An extensive mitigation campaign by the defense team continues in the death penalty prosecution of alleged child killer Justin Rector. The 29-year-old Bullhead City man faces possible execution if convicted of kidnapping, killing and burying his former girlfriend’s eight-year-old daughter Bella Grogan in September, 2014.
Generally speaking, mitigation is evidence the defense submits following conviction as argument against imposition of the death penalty. During a June 2 status hearing, Gavin told Mohave County Superior Court Judge Lee Jantzen that the mitigation effort is focused on mental health issues.
“His brain might be broken,” Gavin said.
While defense investigators are digging deep into Rector’s background to learn of events that may have changed his life, Gavin insists it is not yet time to subject Rector to a full fledged, formal mental health exam.
Gavin said the exam needs to trail the investigation so that a proper sequence is pursued.
Prosecutor Greg McPhillips disagreed, contending the sequence is delaying getting the case to trial. McPhillips has pushed Jantzen to order Gavin to begin the formal mental health exam.
Jantzen said he’ll likely decide that request at the next status hearing, July 21. Jantzen said it appears the case will not be ready for trial until early next year, roughly 3 1/2 years after Bella was killed.