Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Public safety

Marshals swarmed St. Petersburg park to arrest suspect in 9-year-old Tampa girl's killing

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Authorities still are not saying why Granville Ashanti Ritchie is their main suspect in the death of a 9-year-old girl found floating in Tampa Bay last weekend.

But publicly available court records paint a disturbing portrait of the man Temple Terrace police think is responsible for the death of Felecia Williams of Tampa.

In the past two years alone, Ritchie has faced charges involving sex, sexual violence and drug possession. He has not been convicted of any of the alleged crimes; charges were either dropped or are pending. So far he also faces no charges in connection to Felecia's death.

He remained at the Pinellas County Jail Thursday after an initial court hearing on unrelated drug charges after he was arrested Wednesday in St. Petersburg.

In addition to the drug charges, Ritchie is now facing four unrelated counts of having sex with an underage girl. Detectives learned about the sexual encounters while investigating Felecia's death. The girl's age was not disclosed.

The underage girl told detectives Ritchie had engaged in sex acts with her on four occasions since April 15, officials said.

The drug charges stem from Ritchie's arrest in February, when authorities say they found him in a car with his pants down, accompanied by a known prostitute. Tampa police pulled over the car because it had an expired tag, according to a report.

A woman with a history of prostitution arrests sat in the passenger seat. Ritchie told police he was giving the woman, whom he had just met, a ride home. In a search, officers found two rocks that were tested and found to be ecstasy, the report stated.

He was not charged with a sex offense.

Ritchie, 35, whose most recent address is listed as Riverview, faced his most serious charges last May after deputies said he beat and raped a woman.

In that case, deputies were called to his home. According to the incident report, he hit the woman's head and face, choked her until she blacked out, and coerced her into having sex with him by threatening her with a gun.

"I begged for my life as he choked me toward the front of the house, not sure if I blacked out but he had me on the ground," the victim wrote in a statement for authorities.

Later the woman, a relative of Ritchie, she said she had no recollection of what happened, and the case was dropped.

Ritchie also faced a domestic battery charge in December 2012, but those charges were dropped.

Temple Terrace police have declined to say why they consider Ritchie a suspect in Felecia's death. They also have not released how Felecia died, how Ritchie may have come into contact with her or any other details.

A spokesman for the city suggested Thursday that Ritchie may not be the only suspect.

"He is the main suspect," Michael Dunn said. "That's not to say there couldn't be other people involved."

Temple Terrace police Chief Ken Albano made an appeal to the public Wednesday for information that would help authorities solidify a murder case against Ritchie. The FBI is offering a $10,000 reward for information. Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay is offering $3,000.

Felecia was last seen alive late Friday afternoon. She was picked up about 4 p.m. from her home at 2009 E Ida St. in Tampa by Eboni Wiley, a family friend. Wiley told police that she took Felecia to Doral Oaks Apartments in Temple Terrace and that the girl disappeared while Wiley was taking a shower, authorities said. A search ensued.

On Saturday afternoon, a fisherman found Felecia's body, naked and floating near rocks and mangroves, north of the Courtney Campbell Causeway in Clearwater. Police have not released her autopsy results, but said it found she was the victim of a homicide.

Wiley was arrested late Saturday, accused of making false statements to authorities during the investigation that led them not to treat the case with the urgency it deserved. They have not disclosed what was false about her statements. She was released on bail.

Ritchie's latest sex-crime charges were part of the discussion Thursday at his first court appearance before Judge Cynthia Newton in the Pinellas County Justice Center.

At the hearing, prosecutors expressed concern over setting bail on the Pinellas County drug charge at $5,000 because of what they described as his high-profile status as a murder suspect.

Newton said Ritchie's charges of unlawful sexual activity with a minor are without bail — making it unnecessary to set a higher bail amount on the drug charges.

If the Pinellas County charges were resolved, or if Ritchie were to post bail, he would be transferred to Hillsborough County to face the sex charges.

"The only way you could be cleared is if, once you got to Hills­borough, they set a bond down there," Newton said.

Ritchie was arrested Wednesday in St. Petersburg's Williams Park. People there Thursday said he was a regular. Jessica Suarez, 27, recalled an incident about two weeks ago that made her uneasy.

Ritchie, she said, told her he'd give her a plate of food if she followed him down the alley from the park. "It was definitely a setup," she said.

But she was hungry. She followed him to a house and he told her to wait on the porch while he went in to get the food.

"He got really aggressive and did pushy things," Suarez said.

She didn't want to elaborate, but said she left.

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report.

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