Five years after he was filmed rolling on the ground in apparent anguish, Wendell Noyes has been arrested for the murder of his 11-year-old stepdaughter Celina Cass, police said.
Noyes, 52, was charged Monday with second-degree murder and was expected to be arraigned Tuesday afternoon.
Celina's disappearance sparked massive searches in her small hometown of West Stewartstown and quickly became a national news story.
A distraught-looking Noyes appealed for help at the time, as relatives joined search teams combing the area near the Canadian border.
Celina vanished from the apartment she shared with her mother, her 13-year-old sister and the 22-year-old son of her mom’s former boyfriend.
She was last seen on the family’s computer on July 26, 2011, and reported missing the next day.
Her body was found six days later, wrapped in a rug at the bottom of a dam on the Connecticut River, about a half-mile from her home.
Noyes was questioned after her disappearance and had long been considered a suspect, authorities said, but investigators said he was uncooperative, and checked himself into a mental hospital not long after Celina’s remains were discovered.
Noyes lying on the ground, after apparently breaking down, while authorities searched for Celina.
He has a history of mental problems and was found incompetent to stand trial in a 2003 case in which he was charged with breaking into an ex-girlfriend’s house and threatening her, according to multiple media reports.
“It’s been nearly five years, but investigators never rested,” said Attorney General Joseph Foster and State Police Col. Robert Quinn in a joint statement released Monday.
Marcia Laro, Celina’s paternal grandmother, always suspected Noyes was the killer, she said.
“It was just the feeling we had,” Laro told the Boston Globe. “A comment here or there. He didn’t have a very good reputation. He was always in trouble.”
The grandmother said family members feared no one would ever be arrested for Celina’s murder. “Sometimes we did get discouraged because we hadn’t heard anything,” she told the paper.
State officials declined to say what prompted Noyes’ arrest on Monday. It was not clear whether he had obtained an attorney.