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Body recovered of missing West Stewartstown girl in Connecticut River

August 03, 2011
WEST STEWARTSTOWN — The search for 11-year-old Celina Cass was brought to an abrupt end Monday morning as her body was recovered from the Connecticut River by a dive team just a short distance from her home.

"It's with sadness that I report earlier today we discovered the body of Celina Cass," said Senior Assistant Attorney General Jane Young. "I would like to extend my sincere condolences on behalf of the State Police, the FBI and the Attorney General's office to the friends and family of Celina Cass as well as this community who loved her and cherished her."

Approximately at 10:30 a.m. Monday Fish and Game divers were doing a routine search of the Connecticut River as part of the search when they discovered Cass' body. She was found in the water near the Public Service of New Hampshire hydro dam just over the border in Canaan, Vt. and about a quarter-mile from her house. After police finished processing the area her body was pulled out by dive teams at 5 p.m.

Officials are treating Cass' death as suspicious and have now labeled this previous missing person's case as a criminal investigation. Cass' body was transferred to the medical examiner's office in Concord to undergo an autopsy Tuesday morning.

Officials are continuing to investigate the case by talking to witnesses and looking at areas where she was last seen. One such area includes the apartment she lived in with her family that currently has been roped off by yellow police tape and had been previously at the start of Cass' disappearance. The tips kept pouring in from the public throughout this investigation and in the end there had been over 500.

As of Sunday morning dive teams were seen searching for any sign of Cass in Back Pond, which is less than a mile away from the apartment she was last seen in around 9 p.m. on July 25. Line searches with men on the ground and in the air, via helicopter, had occurred throughout the week.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation's child abduction rapid deployment team added a $25,000 incentive Saturday morning for any information directly leading to the whereabouts of Cass and to the conviction of parties involved in her disappearance. Another reward of $5,000 was also on the table from a local anonymous source just for information that would lead to Cass' discovery.

Sunday afternoon was the first time that a member of Cass' family has decided to speak openly to reporters. That person was none other than her biological father Adam Laro, who until last Thursday was in the hospital in critical condition with a serious heart ailment and in a medically induced coma before the disappearance took place. It was last heard that Laro had returned to the hospital and was being treated intravenously.

Cass' stepfather Wendell Noyes has more of a checkered past according to court documents. In 2003 Noyes was involuntarily committed to a hospital because of schizophrenia and arrested for threatening an ex-girlfriend.

More than 100 officials have been involved in the investigation, including N.H. State Police, the N.H. Fish & Game, the FBI, the U.S. Border Patrol, Vermont State Police, the N.H. Attorney General's Office, special K-9 units (including one trained in water recovery from Connecticut) and local police from Colebrook, Canaan and Pittsburg. The latest group to join the search was the Massachusetts State Police on Saturday afternoon, bringing up with them not only extra men, but ATV's and a Search and Rescue Bandvagn 206 all-terrain carrier as well. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police in the province of Quebec had also been alerted to the girl's disappearance. There were at least another 100 men that were available to come in and assist the investigation had they been needed.

Officials have also gone through phone records and the computer Cass used on the last night she was seen. The results from those sources have yet to be disclosed to the public.

Over the course of last week officials canvassed over 300 homes and proceeded to continue over the weekend as during the workweek not everyone was home to be questioned. A temporary cell tower had also been brought into the town to allow more efficient communication between search personnel.

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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