As you read this, the 12-year olds in West Stewartstown, New Hampshire, are basking in the summer sun. Like millions of other kids their age, they will swim, ride bikes, play baseball, and enjoy cookouts. Summer vacation is never quite as great as it is when you're 12.
Things certainly were different last year. Just as summer was kicking into high gear, tragedy struck the little town near the Canadian border that numbers just 386 inhabitants. A child there was taken from her home on a warm July night and murdered. Her body, wrapped in a blanket, was found dumped in the Connecticut River a week later.
That child's name is Celina Cass.
Little is known about the circumstances that led to her death, but what we do know is enough to make one lose faith that any good exists in the world. Celina lived in her home with her sister and her mother, her mother's husband, and the son of her mother's ex-boyfriend. Her step-father allegedly suffers from a severe case of mental illness and had been arrested in the past for a violent crime against a woman. He also enjoyed passing time on the front porch drinking beer with his pals while Celina sat inside watching television or playing on her computer. The son of her mother's ex is also a convicted felon and was recently arrested for, among other things, forging Celina's mother's name on checks that belonged to her.
Celina was not unlike other girls her age. She enjoyed sleepovers, basketball and surfing the web. She was described as a shy but caring kid, always quick to come to the aid of a friend. One such friend said of Celina, "She was always the type of girl who would always try to cheer us up." Last July, went she went missing, photos of Celina were distributed throughout the town. There were a number of different images of her, but perhaps the most haunting was the photo of her in her Canaan basketball team picture, holding a ball and smiling.
Celina's smile is hard to miss. Though noticeably gap-toothed, there's a genuine kindness in her face that's hard to forget. The school nurse say of her, "Everyone remembers Celina as a happy, loving girl with a beautiful smile that touched so many."
But now, a year later, the memory of Celina is at risk of fading. No one has been arrested for this evil crime, and with each day that passes, the odds that there will be justice for Celina grow ever slimmer. Though the authorities have convened a grand jury and questioned everyone they could, the case of who killed Celina Cass remains a mystery.
It's a sad fact that in the year since Celina was killed, many -- too many -- other children have been abducted and killed. Though we never exactly grow numb to it, the latest case always seems to take the headlines away from the older ones. And while the nation was rightfully aghast to see that no one will pay for the murder of Caylee Anthony, will anyone remember that no one has paid for the murder of Celina Cass? Or will this sweet child be just another in a long list of innocent victims that suffer every year at the hands of real evil? We cannot let that happen. Not again.
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