NAPLES — A trio of influential black leaders — movie mogul Tyler Perry, the Rev. Al Sharpton and NAACP CEO and President Ben Jealous — will be in Naples on Thursday, bringing attention to two local missing persons cases and the amount of media attention paid to disappearances of minorities.
The three men will hold a 10:30 a.m. press conference at Collier County's South Regional Library in East Naples, highlighting the unsolved disappearances of Terrance Williams and Felipe Santos. They were last seen nearly a decade ago with the same now-fired Collier County Sheriff's Office corporal, Steve Calkins.
"Cases such as these highlight a growing concern about the lack of media coverage when it comes to missing person cases involving people of color," a statement publicizing the event said.
Blacks made up about 13 percent of the U.S. population, yet they accounted for 33 percent of missing persons cases in 2011, according to FBI data.
Perry, whose movie and TV empire is best known for the Madea character, and Sharpton, a longtime civil rights advocate, spoke together in February on MSNBC about the North Naples cases after Perry saw a television show featuring Williams.
"They were put into the back of Deputy Calkins' car and never heard from again. And to this day Deputy Steve Calkins is a free man," Perry wrote on his personal blog in April. "I guess it's time to march in Naples now."
Collier County sheriff's spokeswoman Karie Partington said Perry has maintained "a sincere interest" in the cases.
"We've been in contact with them working on this, and we're grateful that they're shining a spotlight on these two cases because our best hope of solving them comes from new information," Partington said.
Marcia Williams, Terrance's mother, said Tuesday she is withholding comment until the press conference.
Santos, then 23, disappeared in October 2003, after he was arrested by Calkins near Immokalee and Airport-Pulling roads for driving without a license. In a memo, Calkins wrote he didn't take the Santos to jail, instead dropping him off at an Immokalee Road Circle K.
Three months later, Williams, then 27, disappeared after an encounter with Calkins. Witnesses and reports said Williams was having car troubles when Calkins spotted him near Naples Memorial Gardens, a North Naples Cemetery. Calkins said at the time he took Williams to a nearby Circle K and never saw him again.
The 17-year veteran was fired from the Sheriff's Office in August 2004 after giving inconsistent accounts of the Williams encounter during an internal investigation. He's been deemed a person of interest in the case.