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Friday, Aug 22, 2014
Crime & Courts

Most charges dropped against suspect in Tampa girl’s death

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Published:   |   Updated: June 27, 2014 at 07:09 AM

Prosecutors are pursuing only one of the four sex charges against Granville Ritchie, the man police say is their main suspect in the death of 9-year-old Felecia Williams.

Ritchie, 35, has not been charged in the girl’s death but has been in jail without bond since he was arrested on unrelated drug charges and four counts of having sex with a minor on May 21.

In a motion filed earlier this month, Ritchie’s defense lawyer, Thomas Maiello, argued that the sex charges stem from an illegal search of Ritchie’s cellphone after an arrest on a separate charge. Investigators did not obtain a search warrant before looking through the information on the phone, according to the filing.

“We’re reviewing that and we will address that issue in court,” said Mark Cox, spokesman for the state attorney’s office. “That’s really all we’re going to say at this point.”

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that police are not allowed to search a suspect’s cellphone without a warrant. The Florida Supreme Court made a similar ruling last year.

In the June 4 filing, Maiello said the alleged victim was 17 at the time authorities said she and Ritchie had sex. Because of the Supreme Court ruling, Ritchie may have “constitutional defenses” to the allegations of having sex with a minor, he wrote.

Ritchie posted bond on a marijuana charge that was filed at the same time as the sex charges, but he remains in the Orient Road Jail after a judge temporarily revoked his bond last week on a drug charge from February. A different judge will determine whether Ritchie will get bond on the sex charge at a July 10 hearing.

In the court filing, which requested a reasonable bond for the sex charges and a reduced bond on the marijuana charge, Ritchie’s lawyer argues that he can’t be held without bail just because he is a murder suspect.

Temple Terrace police, who are investigating Felecia’s murder, have not found or made public a “scintilla of hard, tangible proof” that Ritchie is the girl’s killer, Maiello wrote.

A spokesman for the Temple Terrace Police Department said there is no update in the murder investigation, which has been ongoing for six weeks.

Maiello could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Felecia, a third-grader at Edison Elementary School, was reported missing the night of May 16. Her nude body was found floating in Old Tampa Bay the next day.

Police have not revealed how she died, but Ritchie was with her at a Temple Terrace apartment around the time she disappeared, according to a search warrant affidavit.

Ritchie was arrested a few days later in St. Petersburg on another unrelated drug charge in Pinellas County.

ebehrman@tampatrib.com

(813)259-7691

Twitter: @LizBehrmanTBO

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