Family friend charged with child's murder

JAMES QUEALLY
Last updated 10:12, September 5 2014

The body of a missing 8-year-old girl was discovered in a shallow grave in Arizona, and a 26-year-old man who had been living at her family's home has been charged with her death, police said Thursday.

Isabella Grogan-Cannella's body was found Wednesday near her home in Bullhead City, a municipality of nearly 40,000 that sits on the Arizona-Nevada border southeast of Las Vegas, according to a statement issued by police.

Justin James Rector, described by police as a family friend who was staying at the victim's home, was charged Thursday morning with murder and kidnapping.

Police have not said how Isabella died. The girl's family reported her missing Tuesday, Police Chief Brian Williamson said at a news conference Wednesday.

"My heart goes out to Bella, her family and this entire community," the chief said after announcing Rector's arrest on Thursday.

Isabella was last seen with Rector around 11:30 pm. Monday night, Williamson said at a press conference on Thursday. The victim's 10-year-old sister said she went to the bathroom, but when she came out, both Rector and the little girl were gone.

She did not hear any loud noises or a struggle, Williamson said. There were no signs of forced entry or a struggle at the home, so an Amber Alert was not issued, Williamson said previously.

Williamson said Rector had been living at the victim's home for several days, and several other people were also "staying at or living in" the house. Police arrested Rector early Tuesday morning after he allegedly shoplifted clothes from a local Wal-Mart, Williamson said.

Federal investigators later found shoeprints at the scene that matched Rector, Williamson said, and he was charged in Isabella's death Thursday morning.

The chief did not comment on a motive in Isabella's death, but said he would not rule out additional arrests or further charges against Rector.

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Bullhead City Police had arrested Rector previously on minor offences.

 - MCT

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