STEWARTSTOWN, N.H. — Law enforcement officials looking into the death of an 11-year-old New Hampshire girl whose body was pulled from a river this week entered her home with a warrant Wednesday and impounded her stepfather’s pickup truck as her mother began making arrangements for a private memorial service.
New Hampshire State Police loaded the late-model silver pickup truck onto a flatbed and gloved crime scene technicians examined its undercarriage before it was hauled away.
Investigators also re-entered the home as they sought evidence that could assist in the criminal investigation into the death of Celina Cass, who last was seen at a computer at her home the night of July 25 and was reported missing the next morning, Senior Assistant Attorney General Jane Young said.
The fifth-grader was missing for a week before her body was found Monday in the Connecticut River, which divides New Hampshire and Vermont. An autopsy didn’t immediately provide the cause or manner of her death. Investigators labeled her death suspicious and said the case was being treated as a criminal investigation.
With their home cordoned off by police tape, the family is staying with friends and relatives, but friends won’t disclose the family’s location.
Close family friend Jeanine Brady, the employer of Celina’s mother, Louisa Noyes, said the girl’s body has been turned over to the family and a service is being planned. Brady declined to say where or when the service would be held. She said it will be private.
Brady said Noyes has been surrounded by her family since Celina’s disappearance.
“She needed the utmost privacy,” Brady said.
The pickup was the second vehicle hauled away from the home in Stewartstown, a community of 800 residents. Police last week impounded a red pickup truck that neighbors say was driven by Kevin Mullaney, who had moved in with the family.
Mullaney and Celina’s stepfather, Wendell Noyes, previously have run afoul of the law. Mullaney was charged in a string of car thefts in 2007, and Noyes was arrested in 2003 for breaking into an ex-girlfriend’s home and threatening to throw her down a flight of stairs, according to court documents.
Wendell Noyes was involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital after the 2003 incident, and an order signed by a probate judge indicated he suffered from paranoid schizophrenia.
Mullaney pleaded guilty to stealing five cars and trucks in 2007 and was sentenced to 1½ to 3 years in prison and a consecutive term of four months in jail.
Brady declined to say whether Wendell Noyes was staying with Louisa’s family. Noyes initially spoke to reporters about Celina’s disappearance but later stopped speaking out. A man who answered the phone at the home of Wendell Noyes’ sister on Tuesday said no one at the house would talk to a reporter.
A message left with one of Mullaney’s family members wasn’t returned.
Friends close to Louisa Noyes say Mullaney, 23, is the son of a former boyfriend and moved into the Noyes’ home about a year ago, joining Wendell and Louisa Noyes and her children, Celina and her older sister, Kayla.
Brady, the family friend, described Louisa Noyes as a devoted mother who is devastated by her daughter’s death.
“Both her girls are everything to her,” Brady said. “She’s always put their needs before hers. But they were everything to each other.”
At the peak of the search for Celina, more than 100 federal, state and local law enforcement officers were involved. Divers found Celina’s body near a hydroelectric dam that spans the river between Stewartstown and Canaan, Vt.