TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — In a show of strength and humility, the father of Felecia Williams, a 9-year-old girl who was raped and murdered in 2014, forgave his daughter’s killer in court Friday.
Granville Ritchie was found guilty of killing Felecia in Sept. 2019. Investigators said he had strangled the child to death before putting her body in a suitcase and dumping it near a causeway in May 2014.
On Friday, Ritchie was sentenced to death after Judge Michelle Sisco heard a number of statements about the impact of his crimes.
Felecia’s father, Jerome Williams, took the stand at Friday’s hearing, saying he has forgiven his daughter’s killer more than six years after her death.
“I’m not like everybody else, bro. I ain’t got no ill will against you,” Williams said. “The journey you got ahead of you going to need God. I forgive you.”
Williams told Ritchie he didn’t want revenge because “a lot of people would have suffered if I would have dealt with it.”
Williams said he served time in prison, but it’s unclear what crime he may have committed.
“I’m not like everybody else, I’ve been where you’ve been at. I’m still supposed to be where you be at. But he [God] set me free. That’s what he’ll do for you. He may not release you physically, but spiritually he will,” he told Ritchie. “You ask God to make you a better man. Because I asked, and he made me a better man, so I ask that you do the same.”
Since his release from prison, Williams said he’s started a business and is getting an education to become a legal interpreter.
“Don’t look at this as your life being over,” he said. “You did wrong. Your mistakes is [sic] worse than others. When you get back to your cell, you get on your knees and you pray harder than you ever prayed in your life, and you ask for his forgiveness. I give you mine, I got no ill will toward you, bro. I love you, you are a child of God. But don’t play with it, because if you play with it, he’s going to destroy you.”
Investigators said a family friend, Eboni Wiley, brought the girl to Ritchie’s home in Temple Terrace, Florida, on May 16, 2014, and left her there while she went to buy marijuana. Wiley said Ritchie had told her that he let the child walk to a store to buy candy.
Felecia was found strangled to death on a pile of rocks. Prosecutors said there was “a mountain of evidence” linking Ritchie to the crime.
“I’m pretty sure you know my baby called out for me,” he told Ritchie. “I wasn’t there for my baby, but I’m going to make sure I’m there for my others.”
Williams recounted the last time he talked to his daughter, Felecia, saying she had offered to pray for him.
“I sat and wondered what kind of father I am,” he recalled. “I should be praying for her. I should be there to protect her, but I wasn’t.”
Sisco said Ritchie will remain incarcerated until the state of his death is scheduled to occur.