1 year later, no arrest in missing NH girl's death
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- Nearly a year after an 11-year-old girl vanished from her northern New Hampshire home and was found slain a week later, no arrests have been made, and investigators still aren't revealing any details about her death.
The anniversary of Celina Cass' disappearance and death has brought media back to West Stewartstown, population 800, but locals say the fear and anxiety never subsided.
"It's not an old wound," says Shannon Towle, owner of the local convenience store. She says she and others are rankled daily by the lack of an arrest.
Senior Assistant State's Attorney Jane Young says the investigation remains open and active, with three state troopers from the nearby Twin Mountain barracks assigned nearly full-time.
"Sometimes these cases are marathons, not sprints," Young said. "It's clearly not a cold case."
Celina's body was retrieved from the Connecticut River on Aug. 1, near the borders of Canada and Vermont and less than a quarter-mile from her home. Prosecutors have labeled her death a homicide but have not revealed how she died.
Young acknowledged the community's frustration with scant information from authorities, but stressed her goal is to bring Celina's killer or killers to justice. That way, she said, authorities can ensure that they obtain first-hand information from any suspects, rather than details suspects might have learned from news reports on the case.
Celina's disappearance launched a massive search unprecedented in recent state history, with more than 100 law enforcement officials turning the Stewartstown Elementary School into a makeshift barracks. Searchers used police dogs and helicopters. A mobile cellphone tower was trucked in to enhance communications between teams in the field.
Meanwhile, children under the watchful eye of parents distributed flyers bearing Celina's picture to drivers on the town's main thoroughfare, a stone's throw from the girl's house. She was last seen hunched over the family's computer at about 9 p.m. July 25, after watching her favorite television show, "The Secret Life of the American Teenager," with her mother.
Her Facebook page, which vanished shortly after she did, carried the post, "You can't stand to live with your family but you can't stand to live without them" with a heart symbol where the punctuation would be.
Celina's 13-year-old sister, Kayla, with whom she shared a room, was sleeping over at a friend's house that night.
In the days following her disappearance, candles burned on picnic tables in a local park where children and adults held vigils to pray for Celina's return. Friends said she was timid, a stickler for getting her homework done early and would not run away from home.
Her body was located in the water near a dam and railroad trestle that is a popular fishing spot for locals, easily accessible by a wide dirt path and visible from the road. The vigil of hope turned to one of grief.
At the time of her disappearance, Celina lived with her mother, Luisia, her sister, her stepfather, Wendell Noyes, and 22-year-old Kevin Mullaney -- the son of one of Luisia's former boyfriends.
Mullaney and Wendell Noyes have been subpoenaed to testify at grand jury proceedings on Celina's case.
Mullaney has been imprisoned since June 12 on convictions on charges unrelated to the Celina Cass investigation. Those charges include reckless conduct, receiving stolen property, possession of a weapon by a felon and criminal mischief. He will not be eligible for parole until at least January 2014.
Noyes, 47, was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and was committed to a state psychiatric hospital in 2003 after breaking into the home of an ex-girlfriend and threatening to harm her. He has been in and out of hospitals since Celina disappeared.
"I'd just as soon not talk," Wendell Noyes said last week. Asked if he had been warned not to talk about the case, he replied, "Yeah, more or less," but declined to say by whom.
Noyes' mother, Eunice Richards, who was also subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury, said the past year "has been a living hell for the whole family."
"It's so sad, so sad," Richards said. "They've got to have something to nail it to somebody."
Celina's mother separated from Wendell Noyes within months of her disappearance, after a year of marriage.
Luisia Noyes' cellphone is out of service, and she could not be reached for comment.
Celina was cremated. Her mother and Kayla wear crosses containing some of Celina's ashes; the rest of the ashes are buried with her maternal grandmother in Groveton.
A memorial service will be held Thursday in the same small park where the community vigils were held.