TAMPA — It was standing room only at The Rock Church of God By Faith on Saturday, where more than 200 people came to say goodbye to 9-year-old Felecia Williams.
The little girl, known to her friends and family as “Sugar Plum,” was laid to rest one week after her body was found floating in Old Tampa Bay. Temple Terrace police have not revealed how or why they believe the third-grader died, other than to say her death was caused by homicidal violence.
At Saturday's memorial service, Felecia's loved ones focused on celebrating her life.
Felecia, who was a student at Edison Elementary School, always made people laugh, her family said. She was a member of the Jackson Heights Viking Cheer Squad and sang in the youth choir at her church. She was talkative, mischievous and kind.
One family friend joked that the angels “have trouble on their hands” with Felecia. Nathaniel House, who led the 11 a.m. service, said Felecia would have been whispering for him to hurry things along so everyone could go eat lunch.
Felecia was a princess, her loved ones said. Her casket was transported to the cemetery in a horse-drawn carriage.
Doretha Edgecomb, a member of the Hillsborough County School Board, offered condolences to Felecia's family.
“Remember, the biggest tribute you can give to her is that we come together in a circle of love and become a wall of protection for our children,” she said.
Authorities continue to investigate Felecia's death. She disappeared from a Temple Terrace apartment complex on May 16, after a neighbor had taken her there to visit a friend.
Eboni Wiley, 23, told police she took a shower, and when she got out between 5:30 and 6 p.m., Felecia was gone. Wiley waited several hours before reporting the girl missing, police said.
Felecia's body was found the next day by fishermen near the Clearwater side of the Courtney Campbell Causeway.
Temple Terrace police have named Granville Ashanti Ritchie, 35, as a suspect in the case. He remains in jail in Pinellas County after he was arrested Wednesday on unrelated drug charges in St. Petersburg. Police later charged him with four counts of having sex with a minor, after they interviewed a girl while investigating Felecia's case who told them about four sexual encounters with Ritchie since April 15.
Authorities have not charged Ritchie with any crimes related to Felecia's death, and appealed to the public last week — along with Felecia's mother, Felecia Demerson — to encourage anyone with information about the case to come forward. The FBI is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest, and Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay is offering a $3,000 reward.
Law enforcement officials said they have declined to specify how Felecia died or why they suspect Ritchie was involved because giving away such details could jeopardize the investigation.
Anyone with information about Ritchie or Felecia may call Temple Terrace police Detective Tom Carroll at (813)506-6538.