WEST STEWARTSTOWN, N.H. (CBS) — The former stepfather of Celina Cass showed no emotion during a video arraignment Tuesday as he faced second-degree murder charge in the girl’s 2011 death.
Wendell Noyes, 52, was arrested Monday afternoon at a state mental health hospital. He is being held pending a probable cause hearing.
Police say he killed 11-year-old Celina Cass by submerging her body in the Connecticut River five years ago. His charge carries a possible life sentence.
Noyes did not enter a plea Tuesday, and there was no bail hearing. His defense attorney said she has concerns about his competency, saying that the same judge presiding over Tuesday’s arraignment found Noyes to be incompetent last fall.
Cass was reported missing from her home in West Stewartstown, New Hampshire on July 26, 2011. Her body was found wrapped in a blanket six days later in the river about a half-mile from her home. It was Noyes who reported her missing.
Investigators questioned him after the murder, but he was uncooperative. Days later, he checked himself into a mental hospital.
Celina’s mother, Louisa Cass, told WBZ’s Lauren Leamanczyk Tuesday she wants Noyes to “rot in hell,” and that she was upset it took so long for someone to be arrested.
“Finally after five years, we’re going to get justice,” Louisa Cass said.
She added that she does not believe Noyes acted alone.
Louisa Cass said seeing her ex-husband in court was both satisfying and painful.
“I want to reach out and punch him. I want to yell and scream at him,” Louisa Cass said.
Celina’s paternal grandmother Marcia Laro said Tuesday their family broke down when they heard about the arrest.
She said she and Cass’s father are now hopeful they will finally get the answers they’ve sought.
“We were getting discouraged, afraid that it was going to be a closed case,” said Laro. “So it was a big relief to know they’ve got somebody in custody.”
The arrest also comes as some relief to many in this small town, but many, like Donna Lapierre, say they doubt Noyes acted alone. Lapierre’s son was a friend of Celina’s.
“He was scared,” she said. “It’s scary telling little kids wondering who’s out there and who did something like that.”
Noyes remained in the area, and residents said they weren’t surprised to learn that he was arrested. They say he acted strangely, especially when he was off his medication.
“He’s been bothering people,” said one woman. “There’s a lot of people that were scared of him.”