‘We knew something was wrong’: New details surface in murder of 18-year-old found dead near river

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Questions remain surrounding the death of 18-year-old Santeria Williams.

The Ribault High School senior was found near the Trout River last Friday and police have deemed this a murder.

“She was getting ready to go to school the next day, she wasn’t trying to go nowhere,” her grandmother Deborah Caul said. “Whatever happened to her when she walked out that door, they killed my granddaughter that night.”

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New details from the missing person report on January 5 shows that all attempted calls to Williams, including from police, went to voicemail. Family members told us she took a phone call around 2 a.m. on Tuesday, January 4 and went outside with only her phone, no other belongings and never returned.

Caul claims the sheriff’s office didn’t take her disappearance seriously.

“They didn’t do anything, they didn’t help us in no kind of way,” she said.

Action News Jax reporter Ben Ryan reached out to JSO four times since Saturday asking what search efforts were made in her disappearance and why there wasn’t a press release. On Wednesday afternoon, JSO responded saying:

The incident in which you are asking about involves an 18-year-old adult who was reported missing. It continues to be an open investigation and no further information has been made available. The information provided at the time the missing person report was made did not constitute a media release or active search.”

“We knew something was wrong and we kept telling them this, we kept telling them this,” Caul said. “We stressed concern because we knew that was not our granddaughter, she don’t do that.”

Action News Jax Law and Safety expert, Dale Carson, who has years of experience in the FBI and police, says there must be evidence of danger to the person missing and says age can play a factor.

“There has to be information reflecting that the individual is in some sort of danger because law enforcement simply can’t be looking for everyone just because they didn’t answer their phone for a couple days,” Carson said. “Two ends of spectrum, very young, very old, law enforcement moves very swiftly. But in areas where an individual is an adult, adults are free to do in the United States pretty much what they want to do, who they want to associate with.”

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Caul says an arrest would bring some sort of closure and justice.

“I’m not holding up pretty well, but I’m trying to do the best I can to hold up my family,” Caul said.

Action News Jax followed up to the response it received from JSO as to what exactly meets that criterion of a press release and active search. We also asked if there are any suspects at all yet in this case, but didn’t hear back by our Wednesday deadline. However, on Thursday morning, JSO replied:

“Several factors are taken into consideration when determining if the report of a missing person constitutes a media release or active search.  Some of those factors include, but are not limited to, the individual’s age, existence of medical diagnosis(s), mental status, whether they have been reported missing in the past, and whether or not there are any signs of foul play.”