FBI joins search for girl missing from NH town

STEWARTSTOWN, N.H. (AP) — The disappearance of an 11-year-old girl from her house just a mile from the Canadian border rattled nerves in her small town Wednesday as crews searched the Connecticut River and cordoned the house with police tape.

Celina Cass was last seen in her house at a computer around 9 p.m. Monday and was gone the next morning, authorities said. Police have said that there’s no indication she ran away or that someone took her, and there are no signs of a struggle.

On Wednesday, the FBI joined the investigation into Celina’s disappearance and prosecutors from the attorney general’s office arrived in Stewartstown and took charge of it.

“We are still desperately looking for her,” said Senior Assistant Attorney General Jane Young, who typically handles homicide cases.

The specter of the girl’s disappearance hung heavy over Stewartstown, a community of 800 residents with one blinking streetlight and a handful of stores.

“It’s creepy,” said Shannon Towles, who owns Towles Mini-Mart on Route 3. “Things like this don’t happen here. I know that’s kind of a tired phrase. I’m an overprotective mom as it is. Now it’s going to be way worse.”

Celina’s stepfather, Wendell Noyes, described her as a quiet girl who would not have left home on her own. He declined to comment further on her disappearance.

By Wednesday afternoon, family members and friends were camped out on the porch of the three-story wooden home and shooed away reporters.

Young, the senior assistant attorney general, entered the home with several officers about 2 p.m. and came out with a woman, whom they walked to a nearby office building that served as a command post. Young declined to comment on that.

At midday Wednesday, about a mile north of town, five Fish and Game Department officers searched the woods behind an apartment. They carried bags and boxes, but it was unclear if they collected anything.

On Tuesday, state and federal law enforcement officials scoured the area within a half-mile of the family home, and relatives, friends and neighbors held a vigil for Celina near the house that night.

Celina’s disappearance did not meet the criteria for an Amber Alert and wasn’t considered suspicious, state police Sgt. Sheldon Belanger said. Police were going through phone and computer records at Celina’s home, he said.

“Honestly, we don’t know where else we can look,” said Lt. Douglas Gralenski, a state Fish and Game official whose agency is helping state police search the river. “There’s so much that’s unknown.”

Fliers with the girl’s smiling face are posted on trees, utility poles and stores in the town.

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