Accused murderer's sanity under scrutiny

Was Justin James Rector sane or not when he allegedly strangled an 8-year-old?

Justin James Rector

Justin James Rector

KINGMAN - When Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith decided to seek the death penalty against a Bullhead City man who allegedly killed an 8-year-old girl Sept. 2, state laws regarding the ultimate punishment went into effect.

Among the many determinations Judge Lee Jantzen must make is the answer to this question: Was Justin James Rector sane or not when he allegedly strangled Bella Grogan-Cannella and buried her partially clad body in a shallow grave in a wash about a mile from her home?

Jantzen on Christmas Eve signed court papers ordering the Mohave County Juvenile Detention Center to provide prosecutor Greg McPhillips with Rector's protected health information, including all records, charts, test results, notes and all records of any kind in order to help doctors determine the defendant's state of mind.

Prosecutors nominated Dr. Ernest Harman to examine Rector's sanity at the time of the alleged offense. Jantzen has not yet confirmed the nomination.

Dr. Mark Harvancik was appointed to examine Rector's mental health on behalf of his attorney, Mohave County Public Defender Harry Moore. He identified the county's juvenile detention center as one of three facilities that might have records on Rector. He also identified Mohave Mental Health and Adobe Mountain, Eagle Point, a juvenile corrections facility in Buckeye where Rector was sentenced to as a teenager.

Those records, according to school officials, were purged due to Rector's current age, 26.

Rector's next hearing is scheduled for Jan. 28.

Should doctors determine Rector was insane at the time of the killing, the death penalty will be taken off the table and he will face the possibility of life in prison if ultimately convicted of Grogan-Cannella's murder.

Her mother, Tania Grogan, 29, is alleged to have provided methamphetamine to Rector the day of the killing. She, her husband and her mother-in-law were arrested roughly a month after the girl's death and charged with several drug felonies.

While her husband, Ralph Pat Leroy Folster III, 28, and mother-in-law Freddie Nicholson remain in jail; Grogan was released from custody Dec. 20 after Judge Derek Carlisle reduced her bail from $250,000 to $20,000 due to a high-risk pregnancy.

It is unknown who posted the bail. She is due in court Jan. 12. She is charged with conspiracy to sell methamphetamine, sale of methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Her husband faces those charges, along with theft counts regarding a separate case. Nicholson faces conspiracy to sell meth and possession of drug paraphernalia charges.

In addition to first-degree murder, Rector faces felony charges of kidnapping, child abuse and abandonment of a dead body.

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