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Opening statements begin in trial of man accused of killing 9-year-old girl

Granville Ritchie could be sentenced to death if convicted in the murder of 9-year-old Felecia Williams.

TAMPA, Fla. — Opening statements are set to begin Friday in the trial of Granville Ritchie, the man accused of beating and strangling a 9-year-old girl in May 2014.

Ritchie, 40, could face the death penalty if convicted in the murder of Felecia Williams. Jurors first will have to decide whether he is guilty and would have to be unanimous in sentencing him to death. 

He would be sentenced to life in prison if one juror objects.

Part of the reason why the case has taken so long to get to trial is that the U.S. Supreme Court in 2016 ruled Florida's death penalty law was unconstitutional. Previously, only a judge decided the sentence.

Jury selection began Monday, Sept. 9. The 12-person jury will be asked to consider the case involving allegations of Ritchie sexually assaulting, beating and strangling Williams more than five years ago.

RELATED: Family: "I just can't believe he did that to her"

RELATED: Suspect ID'd in Felecia Williams' murder

Credit: Provided
Felecia Williams

Her body washed up along the Courtney Campbell Causeway not long after she died. Prosecutors accuse Ritchie of shoving her body into a suitcase and throwing it into the bay.

Williams' family told 10News they're ready to see this case go to trial.

"It’s been a long time coming," said Felecia Demerson, the girl’s mother. "My main concern is that we’d be her face and get justice for her."

If Ritchie is found guilty, Demerson said he should be put to death.

"Because I feel he not only took her away from our family but also he took her away from our community," she said. "And I want him to pay the ultimate price. 

"It’ll be up to the jury."

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