Las Vegas Sun

November 28, 2014

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Medical examiner: Missing Bullhead City girl strangled

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This Sept. 4, 2014 photo provided by the Bullhead City, Ariz., Police Department shows Justin James Rector, 26 of Bullhead City. Early Thursday, authorities arrested Rector on suspicion of kidnapping and first-degree murder in the death of an 8-year-old Arizona girl reported missing from her home.

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This undated photo provided by the Bullhead City Police Department shows Isabella “Bella” Grogan-Cannella, an 8-year-old Bullhead City, Arizona, girl who was reported missing on Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014. Police, firefighters and volunteers fanned out in Bullhead city neighborhoods, nearby parks and river areas to look for the missing child.

Isabella Grogan-Cannella, the 8-year-old Bullhead City, Ariz. girl found dead after going missing early this week, was strangled, the Mohave County Medical Examiner said Friday.

Grogan-Cannella, called "Bella" by friends and family, went missing early Tuesday morning. Her body was found a day later in a shallow grave less than a mile from her home. Investigators are still determining whether Bella was sexually assaulted.

On Thursday morning, Bullhead City Police arrested Justin James Rector, 26, on suspicion of kidnapping and murder. Rector was a friend of the Grogan-Cannella family, according to police, and was staying in the home at the time of her disappearance.

Bella's ten-year-old sister told police the last time she saw Bella was at 11:30 p.m. on Monday when she went to the bathroom. She said she saw Bella with Rector, and when she came out of the bathroom, both of them were gone. She told police she didn't hear yelling or sounds of struggle.

Hundreds of volunteers, police and firefighters combed the town around 100 miles south of Las Vegas for clues to Bella's whereabouts.

Rector was arrested Tuesday after police questioned him for shoplifting clothes at a Wal-Mart. Rector is being held as a possible suspect in the case. He told police he went to see his friend after leaving Bella's house, but Bullhead City Police Chief Brian Williamson said FBI investigators found his shoe prints at the site of Bella's shallow grave.

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.

Police searched Bella's home on Thursday, but have not released any more information. An investigation is ongoing.

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