The biggest criminal investigation in Maine history began with a 911 call in which a father said his 20-month-old daughter was last seen about 10 hours before, gave a brief description of the pajamas she was wearing and said “there’s no way” she could have crawled out of her crib.
In transcripts obtained Monday by The Associated Press through the Freedom of Access Act, Justin DiPietro told the emergency dispatcher that he put Ayla Reynolds to bed at 8 p.m. and that his sister checked on her two hours later on Dec. 16, 2011. He dialed 911 the next day at 8:49 a.m.
During the call, DiPietro was asked when he last saw Ayla Reynolds.
“When I put her to bed last night. My sister checked on her. Um, woke up this morning, went to her room and she’s not there,” he said. At one point, the phone call ended and DiPietro called back a second time, explaining that “my cellphone died.”
The Associated Press requested the material after the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled such transcripts should be made public unless law enforcement officials can show how releasing the documents would harm an investigation.
The youngster was reported missing from the Waterville home where DiPietro lived with his mother, girlfriend and sister.
The 911 call prompted a search by police that grew to include game wardens, FBI agents and other officers who canvassed neighborhoods, lowered streams and sent divers into the nearby Kennebec River. Investigators found blood inside the home, and they have concluded that the child is no longer alive and was a victim of foul play. Detectives also said adults in the home know more than they’ve told investigators. The case remains unsolved.
The transcripts didn’t identify the caller, but Maine State Police said previously Justin DiPietro dialed 911. He told the dispatcher that he was in the home with his girlfriend and his sister Elisha, along with two other children besides Ayla.
DiPietro was adamant when the dispatcher asked if it was possible Ayla had crawled out of her crib.
“No, ma’am, she, there is no way she coulda got, there’s no way she could,” he responded.
Trista Reynolds, Ayla’s mother, has been pressing for investigators to bring charges against DiPietro or other adults who were in the house that night.
In hopes of pressuring law enforcement, Reynolds last summer said detectives told her Ayla’s blood was found inside the DiPietro home. There’s also an online petition calling for Attorney General Janet Mills to bring charges.
“We certainly understand the frustration. We share it. There’s nothing worse than losing a child,” Deputy Attorney General Bill Stokes said Monday. “You have to make sure you protect the integrity of the investigation by following the evidence.”
Trista Reynolds said Monday that she’s focusing on organizing a “celebration of life” on Ayla’s birthday on April 4.
“I’m thankful for all of the supporters and everyone helping out,” she said.
DiPietro couldn’t be located for comment, and his mother didn’t immediately return a message left on her cellphone. A lawyer who represented the family didn’t immediately respond to a message.
Detectives have vetted 1,414 tips from the public and a team of detectives continues to pursue the investigation, said Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety.
“It is the largest investigation in state police history. It continues to be worked on daily,” he said.
The state supreme court ruling in November doesn’t require law enforcement officials to release all 911 transcripts. But it provided guidance and required justification for withholding transcripts.
Under Maine law, 911 transcripts are to be made public under the FOA law. But there can be exceptions for “intelligence and investigative records.” Before the court ruling, the attorney general’s office routinely declined to release the 911 transcripts in open investigations.