The search for Celina Cass who had been missing since Monday, July 25, ended yesterday, Monday, August 1, 2011 at 10:30 a.m. EDT when her body was discovered by divers on the bottom of the Connecticut River close to where the 11-year-old girl had lived in West Stewartstown, New Hampshire, according to reports published on Tuesday, August 2, 2011 by ABC News, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Times Record News, MSNBC, and multiple other media sources.
A team of divers did not retrieve the girl’s body until about 5:00 p.m. on Monday afternoon. There was no explanation given by authorities for the delay, which may be related to protecting the integrity of a potential crime scene.
Her death has been termed “suspicious” by officials, pending the results of an autopsy expected to be released in Concord, NH later today, according to Senior Assistant Attorney General Jane Young, who said that the girl’s disappearance has been reclassified as a criminal investigation.
Celina was wearing a pink shirt, pink pullover and blue shorts when she was last seen a week ago sitting at the family’s computer around 9:00 p.m. EDT by her stepfather, who told police that he said good night to her.
She was not seen the next morning, Tuesday, July 26, when family members reported her missing, prompting a massive search of the surrounding area, and the participation by the FBI of their Child Abduction Rapid Deployment (CARD) team with about half a dozen experts from the bureau’s Crimes Against Children unit, as seen in the attached video clip and slide show which accompany this report.
The federal investigative agency also put up a $25,000 reward to encourage leads about the missing child’s whereabouts. More than 100 investigators had searched for the girl by air, land and water in New Hampshire and neighboring Vermont, including officers from the United States Border Patrol.
Shortly before the young girl’s body was found, her stepfather Wendell Noyes was seen rolling around on driveway of the family’s home, with his face buried in his arms, and was taken to a hospital by ambulance. He was later released, and was seen in town on Tuesday morning, buying a pack of cigarettes.
According to an earlier report by ABC News Nightline, Mr. Noyes suffered from mental illness, and was previously hospitalized, and treated for schizophrenia. He has not been charged in Celina’s death.
The discovery of the child’s body has brought a tragic ending to an incident that has shaken the peaceful community of about 800 people, who live close to the border with Canada.
“You had that little bit of hope and when that went, it’s really a kick in the gut,” said Shannon Towle, in talking with a reporter at Towle’s Minimart on Washington Street in West Stewartstown.
There were no statements by Celina’s family, who are mourning the loss of their loved one.
While there is some sense of closure in finding her body, there is also the unresolved mystery of how she died, which may turn out to be an accidental drowning, or something more sinister.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has data that about ten people die from unintentional drowning every day. Of these, two are children aged 14 or younger. Drowning is the sixth leading cause of unintentional injury death for people of all ages, and the second leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 14 years.
Children are also abducted and murdered. As we reported earlier, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), states that 800,000 children younger than 18 years of age go missing each year, or an average of 2,000 children are reported missing each day.
Of these, 200,000 children are abducted by family members each year, and 58,000 children are abducted by nonfamily members.
Only 115 children are the victims of “stereotypical” kidnapping. These crimes involve someone the child does not know, or knows only slightly, who holds the child overnight, transports the child 50 miles or more, kills the child, demands ransom, or intends to keep the child permanently.
The autopsy findings may provide more information on the cause of death, which may also dispel suspicions.
Tell us your thoughts. Please leave comments below or by email and subscribe to get future updates. There is also expanded coverage of other recent news articles. You may also be interested in following our reports as the Airlines/Airport Examiner.