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Prosecutors express frustration at delays in Rector case

July 31, 2018

KINGMAN — Frustration is mounting in the four-year-old murder case of a Bullhead City man.

Justin James Rector, 30, is charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping, child abuse and abandonment of a dead body in the September 2014 death of 8-year-old Isabella Grogan-Cannella. He is being held in the Mohave County Jail without bond.

Rector’s attorney, Julia Cassels, on Monday continued to argue a motion that she filed in March dealing with three issues, including the disclosure of medical examiner records. She also said a compact disc containing cell phone records couldn’t be opened. The last issue deals with passwords to access FBI files.

Deputy Mohave County Attorney Greg McPhillips said he is getting frustrated with the lack of progress on the case. He said he sent all the medical examiner’s documents to the defense in June, as well as the compact disc containing cell phone records.

“We’ve done nothing on the case since May,” McPhillips said.

He said he also sent recordings of interviews to the defense last November. He also has asked the defense to set up additional interview dates and provide defense disclosure but has not heard back. McPhillips asked the judge to set a trial date in the four-year-old case.

Cassels countered that she lost three-fifths of her defense team when the prosecutor withdrew the death penalty against Rector in February. She said she has been in “clean-up mode,” going through the mountains of evidence in the case. Cassels was assigned to the case in July 2016.

Cassels said she is moving forward in the case and has no interest in dragging it out. But she said she wants her client to have a fair trial and doesn’t want a retrial like in the Darrell Ketchner murder case. She also asked to interview FBI agents in person in Virginia.

Superior Court Judge Lee Jantzen suggested both parties communicate more often and encouraged them to move the case forward. He set the next hearing for Sept. 7.

Grogan-Cannella and her 10-year-old sister were left in Rector’s care the night of Sept. 2, 2014, when their parents went to a department store. When they returned, they reported Grogan-Cannella missing from their Lakeside Drive home.

The girl’s body was found in a shallow grave in a wash about a half-mile from her home. The cause of death was asphyxiation by strangulation. Rector was arrested later that morning.

Rector also is charged with three counts of aggravated assault for allegedly assaulting a detention officer July 17, 2017, in his jail cell.

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