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Death suspicious as body of missing girl is found in river

The body of an 11-year-old New Hampshire girl who disappeared almost a week ago was found Monday in a river less than a half-mile from her home, and authorities said they considered her death suspicious.

Celina Cass was reported missing last Tuesday. New Hampshire divers found her body late Monday morning near a hydroelectric dam that spans the Connecticut River between her hometown of Stewartstown and Canaan, Vt., ending a massive search, Senior Assistant Attorney General Jane Young said. The body was recovered from the river Monday evening.

"We have brought Celina home, obviously not the way we wanted to bring her home," said Young, her voice breaking with emotion.

Authorities had said that Celina, who lived with her older sister, mother and stepfather a mile from the Canadian border, was last seen at her home computer at about 9 p.m. July 25 and was gone the next morning. Police said there was no sign of a struggle and no indication that she had run away or been abducted.

Young declined to say whether there were any suspects in the girl's death. "We have made no determination on where her body was eventually put in the river," she said.

An autopsy was scheduled for today to determine the cause and manner of death. "Based on what we have seen visually, we are treating it as suspicious," Young said.

According to several media outlets, Celina's stepfather was taken to a hospital Monday morning. MSNBC reported that Wendell Noyes was taken by ambulance after repeatedly lying down in the family's driveway and rolling around. Video showed him dropping to his knees in the driveway, then lying facedown, with his head resting on his hands.

In 2003, Noyes was involuntarily committed to New Hampshire Hospital in Concord after he entered his girlfriend's house in the middle of the night and threatened to throw her downstairs, according to court documents. An order signed by a probate judge indicated that Noyes suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and believed that corrections officials implanted a transmitter in his body to keep track of him.

During the search of a mile-wide area around Celina's home, State Police and FBI agents from as far away as New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia turned the local school into a bustling command post. The FBI brought in a team specializing in child abductions.