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Rector pleads guilty in murder of child

December 19, 2018

A man accused in the 2014 killing of a Bullhead City child pleaded guilty Wednesday.

Justin J. Rector has for four years awaited trial on the charges of first degree murder, kidnapping, child abuse and abandonment of a child. In what was once a capital murder case, prosecutors allege Rector strangled the victim, 8-year-old Isabella Grogan Cannella, more than four years ago while staying as a guest in the child’s home. Cannella’s body was found partially-clothed, buried in a shallow grave.

Rector’s defense was paid for by Mohave County Indigent Services, costing the county nearly $1 million since the case began. Several members of his defense team withdrew from the case since 2014, before Rector filed a motion to act as his own attorney this month.

The motion was accepted by Mohave County Superior Court Judge Lee Jantzen Wednesday morning. Rector’s first act as his own attorney was to accept a plea agreement offered by prosecutors. He pleaded guilty to the charge of first degree murder, and all other charges against him - including those related to the alleged 2017 assault against a Mohave County Jail corrections officer - will be dismissed.

Under the terms of the agreement, Rector will receive 35 years in prison without the possibility of parole. All other terms will be applied at Jantzen’s discretion.

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