Saturday, January 20, 2018
Public safety

Suspect in 9-year-old's death faces hearing on other charges

TAMPA — Next week marks two months since the death of Felecia Williams, the 9-year-old girl whose body was discovered May 17 floating off the Courtney Campbell Causeway.

Authorities will not say how she died. They say they suspect that Granville A. Ritchie, 35, killed her, but have released little information about why they believe that and have not filed any charges against him in the death.

Ritchie, who was arrested May 21 on unrelated charges, is scheduled for a court hearing Thursday morning that could determine how much longer he'll remain behind bars.

For Felecia Demerson, the little girl's mother, the possibility of Ritchie going free, at least for now, would be agonizing.

But lawyer Ariel O. Garcia, a spokesman for Demerson, said: "We're putting our faith in legal law enforcement professionals, and we understand that sometimes it takes time. Investigations are not overnight."

A search warrant affidavit filed in May places Ritchie at the same Temple Terrace apartment complex from which the girl disappeared. The affidavit reveals that Eboni A. Wiley, a family friend, and Ritchie had taken the girl that day to the apartment — but Ritchie's and Wiley's accounts to investigators diverge on how she disappeared.

Authorities have gone to some lengths to keep Ritchie in jail while the case is investigated.

He posted bail on a drug charge in Pinellas County. He's currently held on drug charges and an underage sex charge at the Hillsborough County jail.

A judge revoked Ritchie's bail from a February arrest on a charge of possession of ecstasy. But a different judge will preside over Ritchie's hearing Thursday.

Thomas Maiello, an attorney for Ritchie, has filed a motion questioning some of Ritchie's charges, saying they stemmed from an improper police search of his cellphone. And he wrote that the minor Ritchie is accused of having sex with was nearly 18.

"Although three weeks have gone by, law enforcement officials have not charged the defendant with the murder of Felecia Williams," Maiello wrote in the June 6 motion, "nor has even a scintilla of hard, tangible proof connecting the defendant to the murder been made public."

Maiello could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

A Temple Terrace police spokesman also declined to comment Tuesday on the progress of the investigation.

Contact Zack Peterson at [email protected] or (813) 226-3446. Follow @zackpeterson918.

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