Justin Rector, the Arizona man charged with the murder of little Isabella Grogan Cannella, pleaded not guilty to murder in a Mohave County court room. According to the Daily Mail, 26-year-old Justin James Rector was charged with first degree murder and kidnapping in the death of 8-year-old Isabella Grogan Cannella, also known as Bella. Investigators say the girl was killed during a game of hide and seek. Rector could face 35 years to life in prison for his crimes.
Police say Isabella Grogan was missing for two days before her partially nude body was found in a shallow grave. An autopsy report concluded that the victim died by strangulation. The 2nd grader, who shared a room with her older sister, first disappeared from her bed on September 1, 2014. That’s when police say the sister alerted her parents that the girl had not returned to her bedroom. Police were able to trace footprints from family friend Justin Rector’s shoes to an area near the crime scene.
Justin Rector — Isabella Grogan Cannella death timeline
September 1 — Isabella Grogan Cannella is last seen by family members between 10:30 p.m. and 11:40 p.m. Her 10-year-old sister alerts her parents that Bella is not in bed. Frantically, her parents look for the 8-year-old girl all over the house. After they are unable to locate her inside or outside the home by 1.30 a.m., 911 is called and detectives are sent to the scene.
When police officers arrive, they are unable to locate Isabella Grogan Cannella in the home. The investigation reveals that there is no forced entry. An official missing person’s report is filed. Isabella Grogan’s family informs the police that another person was in the home, and that Bella was last seen with that person after making a trip to the bathroom.
For the next several hours, police block off the home and areas close to the home. It is speculated that the girl may have been abducted by a neighbor or a Peeping Tom. Onlookers notice that the police have a neighbor’s home and a car blocked off.
Members of the community are so touched by the story that many leave their porch lights on for Bella. A Facebook page is established to offer community support and leads to the missing girl’s whereabouts.
September 2 — Justin James Rector, a family friend, is questioned by police. Friends and family members believe he is a likely suspect. Justin Rector makes the following post to his Facebook page.
“Everyone gonna believe what they chose but as of now shes still not home and talking sh-t n making threats doesn’t seem like a good strategy on getting her home to me. everyone’s a suspect but I’ve been interrogated and cleared no charges and I’m still in touch with the authorities.”
Rumors start to circulate on the Facebook page that someone close to the family is involved. The comments are later deleted.
September 3 — The dead body of Isabella Grogan Canella is found in Bullhead City. The cause of death appears to be strangulation. Investigators ask for the public’s help in locating Isabella Grogan-Cannella, who is 8-years-old, blonde with blue eyes. She is between 80 and 90 pounds and stands 4-foot-8.
September 4 — Justin James Rector is arrested for shoplifting at a Walmart store. He is held in the Mohave County jail without bond. Justin Rector admits to police that he had smoked methamphetamines the day before the murder, according to NBC News.
September 11 — Justin Rector is indicted for the murder of Isabella Grogan Cannella.
Justin Rector’s and Isabella Grogan Cannella’s Facebook pages have been removed. Last year, the Inquisitr reported that a 4-year-old California girl had been reported missing, but was found safely hiding under her bed. The grandmother told media outlets that the girl loved playing hide and seek.