Man arrested in Bullhead City missing girl case

BULLHEAD CITY, AZ - A man previously questioned in the disappearance of an 8-year-old Bullhead City girl has been booked into the Mohave County jail on charges of first-degree murder, kidnapping and shoplifting.

Bullhead City Police Chief Brian Williamson confirmed Justin James Rector, 26, was taken into custody Thursday morning in connection with the death of 8-year-old Isabella Grogan-Cannella.

The young girl was reported missing on Tuesday. Her body was found Wednesday in a shallow grave near her home, authorities said.

Williamson said at a Thursday afternoon press conference that Rector was a family friend and had been staying at the home for a few days.

He said Isabella was last seen with Rector around 11:30 p.m. Monday night by her 10-year-old sister. Isabella was reported missing around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday.

The suspect reportedly went to Walmart and shoplifted a pair of shoes, underwear and a shirt to change into and admitted to hiding his old shoes in the store and his shirt along the highway, according to Williamson. He was initially arrested for shoplifting and held in jail while authorities continued to investigate Isabella's disappearance.

Detectives recovered the shoes and shirt, and surveillance video from the store showed evidence of the shoplifting.

Rector initially told police he had gone to a friend's house after leaving Isabella's house, but authorities were unable to confirm that.

Investigators found a set of shoe prints at the site where Isabella's body was found that matched Rector's old shoes, Williamson said.

According to court documents, Isabella was found in the same top she was wearing when she went missing, but she was found with no shorts or underwear.

An autopsy was to be performed on Thursday to determine the cause of death.

Rector did not deny killing Isabella, but said he couldn't talk about it and asked for an attorney, according to the documents.

Authorities said a motive in the girl's murder is not known, but said the investigation is ongoing. Williamson also said he is not ruling out future charges or arrests.

Williamson said several people were living at the house and staying at the house when Isabella disappeared.

He also said Child Protective Services is also involved in the case, but did not provide specifics.

The ABC15 Investigators also discovered that Rector has a long criminal history that stretches back to 2000. Court records show he has been arrested nearly 12 times, including charges for drugs, criminal damage, trespass, disorderly conduct, and assault.

About 40,000 people live in Bullhead City, which is on the Arizona-Nevada border some 100 miles southeast of Las Vegas.

A vigil for Isabella is planned for 8:30 p.m. Thursday at Newberry and Chaparral.


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