TEMPLE TERRACE — Police said Wednesday they have identified a suspect in the death of 9-year-old Felecia Williams but are still looking for more information that would connect him to the girl whose nude body was found floating off the Courtney Campbell Causeway on Saturday.
The U.S. Marshals Service arrested Granville Ashanti Ritchie, 35, on Wednesday afternoon in Pinellas County on unrelated drug charges.
Early this morning, jail records show four added counts of unlawful sex acts with a minor, but it unclear if those charges are related to the third-grader's death. He has not been charged in connection with her death, but police said he is considered a suspect.
Temple Terrace police — and Felecia's mother — on Wednesday urged anyone with any information that could lead to charges in Felecia's death to come forward and talk to police. The FBI has offered a $10,000 reward to supplement an existing $3,000 CrimeStoppers award.
“Now is the time,'' said Temple Terrace Police Chief Ken Albano at a Wednesday evening press conference. “Help us put the murderer of this little girl to justice.''
Felecia's mother, Felecia Demerson, attended the 6 p.m. press conference at Temple Terrace City Hall, flanked by the family's attorney, Ariel Garcia. She declined comment other than to say, “If anyone has any information on my daughter's killer, can you please come forward?''
Garcia said the family doesn't want to make any comments that could jeopardize the investigation before someone is charged in Felecia's death.
“At that time, there will be the necessary sigh of relief because the person will be brought to justice,'' Garcia said.
Albano repeatedly deflected questions about what evidence made police consider Ritchie a suspect or whether Ritchie was known to Felecia's family or to family friend Eboni Wiley, who reported Felecia missing on Friday.
“To go into any more detail than that would potentially compromise my investigation,'' Albano said.
Wiley told investigators she picked up Felecia on Friday afternoon from the girl's Tampa home, 2009 E. Ida St., and took her to a friend's apartment at the Doral Oaks Apartments in Temple Terrace.
Wiley told investigators that she took a shower at the apartment, and when she came out of the shower between 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. the girl was gone. Wiley waited five hours before notifying authorities of Felecia's disappearance. She was arrested on Saturday and charged with providing false information to law enforcement but faces no other charges. Felecia's body was found by a fisherman Saturday afternoon.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office arrested Granville Ritchie in May 2013 and charged him with felony sexual battery, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and domestic battery by strangulation.
The state attorney's office filed charges against Ritchie but eventually had to drop the charges because of lack of information from the alleged victim, who was Ritchie's wife, said Mark Cox, a spokesman for the Hillsborough County State Attorney's Office.
When his wife was brought in for a deposition, she said she could not remember anything about the event, Cox said.
“We just couldn't go forward because she came in and would not tell us anything about the event,” Cox said. “We couldn't ethically go forward because she could not recall the event.”
Ritchie was also arrested in December 2012 on a misdemeanor charge of battery - domestic violence, according to state records.
The charges were also dropped. Cox had no information on the battery domestic violence case and why it was dropped.
Ritchie's address is listed as an apartment complex on Hollydale Place in Riverview. But a neighbor said Wednesday night that Ritchie, his wife and a young daughter have not lived at the complex in about a year.
Albano stressed during Wednesday's press conference that investigators need the public's help to solve the case.
“It is a horrible, horrible crime,'' the chief said. “It is unconscionable that anyone perpetrates such a crime, much less on a 9-year-old girl.''
Anyone with information on the case is asked to call Temple Terrace police Det. Tom Carroll at (813) 506-6538.
A memorial service is scheduled Saturday morning for Felecia. The service will begin at 11 a.m. at the Rock Church of God by Faith, 4323 E. Henry Ave., Tampa. Arrangements are being handled by Gudes Funeral Home.