Ayla Reynolds’ mother is calling on the district attorney to bring child endangerment charges against Ayla’s father as the missing toddler’s case gets older with no resolution.
Trista Reynolds, in a letter to the Morning Sentinel, emphasizes that Ayla was in Justin DiPietro’s care on Dec. 17, 2011, when he reported her missing from his Violette Avenue home in Waterville. She says police found enough of Ayla’s blood in the house to prove a crime had been committed.
In the letter, dated March 24, Reynolds asks Kennebec County District Attorney Maeghan Maloney to bring child endangerment charges against DiPietro because the statute of limitations on such charges runs out in nine months.
“Who can argue Ayla was not a victim of heinous abuse?” Reynolds asks. “Her father had a duty to protect her and he did not and for that he needs to be prosecuted. I call upon Maeghan Maloney to begin the prosecution of Justin DiPietro before time runs out.”
Ayla, who was 20 months old when she disappeared, would be 4 on Friday. Her disappearance launched the largest criminal investigation in Maine history.
“You may not have the authority to prosecute Justin for murder but you do have the authority, and the obligation, to prosecute him for other crimes,” the letter says.
While Reynolds is asking for action from the county district attorney, all decisions about charges would come from the state attorney general’s office, where the case was transferred early in the investigation. Maloney said her office has no jurisdiction over the case. “Once a case is transferred, it is transferred completely, for all charges,” she said.
Deputy Attorney General William Stokes said he cannot discuss what charges might come from the case.
State law gives the attorney general exclusive jurisdiction over homicides and other major cases, and while the Ayla case has not been classified as a homicide yet because there is no body, Stokes said, it is certainly a major case.
Stokes said he would be committing a crime to discuss why a specific person has not being charged.
“No prosecutor can talk about that,” he said. “It’s considered to be confidential criminal history record information, among other things.”
Stokes said the investigation is still very active.
“It’s almost a daily occurrence. The state police work on it and I’m brought up (to speed) on it. This is not what I’d call a cold case. We’re working on leads at least on a weekly basis on that case.”
Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Department of Public Safety, concurs that the case is open and active. State police, wardens, firefighters, FBI agents and others have conducted more than 20 searches for Ayla.
“There are no new developments,” McCausland said this week. “At this point, there are no new searches planned, but there will be additional searches.”
Asked to comment on Reynolds’ letter, he said, “I have no reaction to any specifics in Trista’s letter.”
Stokes said he’s hopeful about solving the case “and so are the state police.”
WITHOUT A BODY
DiPietro has said from the beginning that he last saw his daughter when he put her to bed on Dec. 16, 2011, and awoke to find her bed empty.
He said he thinks someone took her from the house, but state police say they believe she is dead and DiPietro and the other adults who were in the house that night – his sister Elisha DiPietro and his then-girlfriend, Courtney Roberts – have not told authorities everything they know.
Reynolds, in her letter, spells out the evidence she says is enough to prosecute for endangerment.
“My daughter’s blood was found on the car seat in Justin’s vehicle, on Ayla’s slipper, on a sofa upstairs, on her doll, on a fan cord downstairs in the basement, on a plastic tote, on a blanket found inside the tote (the Maine State Police said the blanket was used to clean up the blood), inside Justin’s sneakers, a ‘fist size stain’ on Justin’s mattress and sheets, on the cement floor and wall beside Justin’s bed (the MSP blood analysts determined that the blood splatters were created by intense projectile vomiting and/or blunt force trauma) and on a wood pallet in the basement,” Reynolds wrote.
Reynolds has said she learned of the blood evidence from police, but they repeatedly have refused to comment to the news media about it.
“My daughter suffered and suffered greatly while in the care of her father yet he has not been held accountable.” She says “it is obvious that a crime was committed there.”
“You don’t need a body to prosecute this crime,” she wrote. “There is enough blood evidence to prove this crime has been committed.”
Stokes said the fact that no body has been found is a large part of why there haven’t been charges.
Stokes said he cannot speak specifically about the Ayla case, but he can talk generally about why prosecutors might not charge someone with a lesser crime in certain circumstances.
He points to Title 17 A, section 14,of Maine’s criminal code, which says that a defendant can’t be subject to separate trials for multiple offenses based on the same conduct, or arising from the same crime except in certain instances.
Stokes said there is always a risk of violating section 14 when bringing lesser charges against someone and afterward lodging other charges based on the same incident.
He said he can understand Reynolds’ frustration, however.
“We understand that, and our hearts go out to Trista and her family,” Stokes said.
“But as I’ve emphasized before, we have a professional responsibility to do this investigation in a correct way, and we really can’t base our decision on petition drives or letters to the editor, as well-meaning as they may be.”
Still, Reynolds’ stepfather, Jeff Hanson, who operates the website united4ayla.com;http://united4ayla.com/ and writes the blog aylareynolds.com;http://aylareynolds.com/, questions that pressing child endangerment charges poses a risk.
“What is the risk?” Hanson asked. “Why isn’t he telling Trista and the rest of Ayla’s maternal family this? Why has he refused time and again to meet with Ayla’s mother to discuss these matters? Instead, we are incumbent on second-guessing the state of Maine’s statutes and his involvement in Ayla’s case.”
NEVER FAR FROM HER THOUGHTS
In a telephone interview Thursday, Tristsa Reynolds said caring for her two boys, Raymond, who turns 3 on Monday, and Anthony, 7 months, keeps her busy; but Ayla is never far from her thoughts.
Her letter to the Morning Sentinel reflects the frustration she feels about not seeing her daughter in more than two years and knowing whoever is responsible is still free.
And she is worried, she said, because the statute of limitations on the lesser class D endangering charge expires in less than nine months.
Amy Calder — 861-9247