Despite autopsy, cause of NH girl's death still listed as pending

Image:
A picture of Celina Cass sits among the items left at a memorial for her at a park in Stewartstown, N.H., on Monday.Steve Legge / AP
/ Source: NBC News and msnbc.com

The cause and manner of 11-year-old Celina Cass' death remains pending, despite completion of an autopsy, a state official said Tuesday night.

The New Hampshire girl was found dead in a river on Monday, a week after she was reported missing.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Jane Young said investigators are awaiting toxicology results and further investigating before being able to determine the cause of Celina's death. She said a criminal investigation into Celina's death continues.

Young declined to comment on whether the investigation has a person or persons of interest in the case. "We continue to look at all facets of this case," she said.

Community residents were saddened that state officials weren't able to provide them with any closure.

"I don't even know what to say. I thought the community needed some answers, and I thought we were going to get them tonight," said Debbie Whelan, whose daughter, a friend of Celina's, was sobbing after watching a news report on a TV monitor.

Before the press conference Tuesday evening, several police cars and a police evidence van arrived at the Connecticut River near the dam where divers found the body of Celina. Young said they returned to the dam to look for more information. Law enforcement officers quickly set up a tent. Orange markers dotted the grass leading to a railroad trestle.

The fifth-grader was missing for nearly a week. Her body was found Monday in the river about a quarter-mile from her home in Stewartstown, a community of 800 residents.

The police activity came before the planned news conference by the state attorney general's office to discuss the outcome of the girl's autopsy.

The death of Celina was being treated as a criminal investigation after it was determined that her body was placed in the river, New Hampshire Senior Assistant Attorney General Jane Young said Monday.

Divers pulled Celina's body from the Connecticut River on Monday morning. The news devastated her tiny New Hampshire town's residents, who had been scouring the area and handing out photos of Celina since she was last seen at her home computer around 9 p.m. on July 25.

Stewartstown is a mile from the Canadian border. Celina's body was found near a hydroelectric dam that spans the Connecticut River between Stewartstown and Canaan, Vt., Young said.

Police said there was no sign of a struggle and no indication she ran away or was kidnapped.

But based on what divers found, "We are treating her death as a suspicious death at this time," Young said, according to the .

Stepfather committed
Earlier Monday, Celina's stepfather was hospitalized after displaying odd behavior outside the family home.

Wendell Noyes, who was was seen repeatedly lying face down and rolling around in the home's driveway, MSNBC video showed.

that Noyes had been institutionalized after threatening an ex-girlfriend.

Police have not identified Noyes or anyone else as a suspect. Investigators are focusing on the family home since it was the last place Celina was seen; her mother and stepfather are cooperating, NBC's Michelle Franzen reported.

More than 100 investigators had searched for the girl by air, land and water in New Hampshire and neighboring Vermont. The FBI offered a $25,000 reward and a separate $5,000 reward was also being offered.

Authorities fielded more than 500 tips, according to NBC.

A teenager who knows Celina described her as not the sort of person to go off with a stranger. "She was very shy. If she didn't know you, she would look to her older sister to make sure you were okay," Kayla Baglio was quoted by as saying.

A candlelight vigil was held Monday night for Celina, where her friends spoke about how much they'll miss the fifth-grader. They wrote messages, such as "See you in heaven," on balloons for her, . Celina's family did not attend the vigil, but spoke to the media about the search.

"Fish and game [divers], Attorney General, FBI, they were all there when we needed them," Walter Laro, the girl's grandfather said, according to ABC. "The news media was very good to us, very good to us and they really helped out as much as they could. All we're looking for now is answers."