Advertisement
  1. News
  2. /
  3. Hillsborough

Defense probes lies told by key witness in slaying of 9-year-old girl

Eboni Wiley testifies that she’s telling the truth now about events surrounding the 2014 disappearance of Felecia Williams.
Eboni Wiley, left, testifies Monday in the murder trial of ex-boyfriend Granville Ritchie. Wiley was supposed to be caring for 9-year-old Felecia Williams the day the girl disappeared. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]
Published Sep. 17
Updated Sep. 18

TAMPA — Eboni Wiley doesn’t deny that she lied.

She lied to Felecia Williams’s mother, and to the police, when she first described the circumstances of the 9-year-old girl’s disappearance in May 2014.

Wiley also doesn’t deny she has taken drugs and was under the influence of MDMA — commonly known as ecstasy or molly — on the night the girl vanished.

So can the jury in Granville Ritchie’s murder trial believe her now?

On Tuesday morning, Ritchie’s defense attorney tried to cast doubt on Wiley’s credibility as she told a jury what she said was the truth.

“I told a lot of stories,” Wiley said. “Yes, I lied. I can admit that. Yes, I lied. Yes, I was on drugs.”

Ritchie, 40, is charged with murder, sexual battery and child abuse in the death of Felecia Williams on May 16, 2014. Wiley lived in the girl’s east Tampa neighborhood and considered herself like a mother to her. She met Ritchie a few days before the girl’s death.

On Monday, Wiley took the witness stand and told the jury how she was smitten with the man she knew as Trevor. She also recounted the day Felecia vanished, when she and Ritchie picked up the girl and took her to Ritchie’s Temple Terrace apartment.

RELATED STORY: ‘He sold me a dream.’ Ex-girlfriend links Granville Ritchie to 9-year-old murder victim

Wiley wore a black blouse to court Tuesday, a contrast to the bright colors she had donned the day before. On the stand, she wept and raised her voice at times as defense attorney Bjorn Brunvand picked away at the lies she admitted having told in the past.

The truth, Wiley said, is that she left Felecia with Ritchie in his apartment to go buy marijuana. She came back to find her gone. She said Ritchie claimed he had given Felecia money to buy candy at a nearby CVS store and she had not returned. Wiley went looking for her but CVS employees had not seen the girl.

When Wiley came back to the apartment, she said, she prayed in a bedroom. Then, she and Ritchie drank Hennessy cognac and had sex on the living room floor. As it got late, they agreed they needed to lie. Ritchie told Wiley to say she had brought the girl to the apartment and that a woman named Vivian — Ritchie’s mother — was there.

Wiley would say she had taken a shower in the apartment and that when she came out, Felecia was gone. Ritchie even gave Wiley his mother’s phone number and Wiley talked to her, she said, to get her to back up the story.

“As a result of you lying to all these people, they believed you?” attorney Brunvand asked.

“Yes,” Wiley said.

“So you’re pretty good at it?” the attorney asked.

“No,” Wiley said.

Eboni Wiley prepares to testify during Granville Ritchie's murder trial Monday. Wiley took 9-year-old Felecia Williams from her home to Ritchie's apartment the day the girl went missing. Defense attorney Bjorn Brunvand sits at left. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]

The lie later changed. Wiley eventually told police she’d been with a man. She said they’d had sex in the shower while the girl watched cartoons in the living room. Then they came out to find her gone.

She only told the truth, she said, after learning that the girl had been found dead.

Brunvand also asked Wiley about her history with drugs. Specifically, he brought up a 2012 incident in which she called police because she was having a “bad trip” after taking MDMA.

“You described it as Satan trying to get into your mind,” Brunvand said.

“I was so high,” Wiley said, her voice rising, “I felt like I needed to be protected.”

Wiley acknowledged that she still faces a charge of lying during a missing person investigation, a crime for which she could receive as much as five years in prison. The public defender who represents her watched from the courtroom gallery.

She said she hopes the charge can be dropped. But when a prosecutor questioned her again, she made clear that the state had made no promises of leniency in exchange for her testimony against Ritchie.

RELATED STORY: ‘She was looking into the face of her killer:’ Trial opens in slaying of girl, 9

During Wiley’s testimony Tuesday, jurors were ushered out of the courtroom as Circuit Judge Michelle Sisco inquired about a disturbance in the hallway outside.

In walked Felecia Demerson and Jerome Williams, the parents of Felecia Williams. Behind them was Wiley’s sister along with her mother, Sabrina Teel.

Teel told the judge Demerson had accosted her outside near a vending machine. But the judge wasn’t concerned about details. She warned that if there were any further disturbance, she could have people removed from the courthouse.

“I understand that emotions are running high,” Sisco said. “You all have to control that.”

RELATED STORY: Jurors in Tampa murder trial confront ultimate question: Could they impose death penalty?

The trial is expected to last through next week. If Ritchie is found guilty, prosecutors will ask the jury to sentence him to death.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates. Tampa Bay Times
    One of the messages included a picture of a pellet gun, Tampa police said.
  2. The lobby bar at the Current Hotel on Rocky Point in Tampa serves eclectic cocktails and locally brewed coffee. SARA DINATALE  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Take a look inside Tampa Bay’s newest boutique hotel.
  3. A pauper's cemetery was established at the northeast corner of property now occupied by King High School in Tampa, location of the school gymnasium (tall building at top left) and the main parking lot. DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Conflicting versions emerge of where Ridgewood Cemetery was located. One thing is certain: It was ignored or forgotten.
  4. The Florida Bar wants the state’s highest court to immediately suspend the law license of Tampa attorney Jose Angel Toledo, ex-husband of state Rep. Jackie Toledo. FACEBOOK PAGE  |  Su Abogado Hispano
    José Angel Toledo, ex-husband of state Rep. Jackie Toledo, abandoned his law practice, according to the petition from the Florida Bar.
  5. Amber Perera looks out at the courtroom audience during a court hearing Friday. A judge sentenced her to 50 years on Tuesday. , SCOTT KEELER  |  Times
    A judge noted that Amber Perera, 31, drove away until her tire fell off: “You continued to avoid any responsibility for this crime.”
  6. The Florida Supreme Court building in Tallahassee. SCOTT KEELER  |  Times
    The Tampa Bay Partnership, Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce and Tampa-Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. filed a brief in the Florida Supreme Court.
  7. Melvin Morris is seen in this undated photo by Nick Del Calzo. NICK DEL CALZO  |  Photo by
    Some were born in Florida. Others joined up here. All received the nation’s highest award for valor in action against an enemy force.
  8. Medal of Honor recipients Retired Army Maj. Drew Dix, left, and Ret. Army Sgt. Maj. Gary Littrell pose for a portrait before the start of the Medal of Honor Convention this week at the Tampa Marriott Water Street in Tampa, OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    Forty-six of the 70 living recipients are expected to attend. The week-long celebration kicks off Tuesday
  9. Police have found that it's not unusual for one gun owner to have dozens of weapons. This cache of guns, owned by one man, is stored in the evidence room at the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    'Red flag’ law aims to keep people with violent instincts, mental disorders from accessing weapons.
  10. Former WTSP-Ch. 10 news anchor Reginald Roundtree, shown here with his wife Tree, filed a lawsuit Friday against his former employer alleging he was fired because of age discrimination and retaliation. [Times file] WTSP  |  FACEBOOK
    The suit comes after a federal agency took no action on age discrimination complaints he had filed.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement