WATERVILLE – More than five months after Ayla Reynolds disappeared from her home in Waterville, state investigators say it is highly unlikely that the toddler is alive.

Investigators came to that conclusion earlier this week, said Steve McCausland, spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety, who made the announcement at a press conference Thursday.

In a separate announcement, a local attorney said the $30,000 reward offered for information on Ayla’s whereabouts will be withdrawn at the end of June.

McCausland said there is little hope for a happy ending to the case, which began on Dec. 17, when the 20-month-old girl’s father, Justin DiPietro, reported her missing from their home on Violette Avenue.

“Based on everything we know, the thousands of hours of investigation, the 1,127 leads that have been received and acted on, we think it is highly unlikely that Ayla Reynolds will be found alive,” McCausland said.

On Dec. 26, police said they had ruled out the possibility that Ayla left her home on her own.

On Jan. 28, McCausland said investigators had found no evidence to support DiPietro’s claim that Ayla was abducted. He said the three adults who were in the house on the night Ayla disappeared — DiPietro, Ayla’s aunt Elisha DiPietro and Courtney Roberts — weren’t forthcoming with information.

“Our stance has not changed,” McCausland said Thursday. “We feel they know more than they’ve told us.”

Steve Bourget, the Augusta lawyer who represents Elisha DiPietro and Ayla’s grandmother Phoebe DiPietro, said his clients heard McCausland’s announcement.

“They were shocked by his statements and re-traumatized,” Bourget said. “They want the public to know that they have not given up hope. They’re hoping for her safe return, and they continue to investigate and look for leads.”

Heidi Tudela, a friend and supporter of Justin DiPietro, said McCausland’s statements do not change her belief that Ayla was abducted and is alive.

“Ayla is missing — that is a fact — but there’s no proof that she’s been harmed, and there’s no proof that she wasn’t abducted,” Tudela said.

McCausland said investigators reached their conclusion Tuesday, but he wouldn’t elaborate on the reasons.

“It’s a culmination of everything,” he said. “The evidence, the searches and the fact that it has been 166 days.”

Police said they shared their information with Ayla’s parents before the press conference. McCausland said Trista Reynolds, Ayla’s mother, was understanding and thankful for the call.

“Justin was also thankful for the information. His reaction … was no reaction,” he said.

Asked if such a reaction is unusual, McCausland said, “Ask him.”

DiPietro couldn’t be reached for comment.

In an interview with reporters after the news conference, Trista Reynolds said she had not heard from police. She said she had been in appointments and had not been near a telephone early Thursday.

After watching the news conference, Trista Reynolds broke down crying, then ripped off the microphones that television stations had attached to her clothing, leaving the room. Later, she returned and apologized and answered questions about her daughter.

“No matter what it takes, I will get justice for Ayla,” she said.

McCausland wouldn’t answer reporters’ questions about the discovery of Ayla’s blood in her home in December, items that were found recently in the Kennebec River or any other subjects he considers pertinent to the investigation. He said no suspects have been named, and he wouldn’t rule out anyone.

Earlier in the press conference, attorney John Nale spoke on behalf of the businesses and individuals who contributed to the $30,000 Ayla Reynolds Award Fund, which was posted a week after the girl’s disappearance.

Nale said the reward would expire June 30, and he urged anyone who knows what happened to Ayla to come forward.

Trista Reynolds, her parents and her brother gathered at her home in Portland to watch the press conference on television, and she sobbed when McCausland said investigators believe Ayla is dead.

Becca Hanson, Trista Reynolds’ mother, wrapped her arms around her daughter and tried to console her. Ron Reynolds, Trista’s father, cradled his head in his hand.

After weeping for several seconds, Trista Reynolds yelled, “He knew! He knew! He knew!” in an apparent reference to Justin DiPietro.

Ron Reynolds, his son Ronnie Reynolds Jr. and Trista said they believe DiPietro is responsible for Ayla’s disappearance and that he’s not being candid with police.

Trista Reynolds said she has felt for some time that her daughter is dead, but it was hard to hear police say so. Now, she grieves because she cannot bury her daughter.

“What hurts the most is I don’t even know where she’s at,” she said. “I’ve got no hope. … I’ll probably never know.”

Ron Reynolds said the family continues to suffer every day that the child is gone.

“We need closure for this family. We need to know where Ayla is,” he said. “How much are we supposed to endure?”

Portland Press Herald Staff Writer David Hench contributed to this report.

Morning Sentinel Staff Writer Ben McCanna can be contacted at 861-9239 or at:

[email protected]

Morning Sentinel Staff Writer Amy Calder can be contacted at 861-9247 or at:

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