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)]
Granville Ritchie is accused in the 2014 murder of 9-year-old Felecia Williams. [Times ( 2014)]
Published May 22, 2019

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 Follow @TimesDan.


  1. The area will be closed to drivers headed north and south from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. through Friday.
  2. FILE - In this Dec. 14, 2009 file photo, Frank Knight, 101, of Yarmouth, Maine, stands in front of an elm tree known as "Herbie" in Yarmouth. Knight took care of the tree for about 50 years while working as the Yarmouth tree warden. The tree, estimated to be 217 years old, was cut down Jan. 19, 2010 after suffering numerous bouts of Dutch elm disease. "Herbie" may be gone, but he'll live on in cloned trees that are now being made available to the public. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File) [STEVEN SENNE  |  AP]
    What was once a 213-year-old tree will now be available for purchase — in the form of thousands of cloned versions of the tree once named ‘Herbie.’
  3. Tampa Premium Outlets, 2300 Grand Cypress Drive. The area’s newest outlet is touting the shop tax free weekend and extra savings on top of already reduced prices.
    Deputies are searching for a suspect. There is no public safety threat.
  4. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Monday, Nov. 11, 2019, in Cape Canaveral, Fla. SpaceX launched 60 mini satellites Monday, the second batch of an orbiting network meant to provide global internet coverage. (Craig Bailey/Florida Today via AP) [CRAIG BAILEY/FLORIDA TODAY  |  AP]
    No one was aboard for the wild ride in the skies above Cape Canaveral, just two mannequins.
  5. social card for breaking news in crime, for web only
    The driver lost control and crashed into an overpass wall.
  6. social card for breaking news in crime, for web only
    The woman called a second man for help, who shot the man, according to authorities.
  7. The Stewart Detention Center is seen through the front gate, Friday, Nov. 15, 2019, in Lumpkin, Ga. The rural town is about 140 miles southwest of Atlanta and next to the Georgia-Alabama state line. The town’s 1,172 residents are outnumbered by the roughly 1,650 male detainees that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said were being held in the detention center in late November. (AP Photo/David Goldman) [DAVID GOLDMAN  |  AP]
    The Associated Press sent journalists throughout the country to immigration court.
  8. Mike Bishop joins Pasco EDC staff. [Pasco EDC]
    News and notes on Pasco businesses
  9. Hernando County community news [Tara McCarty]
    News and notes on Hernando businesses
  10. Ed Turanchik is a lawyer and former Hillsborough County commissioner. [Times (2016)]
    Politico Ed Turanchik is warned for lobbying about the MacDill ferry after his status as a consultant ended.