TAMPA — Eboni Wiley met Granville Ritchie just a few days before 9-year-old Felecia Williams went missing.
She and Ritchie had a budding romance that began when he spotted her walking along an east Tampa street one day in May 2014. He pulled up alongside her in his silver Lexus. He asked how old she was, said he wanted to make sure she wasn’t too young. Then he asked for her number. They chatted. Later that night, he picked her up and they went to his Temple Terrace apartment. Ritchie charmed her with talk of a wealthy future. They took Ecstasy. They had sex.
“He sold me a dream,” Wiley said Monday on the witness stand. Days later, the dream morphed into a nightmare.
Wiley, now 29, is the star witness in the trial of Ritchie, the man now accused of raping and killing the 9-year-old girl. Wiley is also the one who prosecutors say delivered Felecia to him.
The witness, her hair close-cropped, wearing a yellow dress under a multi-colored top, spoke quietly but quickly as she told jurors the story of how she brought the girl to Ritchie’s apartment. She broke into tears as she relayed the details of how she left the apartment to buy marijuana, leaving Felecia alone with Ritchie.
Wiley also told the jury that she and Ritchie agreed to lie about what had happened — a lie that she told to police.
Wiley and Williams’ family lived in the same neighborhood, off E Ida Street, in 2014. Wiley, then 23, thought of herself as a mother-like figure to the girl, whom she often took to church, out to eat or to ride their bikes.
Then on May 16, 2014, a Friday morning, Felecia showed up at the nursing home where Wiley worked, looking for her friend. The child’s visit got Wiley in trouble. She phoned Ritchie and vented to him. She also expressed concern that the little girl had been stealing.
Ritchie suggested that she counsel the girl, Wiley said. Later that day, after Wiley got off work, Richie picked her up and they drove to get Felecia. He first took them to a Checkers near his Temple Terrace apartment. The girl was hungry, Wiley testified. Ritchie bought her a shrimp box and fries.
When they got to his apartment, he gave Wiley an ecstasy pill. The adults then lectured the girl about stealing.
Soon, Wiley said Ritchie asked if she knew anyone who could get them marijuana. She called her grandfather, who gave her a contact. Wiley said she wanted to take Felecia with her, but testified that Ritchie said it would be better if the girl stayed with him.
“I wasn’t concerned because of how he made me feel on that first night,” Wiley said. “He had that concern like a father figure. That’s how I felt.”
She was gone for about 50 minutes, paying a dealer $20 for a baggie of marijuana. But when she returned to the Doral Oaks apartment complex in Ritchie’s car, Wiley said that she couldn’t get through the front gate. The entry code he gave her didn’t work.
She called Ritchie to check on the girl. He told her he gave Felecia money and sent her to buy candy at a nearby CVS store, Wiley said.
So Wiley drove to CVS to try to find Felecia. But the clerk had not seen the girl.
Worried, Wiley drove back to the apartment. A neighbor let her through the gate. When she pulled up outside, Wiley testified, she found Ritchie shirtless, sweating and pacing. He seemed panicked, she said. She told him to calm down.
She got on her knees and prayed in a bedroom, she told the jury. When she came out, she said Ritchie gave her a glass of Hennessy. They had sex on the living room rug.
“Did you look around for Felecia?” prosecutor Jennifer Johnson asked her.
“No, I did not,” Wiley said.
“Did you trust him saying she was not there?” Johnson asked.
“Yes, I trusted him.”
After sunset, she and Ritchie talked about what to do about Felecia, Wiley said. She agreed to say there was a woman, Ritchie’s mother, in the apartment with them, then Felecia wandered off while Wiley was taking a shower.
It was the lie Wiley told the girl’s mother later that night. Then when Wiley returned to Ritchie’s apartment complex, she found him about to leave in his Lexus. She asked him if he had done something to Felecia. His answer: no.
Wiley repeated the lie to Temple Terrace police when they questioned her. Soon, though, her story changed. She admitted there was a man with them and said that they’d had sex in the shower while the girl wandered away.
It wasn’t until the next night, when police told her that Felecia’s body was found floating off the Courtney Campbell Causeway, that Wiley told the truth.
Wiley was charged with lying during a missing person investigation. Five years later, that charge is still pending. If convicted, she faces up to five years in prison. She told the jury the state had promised no leniency in exchange for her testimony.
If Ritchie is found guilty, prosecutors will ask the jury to sentence him to death.