KINGMAN – Mental evaluation results of accused murderer, kidnapper and rapist Justin James Rector were ordered by Superior Court Judge Lee Jantzen Friday to be released to state prosecutors.
The case, which started in September 2014 with the discovery of 8-year-old Bella Grogan-Cannella’s body in a shallow grave near her home in Bullhead City, is slowly making its way through the justice system, with more than 20 pretrial hearings.
The next hearing is scheduled for 11 a.m. March 23.
“Things have been progressing,” public defender Quinn Jolly told the judge Friday. “We have reviewed the initial discovery and we’re moving to litigation.”
Jolly said he received all of the files from Rector’s previous public defender, Gerald Gavin, who withdrew from the case due to conflict of interest, and he expects to discuss setting up interviews with witnesses at the next hearing.
Mohave County prosecuting attorney Greg McPhillips said he met with defense counsel to talk about outstanding motions, including the prior defense’s motion opposing the mental evaluation report, and was given some other things to track down.
He said both Quinn and defense attorney Julia Cassels have been responsive in their communication with him.
“I’d be ecstatic if we could start looking at interviews and evidence prior to the next hearing,” McPhillips said.
Jantzen said he filed an order for Mohave County Mental Health to disclose evidence from the mental evaluation to the state, which is mandated by law. Prior counsel had filed a motion to vacate that order.
McPhillips said he’s had fairly regular conversations with Rector’s defense attorneys, and got the “impression” they weren’t ready to deal with the mental evaluation yet.
Jantzen also filed two other orders in March, one to disclose notes from the autopsy report and another to disclose Rector’s cellphone records.
Though he didn’t have the files on hand, McPhillips said he believes he has the autopsy notes, and there was no cellphone information.
Jantzen said he wants joint management conferences with attorneys on a regular basis.
“Obviously, behind-the-scenes things are happening and need to keep happening,” the judge said.
McPhillips said there are other “victims” in this case beyond Bella, including her older sister and the girls’ paternal grandmother, who has custody of Bella’s sister.
“I know we put a lot of emphasis on Bella’s parents, who are in custody on other charges,” McPhillips said.
Tania Ann Grogan, the girl’s mother, and stepfather Ralph Pat Leroy Folster III were arrested about a month after the murder on felony charges of dealing methamphetamine and heroin in their home. Folster’s mother, Freddie Lynn Nicholson, was also arrested for selling drugs.
Rector, who admitted being on meth without sleep for three days, was living with the family. Bella’s parents had gone to Walmart the evening of Sept. 14, 2014, leaving the girls in Nicholson’s care.