive black man with dreadlocks, wears a knowing smirk and sunglasses to shade his almond-shaped eyes in many photos.
This image is steady, frozen in his mother’s photo albums as the years have rolled by without him and his family tries to figure out how, why?
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The night before he vanished, Terrance and a crew from Pizza Hut got together around midnight to party at a Bonita Springs home.
He had only been working at the restaurant a few weeks.
Terrance followed his mother to Naples from Chattanooga, Tenn., a few months after Marcia Roberts left her extended family there to start a new life in summer 2002.
The group drank beer and blabbed about life until the sun came up, said Christina Bermingham, 25, who was at the party.
When Terrance left about 6 a.m., she said he seemed fine.
“Everything was pretty normal,” she said. “We just had a party and the dude disappeared.”
But he never showed for his day shift.
He never picked up a check.
Detectives came around asking questions later.
Memory dissipates and scatters with time. Finding clues soon after a person goes missing is crucial because witnesses’ recall is fresher.
“It does help to do something as quickly as possible,” said Erin Bruno, lead case manager with the National Center for Missing Adults, the federal clearinghouse for missing adults.
“Just because they’re missing for a long period of time, doesn’t necessarily mean something bad has happened.”
Families should never lose hope, she said.
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What happened between Jan. 11 and when Williams ran into Cpl. Steven Calkins, a nearly 17-year Collier Sheriff’s Office veteran on Jan. 12, gnaws at his mother.
Times, lies, inconsistencies and a story that doesn’t jibe keep running through Marcia’s head.
Three witnesses told Sheriff’s Office investigators they saw Calkins wave over Williams near Naples Memorial Gardens, a North Naples cemetery, between 9 and 10 a.m.
Williams was driving a 1983 two-door white Cadillac with an expired plate and registered to someone else.
He could have been picked up or cited for six violations, sheriff’s investigators said.
Shortly after noon, Calkins said, they met at the cemetery along 111th Avenue North when he spotted Williams having car trouble. Calkins didn’t call in the traffic stop as required.
Calkins blames the time discord on confusion and memory problems.
Instead of taking him to jail, the corporal said he gave him a ride to a Circle K near Wiggins Pass Road on U.S. 41 because Williams said he was late for work and looked nice and “clean-cut.”
Jesusa Ybarra, 52, a Circle K clerk, said Friday she remembers seeing both Calkins and Williams that morning.
Calkins used the bathroom, she said, and Williams filled up a small tank with a few bucks of gas and walked down Wiggins Pass Road — alone. Williams often bought cigarettes there before heading to work at Pizza Hut.
“I know Terrance went down the road and then we saw the picture and said, ‘No way.’ It’s scary. You see this person right in front of you two seconds and now he’s been missing two years,” she said.
Calkins called a friend in dispatch, asking him to run information on an abandoned vehicle, even though he later said he had met Terrance by then.
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Telephone call: 01-12-04/ 1249 PM
Caller: Cpl. Steven Calkins/Dispatcher: Dave Jolicouer.
Dispatcher: “What are you doin’ sucka?”
“Well I got a “Homie” Cadillac on the side of the road here, signal 11, signal 52 nobody around,” Calkins says.
“I’m at the cemetery here at the corner of Vanderbilt and 111th,” Calkins says later in the call.
“Oh yeah, you be doin’ some prayin’? Been prayin’ to the heavenly father?” Jolicouer says.
“Maybe he’s out there in the cemetery. He’ll come back and his car will be towed,” Calkins says.
A half-hour later, Calkins contacted dispatch with Williams’ full name, date of birth and asked the dispatcher to run a search, though Calkins later told investigators he only knew Williams’ first name.
Calkins called with a fake birth date Williams had used before and possibly when he got in trouble.
“4-1-75. Black/male. (singing)...,” a transcript of Calkins’ call to the dispatcher says.
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On Jan. 16, 2004, a frantic Marcia reported her son missing.
Her hair began to fall out. She began to take medication for anxiety, depression to keep focused on living and looking.
Marcia and her family in Tennessee started scraping — talking to anyone and everyone they could think of to find answers.
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“I hate to bother you at home on your day off, but this woman’s been bothering us all day. You towed a car from Vanderbilt and a hundred ... Do you remember it?”
Calkins: “Uhhh, no.”
“Do you remember ... she said it was near the cemetery.”
Calkins assures the dispatcher there was no one with the vehicle.
“Uh, well, somebody’s at the cemetery telling the mother that you picked up the driver and he’s been missing since Monday.”
“Oh, for pete’s sake.”
Seven days later, Calkins wrote an incident report. He later told sheriff’s officials he wrote it “to cover his butt.”
After dropping off Terrance, Calkins said he returned to the Cadillac and found there wasn’t proper registration in the car. He felt duped so he called Circle K and asked for Terrance from his cell phone. The clerk told him she didn’t know any Terrance, he said.
Records showed Calkins never made the call.
No one at the Circle K at Wiggins Pass Road remembered the call or Calkins, sheriff’s investigators said in reports, contradicting what the clerk said to the Daily News on Friday.
More than two weeks after her son vanished, on Jan. 28, Marcia lodged a misconduct complaint against Calkins and an internal investigation ensued.
Calkins was fired from the Sheriff’s Office in August 2004. Eight pages in the Sheriff’s Office internal probe outline Calkins’ lies and inconsistencies about what happened.
He hasn’t been charged with any criminal wrongdoing.
An appeal by Calkins cited a report that Williams was seen at an East Naples gas station, though the investigators viewed video and didn’t see Terrance. The appeal was shot down by Sheriff Don Hunter.
Family members say they haven’t heard from nor seen Williams since.
Adults who decide to vanish on purpose make it harder for those who slip from this earth, unintentionally and without warning, to get attention.
“They do have the right to walk if they so choose,” said Bruno of the National Center for Missing Adults.
Williams owed child support. He has four children — now 13, 11, 5 and 8 — by four different women, his mother said.
He spent time in a Tennessee prison in the mid-1990s in connection with an aggravated robbery, a Department of Correction spokeswoman said. Trespassing, DUI and driving on a revoked license were his other offenses.
Maybe he didn’t always make the best choices, but Marcia said her son was trying to shape up and support his children. She said she and her son were too close for him to leave without a good-bye.
He gave her away at her October 2002 wedding.
And all of his things were just left behind.
Boxes in her home are stuffed with at least a dozen bottles of his high-end cologne, watches still in original packages, a suede coat and a Ralph Lauren shirt from which a $34.50 tag dangles. And more.
“They’re going to tell me he just went somewhere,” Marcia said. “You wouldn’t ever just run away from your stuff. I’m his mother. His mother knows.”
She had Williams at 16, before finishing high school. His father left the picture at 3 months old. It was she and her son since.
Since more than two years ago.
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Marcia’s crusade for answers is heightened by questions about another missing man. Felipe Santos was last seen by his brothers getting into Calkins’ squad car in October 2003.
Calkins said he dropped him at Circle K on Immokalee Road.
Marcia discovered the link when the Mexican Consulate in Miami called to tell her about Santos after her son vanished.
Asked during a recent interview with the Daily News to explain, Calkins said:
“Coincidence extreme and that’s all it is.”
“It was just bad luck. It was bad luck ... I didn’t think anything of it.”
Acute coincidence helped the families tap lawyers for their cases.
“The coincidences are so extreme I want to get to the bottom of it,” said Mark Miller, a Fort Pierce civil rights attorney representing Marcia.
“Sooner or later, I believe sooner, we’ll find out what happened.”
Linda Ramirez, the St. Petersburg lawyer for the Santos family, said it struck her that Calkins said he took both men and dropped them at a Circle K instead of at the sheriff’s substation or jail.
“It would just seem to me you’re not likely to find two people who have gone missing under similar circumstances without there being some kind of connection,” she said.
Calkins said families of the two men should ask the Collier Sheriff’s Office for a deeper investigation.
“The Sheriff’s Office is more interested in punishing a deputy than doing some real investigative work,” Calkins said.
Hunter scoffed at Calkins’ statement.
“I think we’ve gone well beyond any other investigation I’ve ever been involved with for 25 years in trying to locate both men,” he said.
The Sheriff’s Office brought in the U.S. Attorney’s Office early in case criminal charges should arise against Calkins or anyone, Hunter said, noting that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and FBI also participated.
The shroud of mystery of both disappearances makes Marcia distrust. She prefers communication by e-mail. An alarm goes off on her front door so she knows when it opens.
“I now understand why people go postal or commit suicide. It’s not equal justice so a lot of people want to put justice in their own hands. People get angry,” she said, adding neither is something she’d do.
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Every time a body is found, Marcia wonders.
When human bones were found in Immokalee in early January, her stomach turned. She felt sick. She felt sick because, by now, by the way it was described it could be her son.
So decomposed, they couldn’t tell the sex, age or much else.
Last year, on a sunny weekend day in February, she was outside, looking.
Marcia and her two friends met at Naples Memorial Gardens for a macabre task.
The serene spot is where witnesses last said they saw Williams and Calkins.
A few days earlier, the Sheriff’s Office had found a body near Wiggins Pass Road — near where Calkins said he left Williams. The body wasn’t her son but she wanted to look for clues.
She smoothed a map on the trunk of the beige 1992 Toyota Camry to look for open spaces near where the body was found.
The trio drove to Vanderbilt Drive and Bonita Beach Road to look for any connection to Terrance. Grabbing wooden sticks, they poked through overgrown grasses. They spotted an empty pack of Newports.
That’s what Terrance smoked.
If he’s dead or killed, Marcia just wants some sort of ending to the life she cherished and loved for 27 years.
“I can deal with it. I just need to know,” she said.
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A dog getting prosecuted for killing a cat.
Yep, seriously, Marcia said about a bit she saw on a talk show around the time of the two-year anniversary of her son’s disappearance.
And she still can’t get the story splashed on the national news.
“Stuff like that makes me angry,” she said.
After Terrance vanished, Marcia and her family sent hundreds of letters and e-mails with pleas for help to the national media.
They got few bites.
Terrance’s first cousin, Felysha Jenkins, 29, sent a Feb. 13, 2004, mass e-mail to enlist her friends’ help:
“I am especially upset because I have seen two White females and a personal interest story involving a kitten, yes, a kitten, receive national attention which all arose from Florida. Surely, a black man deserves at least as much attention as granted to a 6-week-old cat!”
“We weren’t able to get the publicity that Terrance deserved. It was like, ‘Hey this happens all the time,’” said Jenkins, a doctorate student in psychology at North Carolina State University.
“I think it’s too late.”
She thinks the story failed to crane the news media’s necks locally, initially, because of the white and wealthy demographics in Collier County.
“What’s going to pull people in? It’s not going to be about a cop involved with a young African-American who wasn’t a pillar in the community,” she said.
On Thursday, top law enforcers rounded up Southwest Florida media in a press conference about the two men in hopes the story would seep to larger markets.
After two years, Pamela Williams, one of Terrance’s aunts in Chattanooga, said she doesn’t know what else to do.
“I’m looking like it’s just not time yet. It’s God’s time,” she said. “It’s draining but there’s still some fight.”
Marcia’s frustration swelled watching cable news counting the days passed since an 18-year-old Alabama blonde vanished during an Aruba vacation this past summer.
Bruno, at the National Center for Missing Adults, said the media pounces on missing white females, or “the damsel in distress,” while men don’t get as much attention even though federal numbers show there are more men missing than women.
“I would love to say that discrimination doesn’t play a role in whether a person does or doesn’t get coverage,” she said. “Adults, even men, can become victims as well.”
Dori J. Maynard, president of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education where one goal is reflecting diversity in coverage, said all media should set uniform standards for covering the missing.
“Two male people of color missing. You’re talking about a story that never makes the news,” Maynard said.
Bruno said the circumstances of a disappearance are often crucial to getting media interest. If the press can report on twists and turns in a case, they’re more likely to follow it, she said.
Marcia had more luck getting attention in Chattanooga.
She hosted a benefit at a church in late August to help raise money to publicize the story. Her family members have T-shirts made with Terrance’s face.
She will keep sending letters. She landed a six-minute December spot on Court TV’s Catherine Crier Live, but unfortunately the segment didn’t turn up any leads, a spokeswoman said.
Marcia wants more.
“It’s worth a whole hour,” she said.
After all, two people are missing.
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Marcia prays for closure, for peace.
And she wonders if it will ever come.
“I’m praying hard for it,” she said. “If someone would tell me how to deal with it, I would.”
Maybe someday she’ll find comfort in the smiles of her grandchildren from her son. Her family wants her in Chattanooga. But she feels locked here until she solves this mystery.
“Somebody out there, it’s bugging them real bad. It’s got to be. Maybe they’ll speak up,” she said.
She’s losing fire but won’t quit.
“I don’t think my life will ever be what it was but I can’t let this kill me. That’s why I’m going to keep on keeping on.
“As close as we were, I’ve always been taught, a winner never quits. I could hear him telling me that. That’s what keeps me going.”
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Anyone with information about Felipe Santos or Terrance Williams should call the Collier County Sheriff’s Office at 774-4434 or Southwest Florida Crimestoppers (800) 730-8477.