OAKLAND — A search of a pond, a field and a wooded area Wednesday turned up no clue about Ayla Reynolds, the toddler from Waterville who has been missing for almost two years.
“The update is, we did not find Ayla,” said Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety. “This is another of a series of searches we have conducted, and this will not be the last one.”
More than 30 state and local police officers, as well as wardens from the Maine Warden Service, scoured the area off Hussey Hill Road. Ayla’s father, Justin DiPietro, called police on Dec. 17, 2011, from their home on Violette Avenue in Waterville, saying the 20-month-old girl was gone.
McCausland said Wednesday afternoon at a news conference that the morning-long search was prompted by one of 1,400 tips received in the case.
Investigators had been led to the area at least three times and believed it required a thorough search, he said.
“We won’t stop searching until we find Ayla,” he said.
Lt. Kevin Adam of the Warden Service said animal bones were found and analyzed during the search.
State police, Warden Service officials and Waterville and Oakland police began the search about 6 a.m. on Hussey Hill Road, and on Nike Lane, a dirt road off Hussey.
The group included four search-dog teams. Around 9 a.m., police officers marched out of a large field off Hussey Hill Road that contains a 40-foot-by-30-foot pond surrounded by cattails, stumps and large rocks.
McCausland said state police dive team members searched the pond Wednesday morning.
David Stevens, who has lived at the corner of Hussey Hill Road and Nike Lane for 14 years, said the large police presence Wednesday caused concern among neighbors.
“If they find Ayla out there, it would be unnerving, because that would mean they dumped Ayla’s body while I was living here,” Stevens said. “I would rather see her found alive, with a friend.”
His uncle, Paul Stevens, who has lived in the area for 59 years, said he has hunted and snowshoed extensively in the area.
David Stevens said his 17-year-old son, Cody, saw police searching around 6:30 a.m. while he was waiting for the school bus. Stevens said police were in the area with a dog about a month ago, and when he asked what was going on, they told him it was a training exercise.
Stevens said he has hunted the area a lot, and the large field where the bog is located was cleared about a year ago.
His brother, Will Stevens, said he owned the property where the bog is until about two years ago, when he sold it. He and others said they could not imagine how the Ayla case was connected to the area.
“I would be very alarmed to think that she could be up here,” Will Stevens said.
Authorities have said it is unlikely that Ayla is alive.
The search Wednesday drew Desirree Spencer from Fairfield and Jean MacLaren, from Waterville. The women said they have been following the case and were hoping to see it resolved.
“I think you just want an end to it somehow,” MacLaren said.
She said the case has affected people in the Waterville area greatly.
DiPietro moved in October 2011 from Portland to his mother’s home on Violette Avenue. He had temporary custody of Ayla. His mother, Phoebe, was to help care for her. Phoebe was not at home on the night Ayla disappeared, but Justin’s sister, his girlfriend and their children were.
DiPietro told police that the last time he saw Ayla was Dec. 16, 2011, and he found her bed empty on the morning of Dec. 17. His call to police sparked a search that became a criminal investigation two weeks later.
DiPietro and his supporters maintain that Ayla was taken from the home by strangers, but McCausland has said that “doesn’t pass the straight-face test.”
Authorities say they think that Ayla probably is dead and that DiPietro and the two adults who were at the home aren’t telling police everything they know.
Ayla’s mother, Trista Reynolds, said recently that she is tired of waiting for an answer about what happened to her daughter. She revealed on a website and said in interviews that police shared with her horrific physical evidence in the case.
Trista Reynolds says police found Ayla’s blood on the girl’s slippers, on the sofa in the upstairs living room, on a doll’s face, on a fan cord in the basement and on a plastic tote that had a bloody sheet inside it. Splatters of Ayla’s blood also were found on the cement floor and wall near DiPietro’s bed in the home’s basement, according to Reynolds.
McCausland previously said authorities have “no reaction” to those details released by Reynolds.
At the news conference Wednesday, he said officials still consider the investigation a missing-person case. “This is the largest criminal investigation in state history, and we won’t stop until we get that answer,” he said.
He declined to say whether the case can be solved without the discovery of a body.
Amy Calder can be contacted at 861-9247 or at: