BERLIN, N.H. >> The stepfather of an 11-year-old girl killed nearly five years ago was scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday on a murder charge in her death.

Wendell Noyes, 52, was arrested Monday on a second-degree murder charge in the death of Celina Cass. The girl, last seen at her home computer, was reported missing July 26, 2011. That led to an intense search that attracted federal, state and local law enforcement officers to the tiny North Country town of Stewartstown, a mile from the Canadian border.

Celina's body was recovered from the Connecticut River six days later. Noyes is accused of killing Celina by submerging her body in the river.

Her mother, Louisia Cass, said she long suspected her ex-husband was involved. When asked how she felt Tuesday, she said, "Rage. Hate. I hope he rots in hell."

Cass said Noyes — her husband of nine months — seemed loving and caring, and her children were happy. "He never did anything that was suspicious," she said.

She said she spent her last night with her daughter watching TV in her rocking chair. "I was rocking her." Cass said before she went to bed, she told Celina, "I love you" and hugged her. She said Noyes was drinking with friends on the porch.

In 2011, Noyes said he had nothing to do with Celina's disappearance and death.


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A phone number listed for Noyes was disconnected. A message was left with public defender Martha Hornick, who represented him in previous, unrelated cases.

Noyes was deemed unfit to stand trial in a 2003 case in which he was charged with breaking into an ex-girlfriend's home and threatening her.

Prosecutors have not said what led them to charge Noyes, of Stewartstown. They have said the investigation since her death has been "active." A court affidavit on Noyes' case was sealed Tuesday.

Celina's home is now gone. It was razed after being heavily damaged by fire in December 2013. The fifth-grader, who played basketball on her school team in nearby Canaan, Vermont, is buried in a cemetery in Groveton.