STEWARTSTOWN, N.H. --
The body of an 11-year-old girl who disappeared almost a week ago was discovered Monday in a river less than half a mile from her home, and authorities said they considered her death suspicious.
Celina Cass was reported missing July 26. New Hampshire Fish and Game Department divers found her body late Monday morning near a hydroelectric dam that spans the Connecticut River between her hometown, Stewartstown, and Canaan, Vt., ending a massive search, Senior Assistant Attorney General Jane Young said. The body was recovered from the river Monday evening, she said.
"We have brought Celina home, obviously not the way we wanted to bring her home," said Young, her voice breaking with emotion.
Authorities had said that Celina, who lived with her older sister, mother and stepfather a mile from the Canadian border, was last seen at her home computer around 9 p.m. on July 25 and was gone the next morning. Police said there was no sign of a struggle and there was no indication she ran away or someone took her.
Young declined to say whether there were any suspects in the girl's death.
"We have made no determination on where her body was eventually put in the river," she said.
An autopsy was scheduled for Tuesday to determine the cause and manner of death.
"Based on what we have seen visually, we are treating it as suspicious," Young said.
According to several media outlets, Celina's stepfather was taken to a hospital Monday morning. MSNBC reported that Wendell Noyes was taken by ambulance after repeatedly lying down in the family's driveway and rolling around, and video showed him dropping to his knees in the driveway and then lying face-down, with his head resting on his hands.
At the peak of the search for Celina, more than 100 federal, state and local law enforcement officers descended upon the town of 800 residents, searching a mile-wide area around her home, including woods and ponds.
Because of the town's remote location, law enforcement officers went so far as to have a cellphone tower erected to assist in communications.
Fliers featuring pictures of Celina with a gap-toothed smile had been put up throughout Stewartstown and neighboring communities. Residents passed out purple and pink ribbons and held vigils.
"People don't tend to think it's going to happen up here," said Karen Ramsey, of Lancaster, who has family in the area and helped pass out fliers. "It doesn't just happen in the city."
No one was more baffled by Celina's disappearance than her friends and family, who described her as studious and reliable, shy and timid, not the type to run away from home.
"We're all very devastated," said Jeffry Pettit, whose daughter Kaylin was a friend of Celina's, after word that the body had been found.
State police and FBI agents from as far away as New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia turned the local school into a bustling command post and searched a mile-wide area around Celina's home. The FBI brought in a special team specializing in child abductions.
In 2003, Noyes, the stepfather, was involuntarily committed to a hospital in Concord after he entered his girlfriend's house in the middle of the night and threatened to throw her down stairs, according to court documents. An order signed by a probate judge indicated Noyes suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and believed corrections officials implanted a transmitter in his body to keep track of him.
A court motion filed by his attorney at the time indicated Noyes served in Operation Desert Shield before receiving a medical discharge from the Air Force because of schizophrenia. The attorney didn't immediately return a call seeking comment Monday.
A spokeswoman for Upper Connecticut Valley Hospital, in Colebrook, N.H., said she couldn't comment on whether Noyes was taken to the hospital on Monday.
Associated Press writer David Sharp in Portland, Maine, contributed to this report.
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