Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hundreds celebrate life of slain 9-year-old Tampa girl

TAMPA

They gathered to celebrate life, not to dwell on death. So they talked about memories of a 9-year-old girl with an easy smile, a mischievous laugh and the talent of making herself unforgettable.

They did not want to mark her passing with talk of the kind of unfathomable evil that would have taken third-grader Felecia Williams from her family.

So on Saturday, they tempered tears with happy memories of a girl whose family called her Sugar Plum.

Several hundred people attended Felecia's memorial service at the Rock Church of God by Faith on E Henry Avenue, packing the church to overflowing a week after the Tampa girl's body was found amid rocks and mangroves near the Courtney Campbell Causeway in Clearwater.

Felecia seemingly vanished from Doral Oaks Apartments in Temple Terrace, where she had been taken by a family friend on May 16. Police have named Granville Ashanti Ritchie, 35, as a suspect in her death. Ritchie has not been charged in the slaying, but he is jailed in Pinellas County on unrelated drug and sex charges.

Police have not said how Felecia was killed.

The case has drawn intense public attention. TV news crews lined up outside the church. The family opened the funeral to the public, though they asked that reporters not record the memorial service or take notes inside the church.

Felecia's flower-laden casket arrived at the church on a white funeral carriage drawn by a single horse. Family, friends and even strangers followed the casket into the church as someone recited Psalm 23.

"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake."

"I can understand the pain of the family," Pastor Andrew Holder said during the more than two-hour service. "He can heal you in a time of trouble."

Felecia's mother, Felecia Demerson, 40, sat in the front row of the church with other family members. Demerson's 24-year-old daughter, Shakelia Givens, spoke briefly about Felecia, breaking down in tears.

"I love you, baby," she said as she looked down to her sister's casket.

At the front of the church, Temple Terrace detectives investigating Felecia's death and who had promised justice for her mother sat silently.

The service included singing and featured several pastors who told the family that Felecia was in the hands of the Lord, her afterlife just beginning. They said the girl would be with them always in spirit, and they would see her again.

A program of the service showed a picture of Felecia wearing a big yellow bow on her head. It was titled "Homegoing Celebration."

"Felecia was a nurturing spirit who loved kids and animals and would often be found at the nearby lake feeding the ducks and the birds," the program said. "She loved to ride her bicycle. She was a free spirit, and because of this, she never met a stranger."

At the end of the service, her casket was wheeled out to the waiting carriage for the short trip to Shady Grove Cemetery.

An engraving of two words on the side of the casket could be seen clearly in the sun: "Sugar Plum."

William R. Levesque can be reached at levesque@tampabay.com.

Hundreds celebrate life of slain 9-year-old Tampa girl 05/24/14 [Last modified: Saturday, May 24, 2014 9:02pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rays make Hechavarria trade official

    Blogs

    Here is the release from the team ...

     

  2. Jones: Will Tampa Bay hit a Hall of Fame dry spell now?

    Lightning Strikes

    Marty St. Louis may lack the Hall of Fame stats, but two scoring titles, an MVP award and clutch goals should count for a lot. (Dirk Shadd, Times)
  3. SeaWorld shares drop Monday to 2017 low after disclosure of federal subpoena

    Tourism

    The Orlando parent company of SeaWorld and Busch Gardens theme parks saw its stock drop 3.5 percent Monday to $15.10, its lowest price of this year.

    Killer whales perform at Shamu Stadium at SeaWorld in Orlando in 2011, before public pressure was placed on the theme park company to curtail its orca shows.SeaWorld has since announced an end to the traditional killer whale entertainment  at its theme parks. [AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack]
  4. Update: Scientology cancels planned mock FBI raid on downtown building

    Special Topics

    CLEARWATER — The Church of Scientology planned to film a mock FBI raid on a downtown building Monday afternoon, but the actors and cameras never showed up to the location disclosed to the city.

    According to Clearwater Police, the Church of Scientology plans to hold a mock FBI raid at 3 p.m. Monday at this vacant building at 305 N Fort Harrison Ave. Police announced the raid in advance to alert the public. They said they did not know the reason for the event. [Google Earch image]
  5. Support for gay marriage surges, even among groups once wary

    Human Interest

    NEW YORK — In the two years since same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide, support for it has surged even among groups that recently were broadly opposed, according to a new national survey.

    People gather in Washington's Lafayette Park to see the White House lit up in rainbow colors on June 26, 2015, the day the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage legal. In the two years since same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide, support for it has surged even among groups that recently were broadly opposed, according to a new national survey released on Monday, June 26, 2017. [Associated Press]