STEWARTSTOWN, N.H. (AP) - A female's body was discovered Monday in a river less than half a mile from the home of an 11-year-old New Hampshire girl who disappeared almost a week ago, but authorities didn't immediately identify it.
Celina Cass was last seen in her Stewartstown home on July 25. Investigators who were searching for her found the body late Monday morning near a hydroelectric dam that spans the Connecticut River between Stewartstown and Canaan, Vt., according to Essex County state attorney Vincent Illuzzi in Vermont.
A dive team had been searching the river, and when it surfaced, investigators blocked off the area and asked reporters to leave. New Hampshire authorities confirmed that a body had been found and said more information would be released later Monday.
Celina, who lived with her older sister, mother and stepfather a mile from the Canadian border, was last seen at a computer around 9 p.m. and was gone the next morning, authorities said. Police said there was no sign of a struggle, and there was no indication she ran away or that someone took her.
"I hope she comes back safe. I hope she's not dead," said 9-year-old Autumn Jenna of Stewartstown, who attends the same school as Cass. Her father, Adam Jenna, said the area around the dam is known for its scenic views.
"I've taken my children there," he said. "I'm hoping it isn't her."
Friends and family described Cass as studious and reliable, shy and timid, not the type to run away from home. Her disappearance drew more than 100 federal, state and local law enforcement officers to Stewartstown, a town of 800 residents. Because of its remote location, law enforcement officers went so far as to have a cellphone tower erected to assist in communications.
State police and FBI agents from as far away as New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia turned the local school into a bustling command post and searched a mile-wide area around the home. The FBI brought in a special team specializing in child abductions.
According to several media outlets, Cass's stepfather was taken to a hospital Monday morning. MSNBC reported that Wendell Noyes was taken by ambulance after repeatedly laying down in the family's driveway and rolling around, and video showed him dropping to his knees in the driveway and then laying face-down, with his head resting on his hands.
A spokeswoman for Upper Connecticut Valley Hospital, in Colebrook, N.H., said she couldn't comment on whether Noyes was taken to the hospital.
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 down stairs, according to court documents. An order signed by a probate judge indicated Noyes suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and believed corrections officials implanted a transmitter in his body to keep track of him.
A court motion filed by his attorney at the time indicated Noyes served in Operation Desert Shield before receiving a medical discharge from the Air Force because of schizophrenia. The attorney didn't immediately return a call seeking comment.
Associated Press writer David Sharp in Portland, Maine, contributed to this report.