Justice for Celina.
That’s what everyone who loves Celina Cass wants for the murdered 11-year-old North Country girl. As the one-year anniversary of her death nears, Celina’s community plans a candlelight vigil to tell the world she has not been forgotten.
T-shirts have just been printed with her picture and those words — "Justice for Celina" — that many plan to wear to the vigil in the West Stewartstown town square on July 26 at 7 p.m.
Townspeople say they are angry no one has been arrested in connection with Celina’s slaying, that there is a murderer on the loose who may still be among them.
“I really want whoever did this to know her murder will be solved; you will be caught,” said Amanda Chapple, who is helping with the vigil. “She was too good a girl. We won’t forget her.”
Chapple, who babysat Celina and her sister, Kayla, when they were younger, said she wants to keep the pressure on to find Celina’s killer. The vigil is a group effort, she said.
“This is a collaboration of the whole community — the teachers, classmates, parents of classmates. This community is a family,” Chapple said.
Celina’s mother, Louisia Noyes, has moved again, this time to Colebrook. Citing irreconcilable differences, she filed for divorce against Wendell Noyes, Celina’s stepfather, in April. Divorce records show Wendell Noyes was ordered to temporarily pay Louisia Noyes $600 a month in alimony and her health insurance, but they shed no light on the criminal investigation.
Mrs. Noyes didn’t seek a restraining order, and had sought $289 a week in alimony, according to court records.
Her lawyer, Philip Waystack, said in the records that Mr. Noyes receives $4,000 a month from a military pension and Social Security. Mrs. Noyes’ total income was listed at $2,127 a month, which included $550 in child support benefits for Kayla paid through Social Security benefits of her father, Adam Laro, plus $320 in food stamps. The divorce has not been finalized.
They were married for less than a year when Celina disappeared, but had lived together for five years before that, according to court records. Waystack wrote that Mrs. Noyes was so traumatized by her daughter’s death that she is still unable to work.
Senior Assistant Attorney General Jane Young has released little information about the investigation, including the cause of death, to the frustration of many in this town of about 1,000 people near the Canadian border.
“Celina has not been forgotten,” Young said on Friday. “I still talk to investigators more days of the week than not.”
Celina’s body was found wrapped in a blanket submerged in the Connecticut River on Aug. 1, 2011, not far from the apartment she shared with her mother, stepfather, sister, and a boarder in West Stewartstown.
Celina was last seen alive on July 25, 2011, sitting at a computer in her living room. Her disappearance drew national attention as hundreds searched for the little girl who loved to play basketball and was looking forward to starting the sixth grade.
“State police continue to actively investigate this case. Any lead that came in has been investigated,” Young said.
She also confirmed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is also still involved in the case.
“To what extent we need them, they are involved,” Young said.
Celina’s mother wants someone to be held accountable.
“I want justice,” Mrs. Noyes said. “Yes, I’ll fight for justice for Celina.”
Authorities have not updated her about the investigation, she said.
“My life is a living hell,” Mrs. Noyes said. “I have my good days and my bad days.”
Jeannine Brady, the owner of Lads and Ladybugs consignment shop in Colebrook, Louisia Noyes’ friend and former employer, said the anger is growing in the area as weeks turned to months, and now a year with no arrest.
“About once a week, someone asks me if I heard anything,” Brady said. “I know that it’s very important for people to do the vigil for the one-year anniversary.” People speculate all the time about who may have done it, she said. “What is it that they haven’t gotten that they need? Why have they not been able to solve this?”
People need to know, she said. “The reality is there is somebody out there who committed her murder,” Brady said.
Kevin Mullaney, 24, the boarder who was living with the Noyes family when Celina disappeared, has been sent to state prison in Berlin for crimes unrelated to Celina’s murder. He was sentenced to three to six years after having been convicted of reckless conduct.
He was also sentenced to two concurrent sentences of two to four years each for receiving stolen property and being a felon in possession of a firearm, according to Jeffrey Lyons, spokesman for the Department of Corrections.
Mrs. Noyes has rekindled her relationship with Mullaney’s father, Mark Mullaney.
“I want the person that murdered my daughter to be convicted. I want the death penalty,” Mrs. Noyes said.
“My daughter did not deserve to die. She did not deserve to have someone who came in my home and took her away.’’
Amanda Hurlbert of Colebrook said she barely knew the Noyes family, but wants to see justice for Celina.
“At this point, most people are angry that nothing has happened,” Hurlbert said. “They wonder if it was brushed aside because of bigger cases in the state, like the shooting of the Greenland police chief.”
Chapple cleaned the apartment after the Noyes family moved out after Celina’s death.
Much had been left behind, she said. “There were photo albums, a picture of Celina in a cap and gown graduating from kindergarten, all left behind.”
Her youngest daughter has sometimes been fearful since Celina’s murder.
“She’s getting better, but at night she goes around the whole house and makes sure all windows and doors are locked. It’s rough,” Chapple said.
“It’s gotten to the point we feel we are such small community that the authorities have forgotten about us.
“We have been left in the dark. It’s not fair.”
Chapple said she worries that Celina has been forgotten.
“My heart breaks for Celina,” Chapple said.
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Nancy West may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.