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Defense casts doubt as Granville Ritchie trial winds down

Ritchie is charged in the death of 9-year-old Felecia Williams. A jury could decide the case as soon as Wednesday afternoon.
Granville Ritchie sits during testimony in his murder trial at the Hillsborough County Courthouse in Tampa. Ritchie is accused of the 2014 murder of 9-year-old Felecia Williams. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]
Published Sep. 24

TAMPA — It is the prosecution’s burden to prove that Granville Ritchie is guilty of the rape and murder 9-year-old Felecia Williams. And they haven’t done that, Ritchie’s attorney told a jury Tuesday.

In a brief opening statement, which followed more than a week of testimony from prosecution witnesses, attorney Bjorn Brunvand suggested that the only thing clear in the state’s case is that the little girl was killed.

“Granville Ritchie did not murder Felecia Williams,” Brunvand said. “Granville Ritchie did not commit sexual battery against Felecia Williams.”

Closing arguments are set to begin Wednesday morning and the case is expected to go to the jurors shortly thereafter.

Felecia disappeared the afternoon of May 16, 2014. A family friend, Eboni Wiley, took her nfrom her east Tampa home and the pair drove with Ritchie to his mother’s Temple Terrace apartment. While there, Wiley left to purchase marijuana. When she returned, she said she found Felecia gone and Ritchie panicked.

Prosecutors have said that Ritchie sexually assaulted and strangled the girl, then concealed her body in a suitcase before dumping it in the waters off the Courtney Campbell Causeway.

The defense presented a speedy case Tuesday, just two witnesses. One of them, Dr. William Anderson, a clinical pathologist, testified that damage to Felecia’s lower body was not consistent with sexual assault. This contradicted the testimony of a pediatrician and a pathologist who said the opposite last week.

Anderson suggested that the damage may have occurred when a medical examiner took DNA samples. But the medical examiner who took the samples testified that the damage was already present in Felecia’s body when the samples were taken.

Anderson also differed in his assessment of how the girl died, saying that her injuries suggest she was asphyxiated as a result of pressure being applied to her upper chest. Previous witnesses have testified that she died from manual strangulation.

Assistant State Attorney Scott Harmon undertook a vigorous cross examination, lasting more than an hour. He questioned the doctor’s expertise in child abuse and pediatrics and his conclusions about the girl’s injuries.

Ritchie declined to testify in his own defense.

If the jury finds him guilty of first-degree murder, prosecutors will seek a death sentence.

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