Filmmaker Tyler Perry is working with civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump to help two families uncover answers in the cold cases of Felipe Santos and Terrance Williams who reportedly disappeared after coming in contact with a former North Naples, Fla., Sheriff’s Deputy Steven Calkins.
Perry has offered up $200,000 to anyone who has information that would help to bring justice in the nearly 15-year-old cases. Witnesses have reported seeing Santos and Williams, who disappeared in 2003 and 2004, taken into custody by Calkins. Crump and Perry believe Calkins is behind the disappearances, CNN reports.
Crump explained that Calkins’ story has changed from him saying he never arrested the men to him later admitting that he picked up the men and dropped both off at a gas station around the time witnesses say they saw him.
Perry said the case has had difficulty getting attention because the men are people of color — Williams is African-American, Santos is a Mexican immigrant. However, with the filmmaker’s support, the case has picked up momentum.
“This is not about us against the police, this is about us finding justice,” he told Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts on Wednesday morning.
Perry said Williams’ mother Marcia has proved to be tough and resilient, something he believes the accused deputy did not think would happen.
“This person who put them in the car… deputy Steve Calkins… did not count on the resilience of this mother and her love for her child and the commitment she had to making sure he got justice. I am very, very blessed and fortunate to stand with her in this fight,” Perry said on GMA.
Crump has filed a wrongful death civil lawsuit on behalf of Williams estate against the former sheriff’s deputy.
“The civil suit is more about trying to find out what happened and getting information that can lead to a criminal investigation,” Perry explained.
“We’re going to pursue every avenue that we can to get justice for Terrance and Felipe Santos. Because he was an undocumented immigrant or because Terrance was a black man who had four kids, it doesn’t mean that their lives are not important. We’re going to do everything we can to seek justice in this case.”
The Cold Case
Nearly 15 years ago, Santos was picked up by Calkins and out in his patrol car after a minor traffic accident.
It is unknown why Williams was pulled over by Calkins. He was arrested for failing to show his driver’s license and registration.
Both men disappeared and were never discovered.
According to the suit, Calkins was fired from his job with the Collier County Sheriff’s Department because he did not cooperate with investigators regarding his encounters with the men. However, no charges were ever filed against him.
Calkins is believed to currently be living in Iowa, the suit said.
“I don’t know how you can sit and not be upset that these two people, black, white, Mexican, it doesn’t even matter, would be put in the back of a sheriff’s deputy’s car, somebody we are supposed to trust,” Perry said at a press conference.
“They’re put in the back of the car, they disappear, and they haven’t been seen for 14 years. I don’t know anyone who that would not move unless you have a heart of stone.”
Perry commended the Collier County Sheriff’s Office for being vigilant in helping them with the case.
The Collier County Sheriff’s Office released a statement about the case:
“We thank our community which has been working this case together with us for years and for providing numerous tips and leads to investigators,” Sheriff Kevin Rambosk said.
“We also thank actor and filmmaker Tyler Perry for continuing to raise public awareness about these local cases and keeping them in the national spotlight.”