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Family friend arrested in 8-year-old girl's kidnapping and murder

Isabella’s body was found in a shallow grave near her home several days after she went missing.
Isabella’s body was found in a shallow grave near her home several days after she went missing.
Bullhead City Police Department and Justice for Isabella Grogan - Cannella/Facebook

Isabella “Bella” Grogan-Cannella, all of eight years old, was last seen inside her Bullhead City, Arizona, home on the evening of Aug. 31. Isabella’s mom placed a 911 call to report her daughter missing around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday. Following a massive search by local officials and the FBI, Isabella’s little body was found in a shallow grave not too far from her home on Sept. 3, according to HLN TV.

By Sept. 4, another Bullhead City resident and family friend, 26-year-old Justin James Rector, was arrested and charged with Isabella’s kidnapping and first-degree murder. Rector is currently behind bars at the Mohave County Jail and being held without bond.

CBS News reported that Rector had been staying at Isabella’s family home for several days, and on the night when the child disappeared. Police in Bullhead City say that investigators found "unique shoeprints" at Bella’s grave site that were matched to Rector's shoes.

Police Chief Brian Williamson with the Bullhead City Police Department said that Isabella's older sister, 10, told investigators that she had witnessed her sister with Rector when the older sister went to use the bathroom around 11:30 p.m. on Monday. When the 10 year old got out of the bathroom, she told police that both Isabella and Rector were gone.

Isabella's sister "did not hear yelling or any kind of disturbance," Williamson said.

There were no signs of a struggle or forced entry into the home, investigators said.

Williamson also said that Rector had allegedly “shoplifted clothes from a Walmart to change into,” and tried hiding the clothes he had been wearing earlier. He was initially taken into custody on Sept. 2 by police on shoplifting charges.

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 also shared that others that were living in the home when Isabella disappeared included Isabella’s “mother, stepfather and other children who are not Isabella's siblings.” Reportedly, Isabella’s biological dad is not around. Williamson did not specify how Isabella died, nor did he provide a possible motive for her kidnapping and murder.

"It didn't go the way we all wanted it to go - we set out to find Bella alive and bring her back home," Williamson said. "But we've completed the mission of bringing someone to justice for Bella's death."

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