Three men. A convenience store chain. Two disappearances. No answers. This is what the people of Naples, Florida are faced with. In January of 2004, Terrance Williams went missing. Williams had been driving home from a party early on the 12th of that month without a driver’s license due to a previous DUI, and was consequently pulled over by sheriff’s deputy Steve Calkins outside a cemetery.
The employees filed affidavits stating that Calkins had taken Williams into the back of his cruiser, drove off, and then returned 15-60 minutes later to move William’s Cadillac to the side of the road, which was later towed per Calkins request. And with that, Terrance Williams was never seen again.
Within the day, Williams’ family became understandably concerned and filed a missing-persons report. After talking with the cemetery employees, they began to suspect Calkins, resulting in an informal investigation conducted by Calkins’ supervisors. It was discovered that Calkins had not filed an incident report in connection to the Cadillac and that Calkins had not arrested or even reported to have met Williams. Calkins later claimed that he had encountered a man whose car was “in distress” and that Williams asked him for a ride to the nearby Circle K for work.
He also stated that he later called the Circle K to talk with Williams regarding his car registration, which was not in the location he was told it would be. However, Circle K’s video surveillance and phone records show that none of these events happened. Williams did not even work at a Circle K.
As this story began to gain media attention by the pure will of the Williams family, the family became aware that a similar incident had occurred only months prior. Felipe Santos, an illegal immigrant, was involved in a minor traffic accident and was picked up by Steve Calkins for driving without a driver’s license. Calkins was once again the last person he was seen with. Not only that, but Calkins claimed he dropped Santos off at a Circle K that was only 4 miles from the one Williams was supposedly dropped off at.
The odds that two unrelated men were dropped off at Circle K’s by the same man and disappeared of their own accord are very slim. Calkins’ story is filled with contradictions and questions. He first stated that he had no idea who Williams was, although he was seen with him. He also claimed that he had not arrested him. If that were the case, why bother putting him in the cruiser when he could drive his own car? Additionally, Calkins was a 17-year veteran of the force. If someone breaks the law, shouldn’t you arrest them and not give them a ride to their “job”?
It all seems to be out of character for an officer of 17 years. What I have such a hard time understanding is the ‘why’ of this all. Why would Calkins make it so obvious he had a role in their disappearances by lying and formulating the same Circle K stories? Why would he even want to murder random men? Why was he never formally looked into as the prime suspect?
To answer the first question, maybe Calkins used the Circle K story for Williams’ disappearance because it worked so well for him before in regards to the Santos case. He was so naive or cocky that he did not even consider that anyone would be able to connect the two.
In regards to the second, if Calkins did murder Williams and Santos, it was not entirely random. Both were clearly of ethnic backgrounds, leading me to believe that Calkins actions could be racially motivated and that he acted out of a spontaneous rage. I do not think Calkins set out that day planning on killing anyone. Perhaps he was tired of dealing with people of this archetype and found solace in murder, making this a crime of opportunity.
Of course, this train of thought does not make sense to the logical, sane person, but it is entirely plausible that Calkins was unstable. According to the Associated Press, it was reported that “he was on medication for stress, anxiety and depression, and that a psychologist said he was ‘burnt out, overwhelmed, under considerable stress at home and work.’” These pressures plus a possible racist mindset can make a toxic combination, causing seemingly normal people to commit horrible crimes.
Despite the fact that Calkins a) was the last person to be seen with both men, b) is only living connection between the disappearances, c) lied, and d) did not follow proper protocol, the county sheriff only briefly looked into him, and then dismissed him. Although I am disappointed, I am not surprised. This reminds me of what the police would do back in the 60s with people of color.
The sheriff’s department had let him go so easily in order to either (or both, really) save face or because they simply did not care. Maybe they harbored prejudices of their own and saw these disappearances as a cleansing of sorts, seeing no real worth in these men or finding them, which is quite a sad thought.
At this point, I feel I can say with almost absolute certainty, unless another suspect arises in the cases, that Terrance Williams and Felipe Santos were destined for death the moment they stepped foot into Steve Calkins’ cruiser. It is a shame that they or their families will never get the justice they deserve.