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Search intensifies for missing Stewartstown girl as FBI joins hunt

By LORNA COLQUHOUN
Union Leader Correspondent

July 28. 2011 1:11PM
Residents gather in Stewartstown on Wednesday for a candlelight vigil for 11-year-old Celina Cass, who been missing since Tuesday morning. (LORNA COLQUHOUN)


STEWARTSTOWN - The search for a girl last seen Monday night at her downtown home intensified Thursday with more than four dozen investigators on the ground.

The FBI joined the search for Celina Cass, 11, on Wednesday, two days after she was last seen at her home. Senior Assistant Attorney General Jane Young said Thursday morning the case remains classified as a missing person case.

The Cass family's apartment building remains cordoned off, while the headquarters of the search has moved to the Stewartstown Community School.

Throughout the morning, police cars with lights flashing and sirens blaring rolled through this closely knit North Country town of about 900 located just a few miles from the Canadian border.

Along the downtown, where Route 3 passes through, about a half a dozen women stood in the hot July sun waving fliers and handing them out to the many motorists who stopped.

"Please help bring Celina home!" cried one girl to each car that passed.

"Say a prayer for Celina," said another teenage girl.

A man driving a bright yellow sports car pulled over to tell two of the women,"I hope you find her safe - God bless you both."

Lori Stott, for whom it is the second day standing roadside, said that since the activity of investigators has shifted away from downtown, she wants to make sure people know that Cass remains missing.

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Full text of original Lorna Colquhoun article continues below.

STEWARTSTOWN - Two days after a schoolgirl was discovered missing from her home in this small town near the Canadian border, an anxious community is banding together.

"We're building a bridge of hope," said Lori Stott, who stood alongside U.S. Route 3 with a picture of the missing girl so passing motorists could see it Wednesday.

Two doors down from the Washington Street home where Celina Cass, 11, lived with her family, a huge law enforcement contingent - including the FBI, New Hampshire and Vermont State Police, the U.S. Border Patrol and the Fish and Game Department - were holed up in a land management company office, directing the search.

"We are desperately trying to look for her," Jane Young, senior assistant attorney general, said at 5 p.m.

At an 8:30 p.m. news conference, Kiran Ramsey of the FBI office in New Hampshire said the Child Abduction Rapid Deployment team has been called into the case. Young said investigators are "treating this as a missing person case."

Around the corner from investigators, a candlelight vigil was being held in the town park. About 200 attended, including Cass' mother, Louisa Noyes, who was in a wheelchair, surrounded by friends and family.

Those who gathered were asked to sing "You are My Sunshine." A picnic table was covered with candles and a photo of the child. Many people were crying.

Earlier in the day, state police detectives wrapped the driveway of Celina Cass' home in yellow tape; the family and friends who had been gathering there all day left the property. South of town, conservation officers and border patrol officers were seen searching the roadside.

Officials are saying little about the investigation, but encourage anyone with information to contact them.

There are more questions than there are answers.

At noon, State Police Detective Sheldon Belanger characterized the case as "not suspicious," but referred further questions to Young, who is a homicide prosecutor.

He said an Amber Alert was not issued because the circumstances of the case have not risen to what he described as "strict criteria."

Throughout the afternoon on Wednesday, conservation officers were dispatched to a couple of areas, where they conducted line searches, including to the Northern View apartments.

"She lived here several years ago," said Art Lincoln, a resident of the complex. "I've known her since she was born."

The complex had several "missing" posters tacked up. Lincoln said he couldn't sleep at all Tuesday, wondering what might have happened to Celina.

Residents describe the area behind the complex as thickly wooded and swampy.

"I've walked up in those woods a lot and it's eerie," Lincoln said.

Shortly after the conservation officers took to the woods, two state police detectives, one carrying a box, went into the woods and came out about 20 minutes later.

Around the corner from the apartment complex, counselors and teachers spent the day at the Stewartstown School, where Celina Cass will be a 5th-grader.

School Superintendent Robert Mills said the girl was popular with the 85 students in the K-8 school and was athletic, playing basketball.

Around town, residents said she could be seen around town with her mother, with whom she was close.

"A lot of kids are upset and I wanted to have people here to give support to them," Mills said. "The parents are scared - what they are hearing is that (Cass) was on the computer and then she couldn't be found."

There is frustration, he said, because "one night she's here and the next morning she's gone."

Since Cass disappeared, Stott said she is taking precautions, including removing fans and locking windows.

"My 18-year-old asked if she could sleep with me last night because she is so scared," she said. "Until now, we never worried about someone taking a child."

Celina Cass was described as 5 feet, 5 inches tall, weighing 95 pounds. She has long brown hair and hazel eyes, according to investigators.

She was last seen in her home at 9 p.m. Monday, and was wearing a pink shirt, pink pullover, blue shorts and shoes.

Anyone with information is asked to call 603-846-3333.


Public Safety Stewartstown


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