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Celina Cass Case Becomes Criminal Investigation
The search for 11-year-old Celina Cass of Stewartstown is over.
Officials confirmed last night that it was her body pulled from the Connecticut River. But the investigation is continuing and experts say it will be a tricky one. NHPR’s Chris Jensen reports.
“We have brought Celina home, not the way we wanted to bring her home.”
That’s Senior Asistant Attorney General Jane Young at a news conference Monday night, almost a week since Celina Cass was reported missing from her home.
“It is with sadness that I report we discovered the body of Celina Cass in the Connecticut River in Stewartstown.
Young says divers from New Hampshire Fish and Game found the body about 10:30 in the morning only one-quarter mile from her home.
That was about the time her stepfather, Wendell Noyes, was taken by ambulance to a hospital in Colebrook.
Young says they are labeling Cass’s death suspicious.
She says the case has moved from a missing person investigation to a criminal investigation.
That’s going to be a huge challenge, according to David Finkelhor. He heads the Crimes Against Children Research Center at UNH.
Finkelhor says one problem is that nobody can be ruled out as suspect, including members of the family.
“It is a tremendous challenge for law enforcement when they have to consider family members suspects.”
Police have to question the family members thoroughly but that can be terribly hard on people who are already suffering over a loss they had nothing to do with.
Early last week the FBI brought in a team that specializes in child abduction.
Such a team can be a huge help, according to Ken Lanning, a 30-year veteran of the FBI with extensive experience in child abductions.
“In spite of what some people think child-abduction and long-term missing children cases are not as common as people think.”
Consequently most police departments are new to such investigations. That’s where the FBI team helps.
“They will direct or work or interact with people about how to do investigations, how to keep track of leads, how to organize command posts and how to behaviorally analyze the case.”
Starting last week police were going door to door in Stewartstown, a village of just 900 residents. Lanning says that’s important because people may have seen something that’s relevant and not realize it.
There’s another reason, too.
“Quite often when you are dealing with these cases the individual who is responsible either lives or works in the area.”
Senior assistant attorney general Jane Young, says the investigation will continue today.
The 11-year-old body of Celina Cass is scheduled for an autopsy this morning in Concord
For NHPR News, this is Chris Jensen