Murdered girl's stepdad gets 20 years
Folster sentenced on drugs, gun charge
KINGMAN - The stepfather of a Bullhead City girl who was allegedly murdered by his roommate last September was sentenced to 20 years in prison on drugs and a weapons offense Tuesday.
Judge Billy Sipe didn't buy the defendant's excuse for selling methamphetamine, which he claims occurred while he struggled to come to terms with depression he suffered after the murder.
Ralph Folster, 28, pleaded guilty to seven felonies last month following his arrest on charges of selling methamphetamine Oct. 15, roughly a month and a half after the body of 8-year-old Bella Grogan-Cannella was found buried in a shallow grave in a wash. Folster's roommate, Justin James Rector, 26, was arrested and charged with her murder.
The killing prompted Bullhead City police to investigate Folster and Tania Grogan, 30, the girl's mother, on suspicions the pair, along with Folster's mother, Freddie Nicholson, 59, were selling drugs.
Sipe noted Folster sold methamphetamine to police informants on five separate occasions between Oct. 1 and Oct. 15, when police raided Folster's and Grogan's duplex and took him into custody after he crawled through the attic and into his neighbor's residence.
In determining an appropriate sentence, Sipe told Folster he started at the presumptive prison term of 15 years and nine months. From there, said the judge, he would go up or down based on a number of issues, including Folster's criminal history.
That history is lengthy. Sipe noted Folster has spent most of his life in prison since he turned 18 a decade ago and that he also has a serious juvenile record.
"I kind of wonder what will be the end result of you," said Sipe. "You've been committing felonies since you were a juvenile. Is this a person who will spend the rest of his life in prison?"
And while Sipe could have sentenced Folster to up to 35 years in prison and to as little as 10 years, he found Folster's felony convictions called for an aggravated sentence, along with the fact that Folster had an accomplice in one of the drug transactions, that he was on parole out of California when he was arrested and he had a gun charge case pending, as well. Folster was arrested in August and charged with misconduct involving weapons.
While Folster's defense attorney said his client took responsibility for his actions and was realistic about the outcome of his cases, he also told Sipe that Folster was grieving for his stepdaughter and that played a role in his decision to sell drugs.
Folster did not speak.
Citing Folster's extensive record, Sipe said the defense tried to convince him Folster's drug sales were an aberration, but the judge scoffed at the premise.
While acknowledging Folster was likely traumatized by the girl's murder, he also noted that less than a month after her body was discovered he was selling meth.
"You had a month to deal with it and you decided to sell meth," said Sipe, echoing comments from the state that suggested the murder should have been a "wakeup call" to Folster to change his lifestyle.
In all, Sipe sentenced Folster on one count of misconduct involving weapons regarding his August arrest, one count of conspiracy to sell methamphetamine and five counts of selling methamphetamine.
The cases against Grogan and Nicholson are still being adjudicated.