January 25

Protesters seek answers in missing toddler case in Waterville

About 35 people gather to mark two years since Ayla Reynolds disappeared and to push for justice.

By Amy Calder
Morning Sentinel

WATERVILLE — More than two years after toddler Ayla Reynolds disappeared, the pain is still raw for her grandfather, Ronnie Reynolds Sr.

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Trista Reynolds, mother of missing toddler Ayla Reynolds, holds a picture of her daughter Saturday in Waterville.

Photos by Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

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Mark Leighton of Gardiner wears a mask as he takes part in an event urging criminal charges in the Ayla Reynolds case.

“Every day, it kills me – it really does,” he says. “Where is Ayla? The pain gets so unbelievable for me at times.”

Reynolds, of Portland, was speaking Saturday outside the Waterville police station, where about 35 people had gathered to urge authorities to file criminal charges in the case.

“As her grandfather who loves her and misses her every day, as long as I’m alive, it will never go away until justice is done,” he said.

Ayla’s father, Justin DiPietro, reported the 20-month-old missing from their Violette Avenue home Dec. 17, 2011, saying he had seen her last when she went to bed the previous night. Investigators say they think DiPietro and the other adults in the house that night – his sister, Elisha DiPietro, and his then-girlfriend, Courtney Roberts – know more about her disappearance than they are saying.

Maine State Police spokesman Stephen McCausland has said DiPietro’s contention that Ayla was kidnapped “doesn’t pass the straight-face test.”

About 20 searches over two years have turned up no trace of her.

For Ronnie Reynolds Sr., who believes Ayla is no longer alive, the pain of loss is mixed with anger that she was taken from him and his family.

It also is mixed with a deep sadness that causes him to break down as he talks of his blond-haired, blue-eyed granddaughter.

“We can’t see her grow up,” he said. “We can’t see her graduate. We don’t get to see her go out on dates. We can’t tell her we love her.”

He arrived at Saturday’s event with his daughter, Trista Reynolds – Ayla’s mother – and Trista’s stepfather, Jeff Hanson.

Hanson and the Reynoldses said they did not organize the event but wanted to be there to thank and support those who turned out in the bitter cold to remind people that it has been two years and the case remains unsolved.

Trista Reynolds said when she starts to lose hope, she remembers the people who have never met Ayla but continue to fight for justice in the case.

“I think it’s absolutely amazing,” she said.

She said she is grateful for police and game wardens who have searched far and wide for her daughter and continue to investigate the case, but she is getting impatient.

“I do appreciate the work that they have done,” she said. “I just need to step their game up a little bit more.”

Hanson said Saturday’s event keeps Ayla’s case in the spotlight and is a reminder that time has dragged on.

“We’d like to see this move forward,” he said.

The event drew some people from far away. Heather Garczynski drove 13 hours from Erie, Pa., with her children and friends. They call themselves Justice Seekers and say they protest cases where justice has not yet been served.

Garczynski, 43, said she has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and sociology and is attending graduate school for criminology. She maintains there is probable cause to file charges in Ayla’s disappearance.

“It baffles me that there’s so much probable cause in the case and nothing’s been done and people are allowed to walk the streets without a care in the world and there’s a little girl missing,” Garczynski said.

Nancy Emery, 60, of Waterville said she empathizes with Ayla’s family, as her own daughter disappeared when she was 11 and was not found for two months. Her daughter now is 34.

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