When I was 9 years old I moved to Middleborough, large in area but still very small town in feel, especially in those days. Think cranberry bogs and small downtown area. I was entering into the fourth grade, kids I met and played with at recess would walk the edge of the woods that bordered around Burkland School and talk. Inevitably, there were two stories that came up. These were actual cases that actually occurred in the small downtown area that I called home at the time. One was the murder of a teenage girl, much more recent and very close to this school – I will detail that case in another post…and this case, a cautionary tale, in a very Adam Walsh way, a reminder to kids why you really shouldn’t talk to strangers that the time period was a little fuzzy on.
As most town lore goes, the stories were mostly short of details and then the details that you did hear frequently changed or the kids that were telling the details did not understand them. I think that’s a good thing especially for this case in particular, because it’s worse than any “monster under the bed” story. At that time, in the mid-eighties, it happened so long ago even at that time that no one was sure when it happened.
So, here is the real story…according to my research. I have included the sources below.
Ellen I. Gamache born July 5th, 1960 to Patricia and James Gamache. She, at the start of this story, was a small, five year old girl with short red hair. She lived with her family on Wood Street in Middleborough, Massachusetts. July 29th, 1965, Ellen went to the town playground with her two older brothers who were ages 8 and 12, and stayed in the kiddie corner area of the playground while the boys walked down the hill to the Town Pool. This playground is in close proximity to the town police and fire stations and was frequented by many parents with their small children in an area that is considered very safe.
Around 4 pm, Ellen could not be found by her brothers. By 6 pm, they had searched their neighborhood and their mother called the police who launched a large scale search launched for Ellen. Over 200 police with bloodhounds and volunteers searched, but she could not be located. The publicity of the search lead to tips, and were some sightings of Ellen, from a girl who saw Ellen in the man’s car and her and her mother reported it to police, and from other children saw her at the playground that day. There are some reports that Smith took her for an ice cream cone.
The search was extensive, residents and police combed the area looking for her. There was an expanded search at the Town Dump because several people had seen the suspect there not long after Ellen went missing. This search did not locate her but it seemed to bring in just enough tips to make Paul N. Smith a serious suspect.
Sadly, her body was found on August 8, 1965. She was located by a woman picking blueberries who had followed her nose to identify an putrid smell in the area. The place where she was found was a wooded area, off Montgomery Street in Lakeville, Massachusetts. According to sources, Ellen was found face down, naked from the waist down with her pants draped over her and her underwear missing. Her body was in an advanced state of decomposition and she was identified through her clothing. Smith stated he put his hand over her mouth until she was dead, both at trial and to another inmate. Autopsy found that Ellen had been stabbed 4 times, beaten and had clearly been sexually assaulted.
Paint chips found in the area near the body were later tied to the suspect, Paul N. Smith. Smith was a 33 year old painter and Handyman who was visiting his brother in town. Smith, a sex offender from the state of New Hampshire, was spotted at the playground while Ellen was there playing. He acted suspiciously after Ellen disappeared and a tip was called in by one of his own relatives. Additionally, his car was in background of pictures taken at the playground that day. He made attempts to sell his car just after the murder, and then traveled out of state to visit extended family. The car was located and impounded. Debris in his car also was similar to debris found on the victim. It is said in sources that he initially attempted to coerce another girl, to go with him for ice cream the day before. I wonder if her refusal saved her life.
The FBI came looking for Mr. Smith, prompting him to flee, leaving his things behind which included blood stained clothes and a knife. A stain from human blood was found on the defendant’s trousers in the suitcase. Due to the time period, DNA was not used in this case.
Police caught up with Paul Smith, and he was arrested in Vermont by August 9, 1965. He was indicted in September on 4 charges . He did not deny committing the crime with his defense being what amounts to insanity with his diagnosed schizophrenia causing him to have the “irresistible” urges to molest and kill a young girl. These urges had been present for some time but he said that he so far had been able to resist the urges. He was a convicted sex offender in the State of Vermont for prior acts that I was unable to uncover during the research.
He faced two trials in this case. The initial conviction was reversed on appeal. One objections was that the venue should have been changed due to a photograph that showed Smith reenacting Ellen’s death during the investigation tainting the jury pool. He was convicted of first degree murder during the second trial. and received a sentence of life in prison.
In 2018, a prison guard was accused of assaulting Smith who was 86 years old at the time, and received lacerations to his face. It’s hard to feel bad for Smith no matter what he has suffered in prison.
Ellen is buried in St Mary’s Cemetery in Middleborough.
Celina Cass was born January 2, 2000. She was tall for her age at 5’5 and weighed just around 92 lbs. Some of her classmates noted she was almost as tall as the teachers which hit my heart a little because I have a little sister that was the same way at her age.
At 11 years old, Celina had just finished the fourth grade. She was looking forward to entering the fifth grade at West Stewartstown Elementary School. Her favorite colors were pink and purple. She enjoyed dancing, swimming and arts and crafts. She played basketball and enjoyed spending time with her friends.
Celina’s crooked tooth smile made her face unforgettable to the people who followed the case. According to an article quoting Marcia Laro, her paternal grandmother, this malformation was due to an accident while fooling around with friends a few years before, and she was that very week scheduled to have braces that would have corrected her teeth.
The small New Hampshire town of West Stewartstown had population of between 380-900 inhabitants, depending on the source you trust, but in any case was so small that Celina’s class had just 10 fourth graders.
Celina lived an apartment house that had 4 apartments, that was one of the main streets through town, next to a restaurant and an old building that was once a school. The house was a large house described in many articles as, ”Ramshackle”, and in need of repair. This apartment was where she was last reported as seen by multiple sources.
Celina lived with her mother, Louisa Cass; Her stepfather, Wendell Noyes; His mother Eunice (who seemed to mainly just stay overnight) , An adult son of Louisa’s previous boyfriend, 22 year old Kevin Mullaney and her 13 year old sister Kayla. Louisa had been married to Wendell since October 2010, so only 9 months when Celina went missing but the couple had been dating for a couple of years. Pictures of this wedding are still visible as of the writing of this post if you find Wendell Noyes on Facebook. The family looks happy with no inclination of what’s to come.
Sources from the school reported that Celina had reported being uncomfortable or afraid around Wendell shortly after the marriage, but I saw nothing in these articles about any follow-up being done after these reports. Celina’s older sister reported that Wendell watched porn in the open at the home, and often referred to Celina as “Little Big Hoota”.
Celina’s father, Adam Laro, had been having severe health challenges including congestive health failure and was reportedly in a medically induced coma just before the incident and signed himself out against medical advice when he found out Celina was missing. He had not heard that Celina was having any problems in the home but I feel like it’s very possible she would not want to worry a sick parent or thought it would cause strife between Laro and her mother. It made me sad when he wondered out loud in interviews in the following months and years if there was anything he could have done or questions he could have asked that would have lead to revelations or somehow change what happened.
I saw several sources question why Kevin Mullaney, a 22 year old with felony convictions would have been living with the family. Mullaney publicly stated in articles that Louisa was like a mother to him, especially after his own mother passed away. Being that Louisa used to date Mullaney’s father, it is unclear how long that she had been in his life so it makes sense to me. In a world where relationships are short lived, I feel like there are a lot of people who connect with former partners of their parents. That said, I do see the concern with his less than stellar record then, and his future convictions since. One of the future convictions was fraud from trying to forge a check belonging to Louisa so I do wonder how she feels about him now.
The evening of July 25, 2011 was not a normal evening, even before Celina went missing. Her sister Kayla went to sleep at a friend’s house. This friend was 17 year old, Kaylin , who was said to be Kevin Mullaney’s girlfriend at the time. There was a car accident around 8:00 pm where a local resident hit a deer and briefly afterwards, Celina and her mother came outside to see the commotion. Neighbors, Jason Atwood and his girlfriend, Cassandra Hunt saw Celina at that time dressed in a pink shirt, denim shorts and flip flops. They reportedly returned home between 8:30 and 9:00 pm because it had started raining. The last reported sighting of Celina was at 9 pm that same night of July 25th, 2011 when her mother went to bed. Noyes reports several different stories of when he last saw her so I am going with Louisa’s version, where she hugged her daughter good night and said she loved her. Celina had been using the computer. This was verified by computer forensics that indicated that Celina was logged in IMVU, a social media site, from 09:05 pm until 10:28 pm. Kevin reportedly returned home around midnight but saw nothing out of the ordinary, made himself food and went to bed and left early the next morning for work.
Louisa testified that she got up around 2 am to use the bathroom. She stated that after she returned to bed, Wendell got up to use the bathroom but she does not remember him coming back to bed as she went back to sleep. Remember this, it’s important later. Louisa got up between 7:00-7:30 and left for work around 8 am.
Shortly after 8 am, Kayla returned home with Kaylin, and Wendell told her that Celina was missing. Kayla left and drove around the area with Kaylin but returned home after not locating Celina. Kayla noted that she realized that Wendell had not yet notified her mother, so she dialed the shop and handed Wendell the phone to make certain that her mother was aware. Louisa later reports that call came into her at around 9:00 am and she came directly home.
According to a friend of Wendell’s, Robert Wheeler, Wendell reported to him that Celina was missing at 7:40 am. This is where the inconsistencies start. This would have indicated that he was aware she was missing prior to Celina’s mother leaving for work and he never told her that Celina was missing at that time. A 9-1-1 call was placed by a neighbor, Deborah Whalen, when she heard Celina was missing and no one had yet notified the authorities, this call was placed at approximately 10:50 am, and first responders arrived at around quarter past 11. Another one of Wendell’s friends indicated an entire conversation that Wendell had with Kayla about getting Celina while they were speaking on the phone, and then Celina not being there when later it was discovered Kayla was not even home yet. She was still with Kaylin.
This missing person report triggered a massive search, including authorities who seemed to take the case seriously immediately. Investigators immediately noted that Celina’s bed was stripped to the egg crate covering and Kayla’s bed was made. There was insulation that was noted in photographs of the bedroom that was later matched through door in cellar near the bulkhead. This is believed to be how the body was taken out of the home.
Both Kayla and Louisa both noted that Wendell was doing laundry, which they both mentioned was strange as he never would have done that by routine. This would most certainly not be something someone would do after finding a child missing. One of Celina’s sheet were in this load of laundry.
Wendell Noyes changed his story several times about when he last saw Celina, how many beers he drank the night before and what time he got up during the night and the morning. During an interview with police, Noyes walked out of an interview when police tried to discuss the inconsistencies in his story. He was followed by the police who monitored him as he walked to the bridge and yelled as he gestured towards the dam where Celina was later found. In another instance he drove investigators in a circle around where Celina was later found when they asked him to show them areas where he thought they should search.
Three days after the disappearance, Wendell reported in an interview that the family was “grieving” as if he was already aware that she was gone. During a vigil, He reported folded her pictures down and while they were moved to the hotel for the investigation of the home, Wendell allegedly punch Celina’s picture 3 times in front of a witness. He denies these events. He also pretended to throw a grenade at the media. Louisa says in interviews that she grew suspicious of Noye’s involvement, and separated from him.
Celina’s body was found on August 1, 2011. She was submerged in 15 ft of water near the Canaan Hydrostation Dam and the railroad trestle about a half a mile from Celina’s apartment. According to the arrest affidavit, Celina’s body was wrapped in a Blue Comforter and a Plaid Blanket. There are pictures if you visit the link for the affidavit . There was twine wrapped around the exterior of the Blue comforter that was approximately 30 ft in length and wrapped around overlapping itself, and tied in knots. A rolled up Winnie the Pooh sheet was tucked between her legs along with a sandbag that weighed approximately 52 lbs. The sandbag was believed to be heavier but some contents had been spilled out. This sand was thought to have been intended to weigh the body down. Her cause of death was not immediately released but was later thought to be drowning. She was wearing only a t-shirt and a bra when she was found. Later interviews with police lead to the information that Louisa kept twine the same or similar to this twine for crafts and it was stored in Wendell’s toolbox. The sand bag between Celina’s legs when her body was found matched the other 3 sandbags from Wendell’s truck. Eunice had given these to Wendell and stated there had been 4. These bags weighed 70 lbs, they bag with Celina has lost some of it’s contents. Celina’s cause of death was drowning and her vaginal area had abrasions that indicated that could have indicated sexual penetration.
Wendell was hospitalized when her body was found after bizarre behavior including laying face down in the driveway. On August 4, 2011 Wendell Noyes checked himself into a mental health clinic. This was not the first time that he has sought help for mental health issues. In 2003, He was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and committed to a state psychiatric facility after breaking into a former girlfriend’s home and threatening to harm her. In that case, he was found incompetent to stand trial.
In 2013, the Cass’s apartment home went up in flames. No cause was released in the fire and the family had no longer lived there at the time of the fire.
In 2015, an inmate sharing a space near Mr Noyes indicated that Mr Noyes confessed to him that he had in fact, killed Celina because Noyes, and another unnamed man were having sex with her and thought that they might have gotten her pregnant. The inmate was confirmed to be in the space near Mr Noyes there was no way to corroborate the information, or the source, due to the fact these two were the only inmates in the immediate area.
Interesting side note, though possibly not directly related to this case, in 2019 Gordon Noyes – brother to Wendell Noyes, of Canaan, VT was convicted of repeated sexual assault of a child in his care resulting in felony sexual assault charges. He already had a longer criminal history and this conviction garnered him a 25 year sentence. After the case, two more victims came forward.
Two witnesses reported strange events the morning Celina went missing. At 2:07 am, a man going to work reported a vehicle backed up on the bridge near where Celina’s body was found. It was dark and he did not know the make of the vehicle. This is an exact time due to GPS installed in the vehicle. Additionally, a friend of Wendell’s reported exchanging a wave with him at 5:30 am when he saw him out.
June 20, 2016 Wendell Noyes was arrested and charged with the second degree murder of Celina.
As his defense, Mr Noyes asserted that Kevin Mullaney was the perpetrator. He indicated the evidence – a pair of pajama pants and a pair of Celina’s underwear as evidence along with Mr Mullaney’s less than stellar record. Several sources have pointed out that Mr Mullaney allowed the police to search his truck without a warrant and would have been very unlikely to do so if he was aware that these items of Celina’s would be found there. I did see several sources note that a pair of muddy, sandy & semen stained boxers of Mullaney’s were found in the basement area shared by the girls. I could find no official sources indicating this information and therefore am not able to say much about that except that it would have been easy for Wendell to move laundry Kevin left in the bathroom or his room and the police cleared Mullaney in this case after interviewing him extensively including polygraph testing. Important to note, Mullaney was no angel and is, at this time, an inmate in New Hampshire prison for several charges including the attempting to steal from Louisa.
Wendell Noyes is thought by most to have been solely responsible for Celina’s death but sadly due to the court finding in February 2017 that Mr Noyes not only incompetent to stand trial but that Mr. Noyes may never have the capacity to be competent to stand trial, the charges were dropped. This is extremely rare.
Murder charges could be reentered if Mr. Noyes is ever declared competent. He is admitted to New Hampshire Hospital and is committed for a minimum of 5 years. Hopefully, after 2 violent acts, that’s where he will remain.