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Suspect in death of 9-year-old Felecia Williams remains in jail

TAMPA — Granville A. Ritchie, the main suspect in the death of a 9-year-old girl found floating in Tampa Bay last month, will remain in jail at least for now, a judge decided Friday.

Ritchie, 35, has not been formally accused of killing Felecia Williams, and Temple Terrace police, who are investigating her death, have not said why they named him as a suspect.

But Hillsborough County prosecutors are going to great lengths — including reaching into Ritchie's previous criminal cases — to keep him in jail while the investigation into the girl's death continues.

At a hearing Friday, Assistant State Attorney Jennifer Johnson asked Hillsborough Circuit Court Judge Walter Heinrich to revoke Ritchie's bail from an arrest in February, when he was picked up on a drug charge.

At the time, Tampa police pulled over a car with an expired tag and discovered Ritchie inside with his pants down, accompanied by a woman with a history of arrests for prostitution. They did not charge Ritchie with a sex offense, but they did take him to jail for the ecstasy they said they found in the car.

Ritchie bailed out of jail on that charge. But Friday, Heinrich ordered that be revoked, based on allegations that Ritchie had committed other crimes while out on bail. Among the things he's said to have done while free, Ritchie is being accused of having sex with an underage girl on several different occasions.

In a court motion arguing for bail, a defense attorney said the girl in question was 17 1/2 years old when Ritchie had sex with her and is the mother of a 2-year-old from a different relationship.

The girl "has no wish to see the defendant prosecuted," the attorney argued, and "has felt undue pressure from law enforcement to acquiesce in bringing charges."

At the hearing Friday, Ritchie's quest to be released on bail in that case was thwarted.

Instead, Heinrich decided to keep him in the Orient Road Jail until his hearing before a different judge on July 10.

Ritchie's defense also took issue with the Temple Terrace police investigation of the girl's death. Although weeks have gone by, the motion asserts that not "a scintilla of hard, tangible proof connecting him to the murder has been made public."

Several Temple Terrace police officials attended Ritchie's hearing Friday, but the city has not provided public updates on the investigation.

A search warrant affidavit released earlier placed Ritchie and Felecia together at a Temple Terrace apartment complex where he lived, but does not say how authorities believe she died.

According to investigators, Felecia was taken May 16 from her Tampa home by family friend Eboni Wiley to the Temple Terrace apartment. Hours later, Felecia's body was found off the Courtney Campbell Causeway.

Wiley was arrested on a count of initially lying to investigators about how the girl went missing. But no other arrests in the case have been announced.

Suspect in death of 9-year-old Felecia Williams remains in jail 06/20/14 [Last modified: Friday, June 20, 2014 9:56pm]
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