Death penalty not sought in trial of Arizona girl's murder

Posted: Updated:
Justin James Rector (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Justin James Rector (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

The death penalty is no longer being sought for a man charged with killing an 8-year-old girl in Bullhead City, state prosecutors said Thursday.

In a motion filed in Mohave County Superior Court, prosecutors withdrew the state's notice to seek the death penalty for Justin James Rector but said they still intend to seek a first-degree murder conviction whenever his long-delayed trial is held.

Rector, of Bullhead City, is charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping, child abuse and abandonment of a dead body in the September 2014 death of Isabella Grogan-Cannella.

Authorities say he strangled the girl. Her partially clothed body was found in a shallow grave near her Bullhead City home.

A police detective testified in a 2016 court hearing for Rector that there also was evidence the girl was sexually assaulted.

Prosecutors said last year that case has been stalled because the defense failed to provide Rector's mental health records and its completed witness interviews.

Rector's former lead defense attorney also withdrew from the case in July 2017 after becoming aware of an ethical conflict of interest.

Prosecutors, who filed their intent to seek the death penalty against Rector in November 2014, said there were many reasons for their decision to withdraw it.

"The anticipated soonest trial date in this case will be 10 years after the events charged," County Attorney Matthew Smith wrote, adding there was "no realistic speedy resolution" for the families of the victim or the tight-knit community.

Smith said that even if the state was successful in the death penalty phase, "there is no reasonable likelihood of the death penalty actually being imposed in a realistic and efficient timeframe given the current state of affairs surrounding persons sentenced to death."


Click/tap here to download the free azfamily mobile app.

© 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.