TAMPA — All that remains of the small shrine honoring the memory of 9-year-old Felecia Williams is a handful of burned candles in her mother’s front yard.
It has been one month since the little girl was reported missing May 16 from a Temple Terrace apartment complex. Her nude body was found the next day, floating in the water near the Clearwater side of the Courtney Campbell Causeway.
Temple Terrace police say they know she was murdered, and they know which two people last saw Felecia alive. But it has been 31 days since she died, and no one has been charged with her death.
“Law enforcement continues to work on it,” said Mark Cox, spokesman for the State Attorney’s office. “We’re consulting with them and everybody is working hard on it at this point.”
Police have released few details about the case, saying they don’t want to compromise the integrity of the investigation, and continue to ask that anyone with information about Felecia to come forward. A combined $13,000 reward has been offered from Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay and the FBI for anyone who provides a tip that leads to an arrest.
Felecia’s mother, Felecia Demerson, is waiting for more information just like everyone else, said her lawyer, Ariel Garcia.
She misses her daughter and thinks about her every day, he said. But Demerson understands that the police have to be thorough as they build the case against Felecia’s killer.
“While it’s frustrating as a parent, in her situation you want the authorities to conduct the best investigation possible,” Garcia said.
Granville Ritchie, 35, has been in jail in Pinellas County since May 21, when he was arrested in St. Petersburg on drug charges. Temple Terrace police named him as a suspect in Felecia’s death that same day. He has since been charged with four counts of having sex with a minor in a separate case.
A search warrant executed at Ritchie’s girlfriend’s town home in St. Petersburg on May 23 didn’t turn up any evidence in the murder investigation, but an accompanying affidavit did reveal details about Ritchie’s connection to Felecia.
Ritchie and Eboni Wiley, 23, were two of the last people to see Felecia alive, police said.
Wiley, a neighbor and friend of Felecia’s family, originally told police that she and a friend named “Vivian” picked Felecia up from her East Tampa home around 4 p.m. on May 16. They stopped for food at a Checkers restaurant and then drove to the friend’s home at Doral Oaks Apartments in Temple Terrace.
Wiley told police she went to take a shower, and when she came out between 5:30 and 6 p.m., Felecia was gone.
She said she borrowed the friend’s car and drove around for three hours looking for Felecia, until “Vivian” asked her to come back so she could go to work. The friend then drove Wiley home, where she informed Felecia’s older sister that the girl was missing, records show.
When police interviewed Wiley again the next day, she changed her story.
“Vivian” was actually Ritchie, and she had left Felecia alone with him at the apartment for about 35 minutes when he sent Wiley to buy marijuana.
When Wiley returned to the apartment, Ritchie told her he sent Felecia to a nearby CVS to buy candy, records show. Wiley briefly searched the complex for Felecia before the pair sat down on the couch and had some drinks.
Afterward, Wiley told police she went into the bedroom to pray. The pair then had sex before Ritchie drove Wiley home.
Wiley was arrested and charged with providing false information to police. She bonded out of jail May 18.
Ritchie, who agreed to be interviewed by police shortly after Felecia’s disappearance and before his arrest in Pinellas County, described yet another version of events.
He told police that he and Wiley put on a movie for Felecia while the pair went into the apartment bedroom to have sex. When they came out 45 minutes later, the girl was gone and the front door was unlocked.
After dropping Wiley off at home, Ritchie said he drove to Thonotosassa to visit a friend, who didn’t show up, records show. He then drove back to the Temple Terrace apartment, hung out there and then drove to his girlfriend’s house in St. Petersburg, he said.
Eight people have called in tips about the case to Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay, and the Temple Terrace Police Department has gotten several more in the past few weeks, said spokesman Mike Dunn.
Authorities posted electronic, portable signs along the Courtney Campbell Causeway two weekends ago, hoping someone in that area the night Felecia disappeared might have seen something and would call police.
Investigators have no plans to release more information about how Felecia died or what might have happened about the time she was killed, Dunn said.
“That will be up to the police chief to decide that, and at this point they don’t want to release anything that’s integral to the investigation,” he said.
But the department is committed to catching her killer and is following every lead, Dunn said.
“They’re working really hard on this case, and they really want to solve it,” he said.
Felecia’s mother just wants justice for her daughter, Garcia said.
Felecia, known to family and friends as “Sugarplum,” would have been going into the fourth grade at Edison Elementary School next year.
Demerson wants anyone with information related to the murder to come forward, Garcia said.
“That’s really what she’s hoping for,” he said.
To report a tip, call police at (813) 989-7110.