TAMPA, Fla. — A year after his trial, Granville Ritchie has been sentenced to death for the 2014 murder of 9-year-old Felecia Williams.
"May God have mercy on your soul, Mr. Ritchie," Judge Michelle Sisco said while reading his sentence.
During the formal sentencing hearing Friday morning, several members of Williams' family spoke through tears to the court and to Ritchie, including the girl's mother, grandmother and sister.
"I've waited 2,310 days for this day to come," her mother Felecia Demerson said. "I am here to stand as a wounded mother."
"I miss my baby," Williams' grandmother said. "It hurts every day. You can't sleep knowing what has been done to her. It just wasn't right."
Judge Michelle Sisco also teared up several times, first when speaking spoke directly to Williams' mother, saying she is "in awe of your bravery...and your tireless advocacy for your daughter."
Sisco then tried to hold back tears as she read the details of the "aggravating factors" of the case that lead to Ritchie's death sentence. She said the jury found prosecutors proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the murder was "especially heinous, atrocious or cruel."
Williams' father, Jerome Williams, looked at Ritchie during his entire statement, saying he forgives the man for his actions.
"It took six years for you to be a man and admit what you did wrong," Jerome Williams said. "(But) you got time...to get right with God."
Williams' parents and prosecutors took questions following the sentencing. Felecia Demerson said she and Jerome wore all black "to bury" Ritchie.
When asked if she believes justice was served, Felecia Demerson said "yes, yes it was" but that she's "struggling with forgiveness."
Last year, Ritchie was convicted in the murder of Williams, whose body was found off the Courtney Campbell Causeway.
Ritchie's trial in September 2019 took nearly two weeks, but a guilty verdict came down just four hours after the jury heard closing arguments. A key piece of evidence from prosecutors was a seconds-long 911 phone call from Ritchie's phone.
Prosecutors said the phone call was made by Williams when she was alone in a Temple Terrace apartment with Ritchie.
Prosecutors also used key witnesses to poke holes in Ritchie's alibi for the night the 9-year-old disappeared. One witness was Eboni Wiley, who was supposed to be taking care of Williams that day. She said she left the girl at the apartment alone with Ritchie to go buy marijuana.
Wiley faced her own charges for lying to the police. Her trial is expected to start next month.
Cell phone records showed Ritchie in the area where Williams' body was later found. And, leaves and sand taken from Ritchie's car also matched those found at the crime scene.
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