KINGMAN, Ariz. — A woman who is convinced that a distant relative killed her daughter 13 months ago said she is overwhelmed by the tragedy and community condemnation.
In addition to losing 8-year-old Isabella “Bella” Grogan Cannella, Tania Grogan, 30, is beginning a five-year prison term for selling methamphetamine to an informant about six weeks after her daughter was asphyxiated and buried in a shallow grave a half-mile from her home in Bullhead City.
Grogan, sobbing throughout an exclusive interview, said it is painful that many people hold her responsible for her daughter’s death. She said someone painted “babykiller” on her house, that she is frequently threatened, and that she has been vilified by news media bloggers and on Facebook hate pages.
“They call me ‘the Momster.’ No one knows me. I’m a good person. It kills me every day because I didn’t hurt my daughter. I miss her so much,” Grogan said. “I wish I could take her place. I would do anything to have my daughter back.”
Grogan’s attorney, Brad Rideout, said he has never had a client suffer such ridicule and scorn when similarly situated others are often embraced and afforded sympathy and compassion. He said the Bella case is likely the most heavily investigated homicide in Mohave County history and that Grogan is in no way responsible.
“She doesn’t have any involvement,” Rideout said. “Basically a vampire came into her house, stole away her kid and killed her.”
Phoenix attorney Gerald Gavin, who represents suspect Justin Rector, 27, offered his “sincerest sympathy” to Grogan. “No parent should have to endure that kind of pain,” he said.
But Gavin took exception to Rideout’s “vampire” phrase.
“I won’t engage in that type of name calling. That type of branding is not appropriate.”
Grogan said she has cooperated with police and the prosecutor, and will testify at Rector’s trial. She explained that Rector is the father of her niece’s cousin.
Grogan said she met Rector many years ago and never knew him to be abusive or violent. She said Rector had just completed a drug rehabilitation program and spent two days at her home, waiting for his father to pick him up, before Bella was killed.
“I just want to know why he took my baby from me. She was only 8 years old,” Grogan said. “She never had a chance to go to college. She never had a chance to drive a car, go to work, have a baby, have a boyfriend, go to prom or anything.”
“I don’t want him to get the death penalty. I want him to spend the rest of his life in prison thinking about what he did,” Grogan said. “I want him to feel the way he made my daughter feel.”
Grogan said she wants to warn parents and others to steer clear of drug involvement and that someday she’d like to serve an organization that helps parents of child murder victims.
“I want to use my experience to benefit and help other people go through it so they know they’re not alone. I wish that I had someone like that,” Grogan said. “Unless you’ve lost a child like that, you don’t know how it feels.”
Rector faces charges of first-degree murder, kidnapping, child abuse and abandonment of a dead body. He is being held in the Mohave County jail in downtown Kingman without bond. His trial is tentatively scheduled to begin in October 2016.