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Jury in Granville Ritchie’s murder trial hears his account of girl’s disappearance

Jurors watched his interrogation the day after Felecia Williams was last seen in 2014. “This situation is very complicated for me,” he told police.
A still image from a 2014 video of Granville Ritchie's interrogation with Temple Terrace detectives the day after 9-year-old Felecia Williams vanished. He is now on trial for her murder. [JAMAL THALJI  |  [Photo courtesy of WTVT-Ch. 13]]
A still image from a 2014 video of Granville Ritchie's interrogation with Temple Terrace detectives the day after 9-year-old Felecia Williams vanished. He is now on trial for her murder. [JAMAL THALJI | [Photo courtesy of WTVT-Ch. 13]]
Published Sep. 19, 2019
Updated Sep. 19, 2019

TAMPA — It was less than a day after a 9-year-old girl vanished from a Temple Terrace apartment that police first heard the name Granville Ritchie.

As the search for Felecia Williams spanned the Tampa Bay area that Saturday in May 2014, detectives from Temple Terrace exchanged a series of phone calls with a man whom they were told was one of the last people to see the girl. Later that afternoon, he agreed to be questioned. A video camera captured the May 17, 2014 interrogation.

“Do you have any idea where this girl might be?” Detective Thomas Carroll asked.

“I wish I knew," Ritchie said.

It was the first time jurors in Ritchie’s murder trial heard the voice of the man, now 40, accused of raping and killing the 9-year-old girl.

In the video, he sat at a round table and accounted for the past 24 hours of his life. He often leaned on his elbows and gestured energetically with his hands. He spoke in a heavy Jamaican accent. He seemed at ease, though maybe slightly annoyed at the inconvenience.

“This situation is very complicated for me,” Ritchie said “Very, very.”

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

He told the detectives how a few days earlier he met a young woman named Eboni Wiley. She expressed concerns to him about Felecia, her family friend. The girl had been in trouble in school, and Wiley believed she had a propensity for stealing.

“Eboni said I think this girl is struggling spiritually," Ritchie told the detectives. “I think she got demons in her.”

The story he told was mostly consistent with one that Wiley conveyed to police in those early hours of the search for Felecia. But investigators now say Wiley lied.

Granville Ritchie arrives in a Hillsborough County courtroom on Wednesday for his trial in the 2014 murder and rape of 9-year-old Felecia Williams. [JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times]

Ritchie said he picked up Wiley and Felecia on the afternoon of May 16, 2014. He said that they had gone to his mother’s apartment in the Doral Oaks complex with plans to lecture the girl about her behavior. He said he tried to teach her why stealing was bad, how it can get a child in trouble. He said the girl didn’t seem to heed his advice.

He said he played a DVD of a cartoon on the living room TV while he and Wiley went into the bedroom and had sex. When they came out, he said Felecia was gone. They thought she had run off.

“I said to (Eboni) to drive around and look in the complex while I’m on the porch looking to see if she comes back,” Ritchie said in the video.

He said Wiley called the girl’s name around the complex. She suggested calling police, but feared she would get in trouble.

They waited until about 7 or 8 p.m., Ritchie said, before he suggested he should just take Wiley home.

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

From there, his story grew less sure. He said he came back to the apartment, stayed there until about 10 p.m., then headed to meet a friend named Chris in Thonotosassa. Chris wasn’t there, so Ritchie said he returned to the apartment. There, he encountered Wiley again.

“She pulled up and was like, ‘I still don’t find her,’" Ritchie said.

He said he left his mother’s apartment later that night and went to stay with a girlfriend in St. Petersburg. When he got a call from police, he took her silver Lexus and drove to meet detectives at a Tampa auto parts store.

It was the same car Wiley said he’d used to pick up her and Felecia. Police seized and searched the vehicle that day, and took Ritchie to Temple Terrace police headquarters.

An undated photo of Felecia Williams, who police say in 2014 was sexually assaulted and killed at the age of 9. [Photo courtesy of Felecia Demerson]

The detectives asked if he thought Felecia was rude.

“For the most time she was acting innocent,” Ritchie said. He said he thought it was rude that she wandered off.

As the interview pressed on, Ritchie shared details about his life. He said he’s from Jamaica. He said he had lived in the U.S. for eight years. He married a woman named Todra, but said their relationship was troubled.

He had a job working on cell phone towers. He said he traveled a lot for work.

Granville Ritchie is his “government name,” he told them. Everyone calls him Trevor.

Detectives asked if he remembered the little girl’s name.

“No, to be honest with you,” Ritchie said.

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

He appeared slightly dismayed when told that Felecia’s disappearance had made the news. He speculated that maybe someone saw her walking and took her.

“Man, I got eight sisters,” Ritchie said. “I cry for them every day. ... Nobody touch kids in Jamaica man because we got street justice.”

Not long after Ritchie entered the interrogation room, someone found Felecia’s body floating amid rocks and mangroves on the north side of the Courtney Campbell Causeway.

Investigators would later analyze Ritchie’s cell phone records and said his cell signal put him in the area of the Causeway the night that Felecia was last seen.

The state will continue its case Thursday. Ritchie faces the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder.

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