WATERVILLE — A sport utility vehicle belonging to the father of a missing 20-month-old girl was seized by police Monday from the driveway of the man’s home.

In the third day of their investigation into the disappearance of Ayla Reynolds, police said no one has been arrested in the case. Dozens of law enforcement officers, along with residents, searched for the girl in the area around her home.

Police took two vehicles from the driveway at 29 Violette Ave., where Ayla lives with her father, 24-year-old Justin DiPietro.

The SUV, a 1996 Ford Explorer with a U.S. Marine Corps sticker on the rear windshield, is registered to DiPietro, according to records from the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles. Also seized was a 2002 Hyundai, registered to a Portland woman whose name is not being made public.

Waterville Police Chief Joseph Massey disclosed little new information during a news conference Monday afternoon, acknowledging only that a neighbor had reported hearing a motor vehicle arrive at the girl’s home Friday night.

Massey has said there were several adults at the home Friday night when Ayla went to bed. At least one of them was not a family member, he said.

Massey would not say if investigators suspect forced entry into the home or if they found blood or other forensic evidence in or around the house. He said police have received some important leads from the public.

Police have said it’s possible that the toddler was abducted.

Ayla Reynolds, wearing a soft cast on a broken arm, was last seen sleeping in her bed about 8 p.m. Friday. DiPietro reported her missing at 8:51 a.m. Saturday when he found an empty bed, police said.

The girl’s mother, Trista Reynolds, 23, is living in the Portland area without a permanent address, Massey said.

Last week, she went to court seeking full custody of Ayla. The two-page complaint filed Thursday in Cumberland County District Court names DiPietro and seeks a determination of parental rights. It does not include any more details about the claim and is simply the first step in a custody case.

DiPietro has been caring for Ayla since October, when the Maine Department of Health and Human Services removed the girl from her mother’s care, according to family members. Police and the DHHS have not commented on custody issues.

It was not clear why Ayla Reynolds was taken from her mother while Reynolds’ second child, 9-month-old Raymond Fortier, was not.

Reynolds spoke to television stations Monday and gave an interview on the “Nancy Grace” show on CNN’s HLN network. She declined interview requests from MaineToday Media.

“The idea was to get out there to the public,” said Ronald Reynolds of Portland, who is Trista Reynolds’ father and Ayla’s grandfather. “I thank these people that are up there helping and looking. I want my baby home.”

Trista Reynolds struggled with drug addiction but “is much better now,” her father said. “She is doing good.”

Trista Reynolds told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Monday that “I’ve had no contact with (DiPietro); he’s had no contact with me…. All I know is, he’s the last man to see my daughter, and all I want to know is where she is.”

DiPietro could not be contacted for comment, and police were not allowing anyone near the home on Violette Street.

Becca Hanson, who is Trista Reynolds’ mother and Ayla’s grandmother, said the DHHS took custody of the child in October and turned her over to DiPietro.

“My daughter went into rehab; me and my oldest daughter had Ayla, and (DHHS) had her removed from us to go with her dad,” said Hanson, 45. “I believe (DHHS) did that because they don’t like my family. They had no reason to take Ayla.”

Hanson said Ayla was with her father when she broke her arm. Police have said the child’s arm was broken in an accidental fall about three weeks ago, but have declined to provide further details.

Hanson said Ayla’s brother, Raymond, lives with Trista Reynolds.

Reynolds was living in an apartment in Portland, and her mother was helping her care for her children, said Hanson.

Reynolds has stayed with her parents, who live at separate addresses in Portland, and this week was in a motel in South Portland.

Waterville police, Maine State Police, the Maine Warden Service and the FBI are conducting the investigation, which began with the 911 call to police Saturday.

On Monday, wardens searched a stream near the father’s house as a warden service plane circled overhead.

Massey said 70 law enforcement officers were searching, including 25 game wardens, who trolled the icy waters of Messalonskee Stream in an airboat and circled the area in the airplane.

Some residents joined in the search. Carrie Harvey, who lives nearby, found a sippy cup lid in the neighborhood and turned it over to a warden.

“It’s sad. Christmas is right around the corner. My heart cries out for that lady,” Harvey, a mother of five, said of Ayla’s mother.

A state police crime incident command and communications truck was operating in the Waterville City Hall parking lot. A command post was set up in the City Council chambers.

“We don’t want to miss anything along the way,” Massey said. “We’re looking at every lead and all possibilities.”

He said the child’s parents are cooperating with the investigation.

Massey would not speculate about whether the child is still alive. Overnight temperatures have dipped into the low teens in the past few days.

At 29 Violette Ave., a mobile state police evidence response unit was parked in the driveway Monday. Investigators took photos of the side door to the gray, vinyl-sided home in the quiet neighborhood. Two state troopers and Waterville police officers were stationed outside.

Ayla was last seen wearing green one-piece pajamas with polka dots and the words “Daddy’s Princess” on them. She is 2 feet 9 inches tall and weighs about 30 pounds. She has short, thin blond hair.

Waterville police asked anyone with information about her whereabouts to call 680-4700.

Portland Press Herald Staff Writer John Richardson contributed to this report.

 

Morning Sentinel Staff Writer Doug Harlow can be contacted at 612-2367 or:

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