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Stepdad accused of killing N.H. girl, 11, appears in court

BERLIN, N.H. -- A judge has put the case against a New Hampshire man accused of killing his stepdaughter in 2011 on hold pending a psychiatric evaluation.

Wendell Noyes made an initial court appearance Tuesday on a second-degree murder charge. He was arrested Monday at the state psychiatric hospital, where he had been since December after being found incompetent to stand trial on unrelated misdemeanors.

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11-year-old New Hampshire girl Celina Cass. Personal Photo

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.

An intense search began that attracted federal, state and local law enforcement officers to the tiny North Country town a mile from the Canadian border.

Celina's body was recovered from the Connecticut River six days later. It was found wrapped in a blanket, reports CBS Boston. Noyes is accused of killing Cass by submerging her body in the river.

Noyes appeared before a judge via video conference from the county jail. He indicated he understood the charges, and his eyes widened when he heard he could face up to life in prison.

His attorney and prosecutors agreed to delay scheduling his next hearing until he undergoes an evaluation.

Prosecutors have not said what led them to charge Noyes. They have said the investigation since Celina's death has been "active."

Her mother, Louisia Cass, told reporters that she had long suspected her ex-husband was involved and said she hopes he "rots so bad."

She also told WMUR-TV that she doesn't understand why anyone would take her baby girl. She divorced Noyes after nine months of marriage and said she yearned for closure that only an arrest could bring.

"I could hear her saying, 'Mommy, don't give up on me,'" she said.

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

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

The girl's paternal grandmother Marcia Laro told CBS Boston their family broke down when they learned the news someone had finally been arrested after five years.

"Sort of weepy," Laro said. "Just a relief. Just to know that they arrested him and that they have been working on this case all this time."

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