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Mon, Dec. 09

Rector's status conference pushed to July 28

Justin James Rector

Justin James Rector

KINGMAN – Justin James Rector, charged with the 2014 first-degree murder of 8-year-old Bella Grogan-Cannella, has appeared in Superior Court for 20 hearings in an apparent attempt to stall his murder trial.

Rector was scheduled to appear before Judge Lee Jantzen on Friday, but the status conference hearing was pushed back until July 28.

Mohave County Deputy Attorney Greg McPhillips is pushing to speed up Rector’s trial, which has been delayed for nearly three years and could potentially send Rector to death row.

Rector is accused of first-degree murder, kidnapping, sexual assault and abandonment and concealment of a dead body after Grogan’s body was found buried in a shallow grave near the Walmart in Bullhead City.

The crime occurred on Sept. 2, 2014, and it’s taken three years to examine the defendant’s sanity.

McPhillips filed a July 18 motion with Superior Court Judge Lee Jantzen saying that the state has had no communication with defense counsel since a June 2 hearing, and asserts the victim’s rights to a speedy trial.

“The status of this case is that nothing is happening,” the court document states. “Bella’s surviving family requests a speedy trial. This case has stalled and the state has a legitimate motivation to move the prosecution at a faster pace.”

The state nominated Dr. Ernest Hartman to examine Rector’s sanity at the time he allegedly committed the offense.

Defense lawyers brought out the mental health issues at the June hearing, and prosecutors have repeatedly requested the completion of the mental health exam. None of those experts or hundreds of report pages have been disclosed, McPhillips said.

Litigation of the sanity issue may take substantial time, and the trial cannot be held until this examination is completed and the sanity issue is litigated.

In November, Jantzen ordered defense counsel to provide all evidence disclosure by Jan. 13. The defense has not done so yet, and has provided no mitigation disclosure.

McPhillips is asking the court to impose sanctions for violating the court order.

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