IMMOKALEE -- Around twenty years ago, two beloved sons and fathers — Felipe Santos and Terrance Williams — went missing in Southwest Florida. One, Felipe Santos, was part of the CIW family, brother-in-law to former CIW staff member Francisca Cortez. Both were last seen alive in the back of former Collier County Sheriff’s Deputy Steve Calkins’ police vehicle.
The story of Felipe Santos and Terrance Williams’ disappearances is one of tragedy and unresolved loss, but it is also a story about powerlessness – the powerlessness of two poor communities, Black and Latino, in wealthy Collier County; the powerlessness of disenfranchised residents in relation to a county Sheriff’s department; and, most of all, the powerlessness of two grieving and bewildered families seeking answers but left only with more questions, and still without their loved ones, two decades later.
But now, twenty years since the disappearance of Felipe Santos and Terrance Williams — one after the other, three months apart — CNN has published an in-depth investigative report detailing Williams’ and Santos’ lives and their last known minutes with Officer Calkins, whom many suspect to be behind their disappearances. NPR has also conducted a thorough investigation into their disappearances in a serialized podcast called The Last Ride, which is helping to focus national attention on this ongoing tragedy.
CNN’s investigators interviewed nearly 70 people, including CIW staff member Julia Perkins and CIW co-founder Lucas Benitez, who both knew Felipe Santos and his family. In their account of Santos’ disappearance, Perkins and Benitez offer a vivid and unflinching look into the struggle for Immokalee’s working community to gain the kind of power needed to be treated as full human beings, and of the community’s historically fraught relationship to Collier County law enforcement.