STEWARTSTOWN, N.H. (AP) — In the small New Hampshire town where a missing 11-year-old girl’s body was found two months ago, time has stoked more than intrigue and uneasiness. Cynicism and suspicion are setting in.
The state attorney general’s office this week declared Celina Cass’ death a homicide but did not reveal how she was killed. The declaration of homicide came as no surprise to residents.
“I think everybody knew that for weeks,” schools Superintendent Robert Mills said Friday. The mood in town is one of “eager anticipation” that someone will be brought to justice so the healing can begin.
But even that hope is fading.
“Either they’ve got enough evidence or they don’t,” said Shannon Towle, owner of the convenience store and gas station that are the hub of Stewartstown. “And I don’t think they do.”
Celina’s body was pulled from the Connecticut River within walking distance from her home on Aug. 1, a week after she disappeared.
The grim discovery ended an intensive search by more than 100 investigators who turned a local school into their base camp and temporarily brought cell phone service to this burg across the Connecticut from Vermont and a mile from Canada.
The passage of two months should not suggest the case is at a dead end, Senior Assistant Attorney General Jane Young, who heads the investigation, said Friday.
“Unfortunately, it’s not unusual,” she said. “We are continuing to work this as diligently today as the day we found her.”
The FBI remains involved, tips continue to come in and interviews are ongoing. A reward fund for information leading to the prosecution of the killer has topped $30,000.
“There are a number of cases that are solved quickly,” Young said. “But in this case we continue to ask for the public’s help — anyone who may have seen anything, heard anything.”
Celina’s mother, Luisia, and 13-year-old sister, Kayla, were briefed for two hours by investigators Thursday on details of the investigation. They declined to comment when they left the Coos County Attorney’s office in Lancaster.
Since the discovery of Celina’s body, Luisia Cass has separated from her husband of a year, Wendell Noyes, who has a history of psychological problems.
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.
Luisia hasn’t filed for divorce only because she cannot afford the court fees, said the woman’s friend and employer, Jeannine Brady.
Brady said she saw Noyes smash a picture of Celina with his fist at a hotel in Canaan, Vt., where the family was staying while police searched their Stewartstown apartment.
Police have not named any potential suspects in the girl’s disappearance. Efforts by The Associated Press to locate a phone number for Noyes have been unsuccessful, and his family members have declined in the past to comment.
On the night of July 25, Celina watched her favorite television show, “The Secret Life of the American Teenager,” with her mother, Brady said. Luisia kissed her goodnight around 9 p.m. as Celina toyed with a computer in the living room of their apartment. Celina’s 13-year-old sister, Kayla, with whom she shared a room, was sleeping over at a friend’s house that night.
Luisia and Kayla wear crosses containing some of Celina’s ashes; the rest of the ashes are buried with her maternal grandmother in Groveton.
They have moved to an apartment in Vermont, not far from where Kayla attends school in Canaan. Like everyone else who knew Celina, they wait for answers.
“The community needs some finality,” Brady said. “It’s unnerving.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)