ME: Bullhead City girl strangled; 911 call released

Posted: Updated:
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

BULLHEAD CITY, Ariz. -- The Mohave County medical examiner has determined the cause of death of an 8-year-old Bullhead City girl to be asphyxiation by strangulation.

Search teams discovered the body of Isabella (Bella) Grogan-Cannella in a shallow grave at the base of a hill in a desert area near her home on Wednesday.

Isabella's family reported her missing before dawn Tuesday.

Police arrested Justin James Rector, 26, in connection with the girl's death. He was booked on charges of first-degree murder and kidnapping. He is being held without bond in Kingman.

Shoe prints near the crime scene matched Rector's shoes, according to a forensics team.

Police described Rector as a friend of Isabella's family. He had been staying in the family's home and police said he shoplifted clothing for himself to cover up the crime.

Isabella's 10-year-old sister told authorities that she went to the bathroom while she and Isabella were playing hide-and-seek, and when she got out, Isabella and Rector were gone.

"My daughter's missing," Bella's stepfather, Ralph Folster, told a 911 dispatcher around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Folster said he and Bella's mother, Tania Grogan, were at Wal-Mart when Bella's sister called to tell them the girl was missing.

"She stayed at home with her sister and ... my mom getting ready for bed, and when we got back, she was nowhere to be found," Folster said.

He told the dispatcher he last saw Bella at the home about 60 to 90 minutes before calling 911.

"Where's the mom?" the dispatcher asked.

"She's upstairs," Folster said. "She's pretty distraught."

Authorities are still trying to determine whether or not Bella was a victim of sexual assault.