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Family friend arrested in killing of 8-year-old Bullhead City girl

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Updated: 9/04 9:13 pm
BULLHEAD CITY, Ariz. (KSNV MyNews3.com) – Bullhead City police have arrested a family friend in the disappearance of 8-year-old Isabella Grogan-Cannella, whose body was identified today.  

A shallow grave was discovered Wednesday by a tracking unit with the Mohave County Search and Rescue Team near Chaparral and Newberry drives, close to her residence. The body was visually identified as Isabella.

Justin James Rector, 26, of Bullhead City was arrested on charges of kidnapping and first-degree murder. He was described in the police report as a friend of Tania Grogan, Isabella's mother.

The girl's family discovered her missing early Tuesday. Police found no signs of a scuffle or forced entry into the residence on Lakeside.

A police report released today by the Bullhead City Police Department said several adults were at the residence Monday evening and decided to go to Walmart at about 11 p.m. They left two children with their grandmother, Freddie Nicholson and Rector, who was downstairs. The report said the grandmother was upstairs and two children were playing hide-and-seek downstairs. When one girl went to the bathroom and came back out, the other child and Rector were missing.

A search of the house turned up nothing and the adults were called. They returned home and could not find Isabella or Rector. They called police.

Rector was found near Highway 95 and Walmart about 3:20 a.m. Tuesday. Police learned he had stolen a pair of shoes, underwear and a shirt from the store. He admitted to leaving his old shoes in the store and hiding his old short along the highway. Detectives recovered video of the theft along with the shirt and shoes.

Rector told police that he was at the Lakeside residence, but left to walk to a friend's house shortly before the adults went shopping. He told police nobody was home at the friend's house, so he walked to Walmart because he needed new clothes. Detectives learned from the residents at the house Rector said he went to that Rector never came to the home or attempted to contact them. Rector could not account to police for the approximately three hours from the time he left the Lakeside residence and arriving at Walmart.

Police charged Rector at 11:15 p.m. Tuesday with shoplifting at Walmart and continued to question him. Shoe prints at the spot where Isabella's body was found matched those of the shoes at Rector left at Walmart, where he stole new shoes, police said. 

A witness also reported seeing a person matching Rector's physical description leaving the area of the shallow grave and walking toward Walmart shortly before Rector arrived at the store, the report states.

Court records indicate Rector has a lengthy criminal record involving a dozen cases in the Bullhead City area between 2006 and 2014. His convictions included disorderly conduct, possession of drug paraphernalia, criminal damage, aggravated assault, assault, and criminal trespassing.

The case is under investigation by local police and the FBI. More details are to be released at a 1:30 p.m. news conference Thursday.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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