Thursday, December 14, 2017
Public safety

Friend: Suspect lived in apartments where 9-year-old Tampa girl last seen alive

TAMPA — Granville Ashanti Ritchie, named by police as a suspect in the killing of 9-year-old Felecia Williams, lived in the same apartment complex where the girl was last seen alive, a family friend said Friday.

Ritchie and his mother, Gloria Gibson, had been staying at Doral Oaks in Temple Terrace for two months, said Antoinette Donaldson, 47, a friend of his since childhood.

Temple Terrace police, who are investigating the third-grader's death, have named Ritchie, 35, as their suspect in the killing but have not brought any such charges against him. They have refused to say how Felecia died or what connection they believe Ritchie had to her.

Authorities gave a Riverview address for Ritchie, but a tenant in that apartment told the Tampa Bay Times earlier this week that he had moved out.

Felecia was picked up around 4 p.m. May 16 from her home at 2009 E Ida St. in Tampa by Eboni A. Wiley, 23, a family friend.

Wiley told authorities she took Felecia to an apartment in Doral Oaks. But she disappeared while Wiley was in the shower.

A search ensued.

Wiley was later arrested on a felony charge that she initially lied to police, which they said delayed efforts to find the girl.

Investigators looking for Felecia apparently had zeroed in on Ritchie by the next day.

Alexa Diaz, 24, who lives at Doral Oaks, said Hillsborough County deputies were combing the apartment complex last weekend, searching for him.

One deputy knocked on her door early May 17. He handed her a picture of Ritchie and asked if she recognized him.

"I swear I've seen this person before," she said, "but not here."

That afternoon, on May 17, fishermen found Felecia's body, naked and floating near rocks and mangroves north of Courtney Campbell Causeway in Clearwater. Police have not released her autopsy results other than to say it found she was the victim of a homicide.

Donaldson, the Ritchie family friend, said she doesn't know Felecia or Wiley.

She said her most recent encounter with Ritchie and his mother came two or three weeks ago when she gave Gibson a ride home. She said she did not know which unit they were living in at the apartment complex.

The last time she saw Ritchie, he seemed calm and quiet.

"I didn't notice anything different about him," she said.

Donaldson's relationship with Ritchie goes back to Jamaica, where she knew him as a boy growing up in Kingston.

"He was quiet, shy. He never really hung out," Donaldson said.

She said Gibson worked with her at the same hospital in Jamaica.

Donaldson, who works at Florida Hospital Tampa, said she moved to Florida in 2000. Gibson followed a few years later.

Gibson could not be reached for comments.

In March 2008, according to records, Donaldson told authorities she saw Granville Ritchie and his brother, Trevor, in an argument that ended with Trevor grabbing a 7-inch butcher knife and swinging at Granville.

Records show Ritchie has a disturbing criminal history, including allegations of drug possession and sex with an underage girl. He has not been convicted of any of the charges — the cases have been dropped or are pending.

On Friday, Ritchie remained in the Pinellas County Jail on a unrelated drug charge after being arrested in St. Petersburg.

In addition, Ritchie faces four unrelated counts of having sex with an underage girl. The girl told detectives Ritchie engaged in sexual acts with her four times since April 15, officials said.

When police named Ritchie as a suspect in Felecia's death, Donaldson said she was surprised.

"That's not the type of person I knew him as," she said. "I don't know him as a person who would do that."

Friday night, Mount Zion Church overflowed with friends and family gathered to sing and pray at a wake for Felecia. Photos of the girl smiling in a purple dress she wore as a flower girl in a wedding a few months ago stood on the altar beside displays of pink and white flowers.

"It's such a horrible, horrible act for anyone to perpetrate on anyone else, but when you're talking about a 9-year-old little girl, it just magnifies everything," said Temple Terrace police Chief Ken Albano as he left the church.

He said investigators continued to follow leads, and he once again asked the public for help.

"We've had some tips come in," he said. "I just feel in my heart there's more out there. If anyone is reluctant to come forward, please, now is the time to come forward. No tip is too small."

Times news researcher John Martin and staff writer Keeley Sheehan contributed to this report. Zack Peterson can be reached at [email protected] or (813)-226-3446.

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Published: 12/14/17