NAPLES — It’s been five years since Marcia Williams last spoke with her son.
It’s been half a decade since they last went to a movie together; half a decade since she last took him out to eat. It’s been five years since Terrance Williams last joked with his mother while they were at the mall that he couldn’t be seen with her, lest the other girls think she was his girlfriend.
“You know, some days are good, and some days I just can’t shake it,” Marcia Williams, 49, said. “I can’t shake it for nothing in the world. I can’t let go of it.”
Monday is the five-year anniversary of the day Terrance Williams disappeared -- poof -- vanishing into thin air.
His disappearance, like that of Felipe Santos, who he is regularly paired with in the media, has been difficult on his family, and has been described as a black mark on the Collier County Sheriff’s Office.
The last person known to have seen both Williams and Santos alive is former Collier County sheriff’s Cpl. Steven Calkins, a 17-year veteran who was later fired after he gave inconsistent stories about what happened to Williams during an internal probe.
People close to both cases have long looked suspiciously at Calkins, who has never been arrested because there is no criminal evidence linking him to either disappearance.
“This is frustrating for the family, but it’s also very frustrating for the Sheriff’s Office because it’s an open case,” sheriff’s Lt. Mike Fox said. “We don’t like to have open cases. ... Especially when one of ours is being looked at as doing this, then it gets really frustrating for us.”
The night before he disappeared, Williams, who would be 33 on Jan. 17, attended a party at a home in Bonita Springs with some of his Pizza Hut co-workers. After leaving the party, Williams was last seen in the area of 111th Avenue North and Vanderbilt Drive by Calkins, who said he gave Williams a ride to a Circle K store at U.S. 41 North and Wiggins Pass Road.
Three witnesses told sheriff’s investigators that between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. that morning they saw Calkins wave Williams over near the Naples Memorial Gardens, a North Naples cemetery. Williams was driving a white Cadillac with an expired plate.
Although officials said Williams could have been picked up or cited for six violations, Calkins has said that, instead of taking him to jail, he dropped Williams off at the convenience store where Williams regularly bought cigarettes before heading to work.
He was never heard from or seen again.
“He could be alive. He could not be alive. It’s really hard to say,” Fox said. “We don’t have any evidence that he’s not alive, and we don’t have any evidence that he is alive. He’s dropped off the face of the Earth.”
Marcia Williams said there is plenty of evidence that he’s not alive -- the son she used to talk to two or three times a day hasn’t called in five years.
“I know Terrance and they don’t,” she said. “If Terrance was somewhere hiding out, Terrance would get in touch with somebody and say ‘I’m OK.’”
Santos disappeared three months before Terrance Williams. Santos, a 23-year-old Mexican laborer, was involved in a minor traffic crash in North Naples, and Calkins was the responding deputy.
Calkins said he gave Santos a ride to a North Naples convenience store as well.
Marcia Williams is loath to criticize the Sheriff’s Office, the agency she is counting on to find out what happened to her son. Still, she questions the treatment that Calkins has received.
But sheriff’s officials say there is no evidence to link Calkins to any wrongdoing involving either Terrance Williams or Santos.
Fox said that if authorities tried to prosecute him today, the case would go nowhere.
In fact, because Calkins was a Sheriff’s Office employee at the time of the disappearances, Fox said they were able to talk to Calkins more than an average citizen, due to a rule, known as the Garrity Rule, that compels officers to participate in internal investigations.
“If Calkins was the average citizen, if he wasn’t a member of the Sheriff’s Office, he wouldn’t have been questioned as much as he was questioned,” Fox said. “Had he been a normal citizen, we couldn’t have compelled him to talk to us.”
Fox said Terrance Williams’ case is still open and active. Investigators still check to see if he’s been arrested around the country, and two Social Security numbers attached to Williams have been flagged.
But there have been no hits, and there is no evidence that either Social Security number has been used in five years.
“We get phone calls every once in awhile,” Fox said. “Every time we get a phone call we follow up on it and see where it takes us.”
Marcia Williams says all four of Terrance Williams’ children, especially his youngest, 8-year-old son, look like him. They ask questions about their father from time to time, she said.
“It’s a hard thing having to look at these children and not be able to tell these children that I don’t know where your daddy is,” she said.
When calling Marcia Williams’ telephone, callers don’t hear a ring, but a recording briefly describing the disappearance followed by a Bible verse. Marcia Williams said she is confident she will know the truth about her son some day.
“I don’t think it, I know it, because I believe in God,” she said. “I don’t believe in man. I believe in God.”