Celina Cass, the eleven-year-old New Hampshire girl who went missing on July 25, has been found dead in a river half a mile from her home on Monday.
Though the finding of her body has brought to an end a massive air, land and water-borne search operation conducted by the local police and the FBI, the investigators now have the harder task of unlocking the mystery behind her disappearance and death.
All that New Hampshire Assistant Attorney General Jane Young could say on Monday was that the death of Celina will be treated as a criminal investigation. The New Hampshire state police troopers have secured the area around her house as a crime scene.
"Based on what we have seen visually we are treating it as suspicious ... She was located in the water so we are trying to determine how her body was put in the water," said Young.
Celina was last seen in her bedroom on July 25, playing on her computer. The next morning she was gone. She was living with her mother and step father. Several of friends attested to the fact that she was unlikely to run away with a stranger. Police had not been able to establish any sign of abduction or force being used, but there were also no hints that she could have run away.
Police talked to all residents in her hometown of Stewartstown, hoping get clues about her disappearance. The FBI had offered a reward of $25,000 for clues leading to her finding. A local community member had offered another $5,000.
Investigators were reported to have got around 225 tips, some of which come from as far away as North Carolina and Illinois, but it is not clear if any of this led to the finding of her body in the river.
On Monday morning, divers dug out Celina's body near a hydroelectric dam on the Connecticut River between Stewartstown and the town of Canaan, Vermont.
After the body was found, New Hampshire news station WMUR reported that investigators are looking at the death as suspicious.
Police will take some time before they judge if Celina's stepfather Wendell Noyes, an ex-Air force staff, is of any interest to the investigations going forward.
On local radio shows, comments kept calling attention to the Facebook profile of Noyes which they referred to as “creepy”. Noyes was diagnosed with schizophrenia and institutionalised in 2003. There has been at least one case in which he was accused of threatening an ex- girlfriend. But in this case, he was declared unfit to stand trial owing to his mental illness.
On Thursday, he said the family was "in the process of grieving." After it was confirmed that Celina's body was identified, he was taken to hospital, as he apparently hurt himself rolling over in the ground in the drive way.
Celina's biological father, Adam Laro, said before the body was found, saying that she welcomed her home. "Come home. Whenever you are ready to come home, daddy is ready for you," speaking publicly for the first time since she went missing. Laro was in hospital when Celina went missing.