TEMPLE TERRACE — A little body found in the rocks and mangroves on the Pinellas County side of Tampa Bay on Saturday afternoon is likely that of a 9-year-old Tampa girl who disappeared a day earlier from a Temple Terrace apartment, authorities said.
Temple Terrace police said they were "following several leads" in the death of Felecia Nicole Williams. An autopsy is planned for today.
Police from Tampa, Temple Terrace and Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies spent hours Saturday scouring the area around the Doral Oaks Apartments, where Felecia was reportedly last seen. Police dogs searched nearby woods, ponds and the Hillsborough River.
Then at 3:20 p.m. a couple fishing from the Courtney Campbell Causeway spotted a body floating near the shore and reported it to Clearwater police. Late Saturday, Temple Terrace police spokesman Michael Dunn announced that the body was likely Felecia's.
"We don't know what occurred here yet,'' Dunn said. "That is still under investigation."
Some circumstances surrounding the death of the Edison Elementary School student are rather unusual.
A family friend had taken Felecia from her home on E Ida Street, just north of Ybor City, to Doral Oaks about 4 p.m. Friday. Felecia's mother, Felecia Demerson, said in an interview that she was at the hairdresser when Felecia called her to ask permission to go with the woman.
Demerson, 40, said the woman, whose last name she did not know, was a former neighbor and friend of about a year. Felecia had previously visited the woman, Demerson said.
The pair went to a fast-food restaurant and then to Doral Oaks, said Demerson, who does not know why they went to the complex.
At Doral Oaks, the friend told police, she went to take a shower, leaving Felecia in front of the TV, watching a cartoon movie. When the woman came out of the shower, she said, Felecia was gone. Police did not identify the family friend, but said she was cooperating with the investigation.
They also said she does not live in the Doral Oaks apartment.
About five hours passed before the family friend reported Felecia missing to police or the girl's mother, according to police and family members.
"She told me she hoped to find her before calling me," Demerson said.
One other adult was in the apartment when Felecia disappeared, but that person was in a bedroom and said she never saw the girl, Demerson said.
"I'm sitting here hoping there will be good news," she said Saturday morning. "I know my baby. She would call her mama if she could."
"Felecia would never, never, just leave," said her sister, Shakelia Givens, 24, of Tampa. "She would never, never wander off. … She wouldn't just leave. There was no reason for her to just up and leave.''
Dunn, the police spokesman, said Temple Terrace was treating this as an isolated incident.
"We are not aware this involves any other children," he said.
Police also "went to known sex offenders in the area to see if they could turn anything up, and they did not," Dunn said.
Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. William R. Levesque can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org