From Words to Images to Impact to Answers
Naples, Florida – Many years ago famous writer Anais Nin wrote, “We write to taste life twice; in the moment and in retrospect.” In many ways, her words ring true. Storytelling has evolved tremendously, impacting a wide range of people through multiple mediums fueled by writing. Behind the world of television, for instance, are teams of writers dedicated to creating, weaving, and depicting experiences, evoking emotion, re-telling history, and much more. Famous actor, director, producer, and screenwriter Tyler Perry, is currently working on a documentary titled, “Never Seen Again,” to tell the story of Terrance Williams, a black man who disappeared almost twenty years ago after being seen in the custody of a then Deputy Steve Calkins of the Collier County Sheriff’s Department.
According to Naples Daily News, Williams went missing in Naples, Florida on January 12, 2004. Case against former Collier Deputy tied to Williams; Witnesses saw him placed into the back of Calkin’s patrol car. Authorities questioned Calkins about what transpired and his whereabouts at the time. Calkins maintained that he merely gave the young man a ride to a gas station due to some car trouble he was having. But after an internal investigation, authorities discovered he provided contradicting statements about his interactions with Williams. Ironically, this isn’t the first time someone has vanished after a traffic stop with Calkins. Undocumented immigrant, Felipe Santos reportedly went missing three months prior after receiving a “ride” from the same sheriff. Florida Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Strangely, these two cases have received very little coverage until recently. Tyler Perry’s “Never Seen Again,” written and produced by him, is meant to bring awareness to the disappearance of these two men of color and provide justice to their grieving families. But why has it taken so long to get the appropriate amount of attention this case deserves? Sheriff Calkins was fired from his position but never charged with a crime. Both men have been declared dead, but Calkins now lives a quiet life in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Famous television writer Kenneth LaZebnik has been working in the tv writing industry for the past twenty years. He gave an interesting take on why no one really knows the name ‘Terrance Williams.’ “We live in a society ruled by images,” said LaZebnik. “If George Floyd’s murder had not been filmed, there may never have been the surging call for justice that followed. In the case of Terrance Williams, there is an absence: Terrance Williams disappeared, and there is an absence of an image of what happened to him.”This absence has been most keenly felt by his close family and friends. Williams’ mother, Marcia Williams, is heartbroken about the loss of her only son. The Disappearance of Terrance and Felipe Five years after his disappearance, Marcia Williams lamented the loss of her only child.
“You know, some days are good, and some days I just can’t shake it. I can’t shake it for nothing in the world. I can’t let go of it.” Eight years later, she continued working with friends and support systems for answers. In January 2012, a segment featuring Terrance aired on the Investigation Discovery Channel. “He has four children. They loved their daddy. They want to know what happened to him.” Now we have hit the 18-year mark. Will Tyler Perry’s docuseries be enough?
According to LaZebnik, the docuseries may be the electrical spark needed to get answers about both men.“People respond viscerally to the image of injustice; where there is no image, it is harder to draw people’s interest. It’s certainly not fair, but the American news industry feeds on images these days. Without a compelling image, there is a corresponding lack of coverage.”
However, names like Elizabeth Smart, Natalee Ann Holloway are very familiar to the average American. The former victim was abducted from her home and found by authorities only 18 months later; This case may differ from William’s disappearance due to the remarkability of her discovery- many people presumed the young girl to be dead. Elizabeth Smart: A Complete Timeline. The latter victim’s disappearance had a lack of imagery parallel to Williams. 18-year-old Natalie Hollaway vanished during a high school trip to Aruba. Although her remains have not yet been found, the case resulted in a media sensation. People were understandably deeply sympathetic to Hollaway’s mother, Beth Holloway. There were searches, arrests and rearrests. On July 4, the Royal Netherlands Air Force sent three F-16 aircraft equipped with infrared sensors to aid in the search for the young woman. The Whole Natalee Holloway Story May Never Be Known. Unfortunately, the main suspect in the crime, Joran Van der Soot, was arrested but never charged. Eventually, he was arrested and charged for clubbing a woman to death five years later in 2010. Tragic, but there’s our answer regarding Natalee Hollaway.
Calkin’s involvement in the disappearance of Terrance Williams and Felipe Santos is quite “coincidental” to say the least. It may be safe to assume that at this point, Tyler Perry’s documentary can only benefit the family in a positive way. “I think there is a good chance there will be some resolution to the case. It speaks to the value of what Tyler Perry is doing here,” said LaZebnik. “It also speaks to the fact that there are probably hundreds of cases like this that will never have a celebrity backing them and will never be resolved.”
Thumbnail Credits: Naples News
- Case against former Collier Deputy Tied to Williams
- Florida Wrongful Death Lawsuit
- The Disappearance of Terrance and Felipe
- Elizabeth Smart: A Complete Timeline
- The Whole Natalee Holloway Story May Never Be Known
- Adelola Tinubu from Current Affairs Times interviewed television writer, Kenneth LaZebnik