December 17, 2012

Year later, search for little Maine girl continues

Waters near the Waterville home where Ayla vanished has been a focal point of police searches.

By Eric Russell
Staff Writer

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Ayla Reynolds was reported missing from her father’s Waterville home a year ago.

Contributed photo

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Dayton Kidd, 2, of Windham attends the Shining Hope for Ayla event at the Riverton Community Center in Portland with Chris Lewis on Saturday. It was the latest of several events in the past year to remind the public that the little girl is still missing.

Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer

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It didn't take long for the relationship between Reynolds and DiPietro to go bad.

DiPietro refused to give Ayla back to Reynolds once she left rehab. Then he sent her text messages indicating that he was worried someone might take Ayla.

DiPietro allowed Reynolds to talk to her daughter on the phone on Dec. 8 -- for the last time, as it turned out. When she tried calling after that, DiPietro made excuses for why Ayla couldn't come to the phone, Reynolds said.

On Dec. 12, he skipped a follow-up doctor's appointment for the girl's broken arm -- an injury that occurred while she was in his care.

Reynolds filed for sole custody of Ayla on Dec. 15 in Cumberland County District Court, saying she was concerned about her daughter's well-being.

DiPietro reported the girl missing on the morning of Dec. 17.

He told police he dressed her in one-piece pajamas with the words "Daddy's Princess" on the front and put her to bed about 8 p.m. Dec. 16. He said when he checked on her in the morning, more than 12 hours later, she was gone.

Two other adults who were in the house that night, DiPietro's girlfriend, Courtney Roberts, and his sister, Elisha DiPietro, both told police they don't know what happened to Ayla.

DiPietro cooperated with police at first. He released statements to the media through local police, saying he didn't know what happened and he was not responsible for her death or disappearance. But as more questions arose and more suspicion centered on him, he stopped talking.

Police later announced that they didn't believe the child wandered away on her own, nor did they believe she was abducted. They believed she met with "foul play," but declined to say what led them to that conclusion. Police also said they believed DiPietro and the other adults in the house "have not told us the whole story."

On Friday, Maine State Police spokesman Stephen McCausland said investigators had resumed talks with DiPietro and his family for the first time in months. McCausland provided no additional details but called it a positive step.

Multiple attempts to reach DiPietro for this story through friends and relatives were unsuccessful. Messages left for Courtney Roberts were not returned. She has yet to speak to the media.

Elisha DiPietro, who still lives in the home where Ayla disappeared, refused to speak to a reporter this week. Opening the door just a crack, Elisha DiPietro politely said, "I have nothing to say." A small sign still sits on the front lawn, displaying Ayla's name, picture and the word "Missing." Another sign read, "No Trespassing."


Trista Reynolds said she and her family began to doubt DiPietro's version of events early in the investigation.

Those doubts were fueled when McCausland said the adults in the house "have not given us the whole story."

More of what trickled out only fueled the suspicion against DiPietro. Police confirmed that he purchased a $25,000 life insurance policy against Ayla less than two months before she vanished. Ayla's blood was found in the basement of the Waterville home. Police would not reveal how much, but said it was more than would result from a simple cut.

Several times, police questioned DiPietro about his daughter's disappearance. They asked him to recount each detail over and over again. They asked him to take a polygraph test.

DiPietro told a reporter that he "smoked" the polygraph. Reynolds says he failed. Police haven't revealed the results, which cannot be used as evidence in any case.

McCausland later said DiPietro cut off communication with detectives, a claim DiPietro disputed in a March 30 story in the Morning Sentinel.

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Additional Photos

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Trista Reynolds, Ayla’s mother, floats a lantern skyward during the Portland event Saturday. She says Justin DiPietro, Ayla’s father, “could end all of this within seconds if he would just be a father and actually speak for his daughter.”

Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer


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