Advertisement
  1. News

Five years after crime, judge won't budge on July trial date in slaying of 9-year-old Tampa girl

Granville Ritchie is accused in the 2014 murder of 9-year-old Felecia Williams. [Times ( 2014)]
Published May 22

TAMPA — It has been nearly five years since Granville Ritchie was accused in the murder of 9-year-old Felecia Williams.

His trial is set for July. But defense attorneys told a judge Wednesday they need more time to prepare.

The judge was unmoved.

"It is happening," said Hillsborough Circuit Judge Michelle Sisco. "It is time for finality. We're going to trial."

Ritchie, 40, has been held in jail for 1,826 days. He faces the death penalty if found guilty.

READ MORE: Granville Ritchie charged in murder of 9-year-old Felecia Williams

Part of the delay in his case stemmed from legal uncertainty about Florida's death penalty law, which the U.S. Supreme Court declared unconstitutional in 2016. It took about a year of legal wrangling and lawmaking before death penalty prosecutions could continue, albeit with the new requirement that juries must be unanimous if they are to recommend capital punishment.

Ritchie's case has been set for trial once before, in 2018, but that date was canceled.

Much of the defense's pretrial work has involved efforts to fight off a possible death sentence. An attorney and an investigator traveled in 2017 to interview his family in Jamaica, where Ritchie was born and lived until he was 18.

In court Wednesday, attorney Bjorn Brunvand told the judge it was necessary to return to the island nation in the coming weeks but local violence made travel there too dangerous. Ritchie's father was murdered there, he said.

Attorney Daniel Hernandez also raised concerns about funding for a brain examination Ritchie is scheduled to undergo in June.

The judge wouldn't budge.

"I'm not continuing this trial," Sisco said. "It needs to get done."

Jury selection is set to begin July 9.

The events that preceded Ritchie's arrest began with Felicia Williams' disappearance on May 16, 2014, The girl left her east Tampa home that day with a family friend, Eboni Wiley, and was taken to an apartment in Temple Terrace. Wiley met up with Ritchie there, according to police.

Wiley later left the apartment for about an hour. When she returned, Ritchie was shirtless and sweating and said the girl had "run off," according to police. Her body was found the next day in the waters near the Clearwater side of the Courtney Campbell Causeway.

A three-month investigation involving a number of agencies led to Ritchie's arrest on charges of murder, capital sexual battery, and aggravated child abuse. Police said they believe Ritchie killed the girl, then hid her body in a suitcase before leaving her near the causeway.

Contact Dan Sullivan at dsullivan@tampabay.com. Follow @TimesDan.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Vice President Mike Pence reacts during an immigration and naturalization ceremony in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House grounds, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) ALEX BRANDON  |  AP
    Katie Waldman, a former University of Florida student senator, was accused of helping discard independent student newspapers with a front-page endorsement of a rival party’s candidate. | Analysis
  2. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates. JAMAL THALJI  |  Tampa Bay Times
    John Clark used a shotgun to kill his mother and another man. Then he returned to the crime scene with a shotgun, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.
  3. Sandra Gero, a regional search associate at Ray and Associates, hosts a meeting at the Middleton High School auditorium and gathers public comments on what people are looking for for the next Hillsborough County School Superintendent on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019 in Tampa. LUIS SANTANA  |  Times
    Using public meetings and a survey, they’re painting a picture of the ideal school leader.
  4. The main exhibit center at the Museum of Science & Industry in Tampa once stirred the imagination with dinosaurs and stars. Now, it's empty, but on the verge of rebirth as a movie studio.
    The County Commission has set aside $2 million for the project as the Film Commission studies the demand for it.
  5. President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in the East Room of the White House, Friday, Sept. 20, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) PATRICK SEMANSKY  |  AP
    Hunter Biden worked for a Ukrainian gas company.
  6. Reclaimed water rates are increasing 6 percent in St. Petersburg.
    Potable, waste and reclaimed water fees will all increase. So will garbage fees, though the stormwater fee will drop for some.
  7. Joshua Russell, 26, faces a charge of aggravated manslaughter, according to deputies. Pinellas County Sheriff's Office
    A dose of kratom caused the caretaker to fall asleep for hours inside a hot minivan with the disabled man in the back seat, investigators said.
  8. Tampa Mayor Jane Castor announces federal grants Friday that will equip at least 600 officers with body cameras. CHARLIE FRAGO  |  Charlie Frago
    Mayor Jane Castor announces a nearly $600,000 Department of Justice grant Friday.
  9. Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri spoke Friday about a child protection investigator who was arrested on charges of falsifying reports. JOSH SOLOMON  |  Josh Solomon
    It’s the second time in two years a Pinellas child protection investigator has faced falsification charges.
  10. Stay with tampabay.com for the latest news and updates. Times
    The Challenger K-8 student didn’t have access to a gun, deputies said.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement