The Celina Cass murder case took a major turn this week when the stepfather of the 11-year-old found dead in 2011 was arrested for her murder.
Wendell Noyes was arrested on Monday and charged with second-degree murder, the New Hampshire Attorney General’s office announced.
The announcement also shared some details on the murder of Celina Cass, saying that she was drowned.
“Attorney General Joseph Foster and Colonel Robert Quinn announce that Wendell Noyes (age 52) has been arrested on a charge of second degree murder for the killing of Celina Cass by submerging her body in the Connecticut River. Noyes was Celina’s step-father at the time of her murder.”
The investigation into the murder of Celina Cass had reportedly been zeroing in on Noyes for several months. The girl’s stepfather was long considered a suspect and drew attention with his bizarre behavior, which included crawling on his steps and pretending to throw a grenade in front of television crews.
Noyes had been initially questioned by police about Cass’ murder, but he was uncooperative and later checked himself into a mental hospital.
There had been signs for years that someone living with Cass may have been involved in her murder. Adam Laro, Celina’s biological father, said back in 2011 that he paid a visit to Celina and was upset to find Celina and her sister sleeping in a basement.
“It seems odd to me, very odd. Here they had two beautiful rooms and a nice place to live all of a sudden things got changed by certain people who I won’t name,” Laro told CBS Boston.
“Now all of a sudden they’re staying on an air mattress on the cellar floor, to me it’s kind of crazy.”
Laro also questioned how safe Celina Cass was in the home, noting that it seemed to have a lot of traffic in an out of it.
“It wasn’t a good atmosphere over there,” Laro told WCAX. “There were a lot of people in and out of that place and a lot of faces every time I went over there.”
At the time of her murder, there was also some public tension within the family. Laro spoke publicly about being shut out of Celina’s funeral, with her body being returned to her mother and Laro playing no part in planning her burial.
“They are making funeral arrangements without me, and I want to be a part of that,” he said. “And that makes me frustrated and that upsets me. She is my daughter and I want to be a part of that.”
Wendell Noyes was not the only adult living with Celina who had a criminal record. Kevin Mullaney, who was the son of Celina’s mother’s ex-boyfriend, had also served time in jail for auto theft.
State police visited Noyes’ home back in February to collect evidence, WCVB reported.
Celina Cass had gone missing on July 26, 2011, from her home in New Hampshire. This led to a region-wide search that involved the FBI and police agencies across New England. As NBC News noted, her case even appeared on the Today show for a week.
Six days later, her body was found wrapped in a rug at the bottom of a dam on the Connecticut River.
There was a mix of relief and grieving when police announced the arrest of Wendell Noyes. One friend said it was “about time” that police made an arrest, and her father spoke about how deeply he still missed his daughter.
Wendell Noyes is scheduled to be arraigned on Tuesday for the murder of Celina Cass.
[Image via New Hampshire State Police]