Thursday, January 31, 2013

Convicted Murderer Mistakenly Released in Chicago

Steven L. Robbins, a man serving a 60-year prison sentence in Indiana, was mistakenly released Wednesday evening from Cook County Jail. According to the Cook County Sheriff’s office and the Indiana Department of Correction, Robbins [44] was sent to Cook County Circuit Court on Tuesday to face charges on a case unrelated to his murder conviction. 

Robbins had been serving his time in Indiana State Prison and was brought to Illinois to appear in Cook County Court for a warrant in connection with a 1992 armed violence and narcotics case. The charges were dropped, “but for reasons unknown, Robbins was released by Illinois authorities without being held for return,” the department said in a news release.

He was arrested in June 2002 in a Merrillville, Indiana motel in connection with the 12 May 2002, slaying of Richard Melton (of Kentucky) in Indianapolis. Melton was visiting Indianapolis with his mother for a relative’s funeral and got into a fight with Robbins, who then shot him on the street. He began his sentence in October 2004 and his earliest projected release date was 29 June 2029.

Both Illinois and Indiana have issued arrest warrants for Robbins. Officials in both states are asking for the public's help to apprehend him. He is described as a black man, 5 feet 5 inches tall and 190 pounds, and he has a tattoo on the right side of his neck that reads “Nicole.”

Monday, January 28, 2013

Two Men Last Seen With Collier County Police Officer “Still Missing!”

The mysterious case of two missing men (Terrance Williams, 27, and Felipe Santos, 23) in Naples, Florida after their uncanny encounter with a Collier County police officer is finally gaining national attention. 
Terrance Williams went missing on 12 January 2004. At the time of his disappearance, Terrance was working a new job at Pizza Hut in Bonita Springs. The night before his disappearance, Terrance and some of his co-workers got together around midnight to party at a Bonita Springs home. The group drank beer and socialized until the sun came up, according to Christina Bermingham, 25, who was at the party. Terrance left about 6 a.m., she said, and he seemed fine. “Everything was pretty normal,” she said. “We just had a party and the dude disappeared.” Terrance didn’t show up for his day shift, and he never even picked up his paycheck, which had been ready that day.  
What is known about the day of his disappearance is that Williams ran into Cpl. Steven Calkins, a nearly 17-year Collier Sheriff’s Office veteran at the time. Three witnesses told Sheriff’s Office investigators they saw Calkins wave over Williams near Naples Memorial Gardens, a North Naples cemetery, between 9 and 10 a.m. Cpl. Steve Calkins, himself, told investigators he picked Terrance up on Jan. 12 and gave him a ride to a Circle K on U.S. 41, and Terrance told him he was late for work. At the time, Williams was driving a 1983 two-door white Cadillac that was registered to someone else and had expired plates. Shortly after noon, Calkins said, they met at the cemetery along 111th Avenue North when he spotted Williams having car trouble. But Calkins didn’t call in the traffic stop as required; instead, Calkins said he gave Williams a ride to a Circle K near Wiggins Pass Road on U.S. 41 because Williams said he was late for work and looked nice and “clean-cut.”
According to one witness, Jesusa Ybarra, 52, a Circle K clerk, both Calkins and Williams were there that morning: “Calkins used the bathroom and Williams filled up a small tank of gas and walked down Wiggins Pass Road—alone.” Jesusa claimed that she Williams was a regular customer there; she said that he regularly went there to buy cigarettes before heading to work at Pizza Hut. Calkins then called a friend in dispatch, asking him to run information on an abandoned vehicle, even though he later said he had already met Terrance by then.

Telephone call (1/12/04-12:49 p.m.):

Caller: (Cpl. Steven Calkins)
Dispatcher: (Dave Jolicouer)
Dispatcher: “What are you doin’ sucka?”

Calkins: “Well I got a “Homie” Cadillac on the side of the road here, signal 11, signal 52 nobody around. I’m at the cemetery here at the corner of Vanderbilt and 111th.”

Dispatcher: “Oh yeah, you be doin’ some prayin’? Been prayin’ to the heavenly father?” Calkins: “Maybe he’s out there in the cemetery. He’ll come back and his car will be towed.”
A half-hour later, Calkins contacted dispatch with Williams’ full name, date of birth and asked the dispatcher to run a search, even though Calkins later told investigators he only knew Williams’ first name. Calkins called with a fake birth date Williams had used before and possibly when he got in trouble in order to fool police. 
Calkins: “4-1-75. Black/male. (singing)...,”

Dispatch: 1-16-04. “I hate to bother you at home on your day off, but this woman’s been bothering us all day. You towed a car from Vanderbilt and a hundred ... Do you remember it?”

Calkins: “Uhhh, no.”

Dispatcher: “Do you remember ... she said it was near the cemetery.”

Calkins: “Cemetery?”
Calkins assures the dispatcher there was no one with the vehicle.
Dispatcher: “Uh, well, somebody’s at the cemetery telling the mother that you picked up the driver and he’s been missing since Monday.”

Calkins: “Oh, for Pete’s sake.”
Seven days later, Calkins wrote an incident report. He later told sheriff’s officials he wrote it “to cover his butt.” After dropping Terrance off, Calkins said he returned to the Cadillac and found there wasn’t proper registration in the car. He said that he felt duped, so he called Circle K and asked for Terrance from his cell phone. Calkins said that the clerk told him she didn’t know any Terrance. Records show that Calkins never made that call, and no one at the Circle K at Wiggins Pass Road remembered the call or Calkins.

On 28 January 2004, Terrance’s mother, Marcia Roberts (seen above), lodged a misconduct complaint against Calkins and an internal investigation followed. Eight pages in the Sheriff’s Office internal probe outline Calkins’ lies and inconsistencies about what happened, and Calkins was fired in August 2004 because of the incident.

Felipe Santos was last seen by his brothers getting into Calkins’ squad car in October 2003. Calkins said he dropped him at Circle K on Immokalee Road. Asked during a recent interview with the Daily News to explain, Calkins said: “Coincidence extreme and that’s all it is.“It was just bad luck. It was bad luck ... I didn’t think anything of it.” That coincidence helped the families tap lawyers for their cases. Linda Ramirez, the St. Petersburg lawyer for the Santos family, said it struck her that Calkins said he took both men and dropped them at a Circle K instead of at the sheriff’s substation or jail. “It would just seem to me you’re not likely to find two people who have gone missing under similar circumstances without there being some kind of connection,” she said.

Calkins has said he had nothing to do with the disappearance of Terrence Williams—or that of Filipe Santos. Calkins later filed an appeal, citing that Williams was seen at an East Naples gas station, though the investigators viewed video and didn’t see Terrance. The appeal was shot down by Sheriff Don Hunter (seen above). Hunter, now the police chief on Marco Island, said in 2012, that the Sheriff's Office and other assisting agencies exhausted “every possibility” in trying to find enough evidence to make an arrest or serve a search warrant. A forensic investigation of Calkins’ patrol car, as well as a tracking device placed on the vehicle, “turned up nothing,” Hunter told CNN. “We all believe that there are too many inconsistencies and too many coincidences in Calkins’ account of events,” said. “... The difficulty we had was proving it.”

Terrance’s first cousin, Felysha Jenkins, 29, sent a Feb. 13, 2004, mass e-mail to enlist her friends’ help:
“I am especially upset because I have seen two White females and a personal interest story involving a kitten, yes, a kitten, receive national attention which all arose from Florida. Surely, a black man deserves at least as much attention as granted to a 6-week-old cat!”
“We weren’t able to get the publicity that Terrance deserved. It was like, ‘Hey this happens all the time,’” said Jenkins, a doctorate student in psychology at North Carolina State University.
“I think it’s too late.”
She thinks the story failed to catch the attention of the news media because of the white and wealthy demographics in Collier County. "What's going on to pull people in? It's not going to be about a cop

involved with a young African-American who wasn’t a pillar in the community,” she said back in 2006.

Well, Felysha has finally gotten her answer. The disappearances of Santos and Williams regained national momentum in late January 2013 when actor Tyler Perry saw the cases profiled on an Investigation Discovery channel show called "Disappeared." He began posting about them on his Facebook and Twitter accounts. In January of 2013, six years after Felysha said it was already too late, national celebrity Tyler Perry offered a $100,000 reward for information in the cold-cases of the two missing Florida men. The matter has gained national attention since Tyler Perry held a news conference—accompanied by Rev. Al Sharpton and NAACP head Ben Jealous—to discuss the missing-person investigations of the two men.
“I am beyond outraged by this!” Perry wrote in a 2013 January 25 Facebook post. “Please help me give Terrance Williams and Felipe Santos something that many people don't think the poor or disenfranchised have... A VOICE!!”
In covering the story, journalist Janet Shan of the Hinterland Gazzette wrote, “I echo Tyler Perry’s sentiment that the media doesn’t pay too much attention to missing-persons cases involving blacks and Hispanics. Terrance Williams was black and Felipe Santos was an illegal immigrant from Mexico.” After Perry and others expressed their sentiments, several news outlets, such as CNN, began covering the story for the first time.

Commenting about the case, Dori J. Maynard, president of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education where one goal is reflecting diversity in coverage, said all media should set uniform standards for covering the missing. “Two male people of color missing; you’re talking about a story that never makes the news!” Maynard said in disgust.

Some are also outraged that Steven Calkins’ picture has not been released to the media, and can be found nowhere online. If he was the last person that they were seen with—and he is a suspect, I would suspect that making his picture public would be helpful.

Anyone with information in the missing persons cases of Santos and Williams is asked to call the Collier County Sheriff's Office at 239-252-9300 or Southwest Florida Crime Stoppers at 1-800-780-TIPS.