Police in Arizona have arrested a “family friend” in connection with the kidnapping and killing of 8-year-old Isabella Grogan-Cannella.
Early Thursday morning, Justin James Rector, 26, of Bullhead City, was arrested on counts of kidnapping and first-degree murder, Bullhead City police said.
On Wednesday, a shallow grave was discovered by a tracking unit with the Mohave County Search and Rescue Team near Chaparral and Newberry Drive in Bullhead City, which is close to the girl's home. The body has since been identified as that of Isabella, who was as "Bella," police said.
Bella went to bed Monday night but wasn't there when her parents went to check on her shortly before 1:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Rector was a "family friend" of the family's and had been living at their home for a few days, Bullhead City Police Chief Brian Williamson said at a news conference Thursday afternoon. He said Bella was last seen about 11:30 p.m. Monday — with Rector — by her 10-year-old sister, who was going to the bathroom.
Williamson said that when Rector was questioned about the disappearance the next day, his alibi didn’t check out, and it was discovered that he had shoplifted a set of clothes at Walmart.
FBI investigators also “located unique shoe prints at the site, matching Rector’s shoes.” Williamson said.
When asked whether any of Bella's family would be facing charges, Williams said, “at this point in time, I am not ruling out any future arrests” — and mentioned that Child Protective Services was involved in the case.
"She was a typical 8-year-old, played with her dog in back yard and across the street in soccer fields," said neighbor Richard Heymann. "I feel really bad. I couldn't believe it. We're all on shock."
A Facebook page belonging to a Justin Rector of Bullhead has a last post dated Sept. 2, reading, "Everyone gonna believe what they chose but as of now shes still not home and talking sh-t n making threats doesn't seem like a good strategy on getting her home to me.. everyone's a suspect but I've been interrogated and cleared no charges and I'm still in touch with the authorities."
Bullhead City Police Department
Justin James Rector, 26 of Bullhead City, was arrested on Thursday, Sept. 4, on kidnapping and first-degree murder counts.
— Hasani Gittens, John Getter and Becky Bratu
First published September 4 2014, 10:50 AM