WATERVILLE — The Waterville man whose 20-month-old daughter disappeared from his home last weekend said Tuesday night that he has no idea what happened to the girl.

In a statement released through the Waterville Police Department, 24-year-old Justin DiPietro said, “I will not make accusations or insinuations towards anyone until the police have been able to prove who is responsible for this.”

Ayla Reynolds was last seen Friday night, in bed at the home she shares with her father at 29 Violette Ave. She has been the subject of an intensive search since Saturday.

“Ayla was in my sole custody at the time of her disappearance per agreement between her mother and I, because she was unable to care for Ayla,” DiPietro said in the statement, his first public comment since he reported Ayla missing Saturday morning. “I have shared every piece of information with the police.”

DiPietro disputed reports that he and Ayla’s mother, Trista Reynolds, who lives in the Portland area, didn’t talk after Ayla came to live with him.

“I have been in communication with Ayla’s mother over the last couple of weeks,” he said. “The Waterville police have transcripts from my phone for verification of those communications.”

On Monday, Trista Reynolds told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that she filed paperwork last week seeking sole custody of Ayla. She has declined interview requests from MaineToday Media.

Members of her family, including Ayla’s grandmother Becca Hanson, said Trista Reynolds went into rehab for substance abuse, and the state Department of Health and Human Services turned the child over to DiPietro in October.

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

In his statement, DiPietro said, “It has always been my intention to have a shared parenting arrangement with Ayla’s mother and I will continue to work towards that when Ayla is returned to us.”

He said his family and friends “will continue to do everything we can to assist in this investigation and to get Ayla back home.”

On Tuesday, a section of Messalonskee Stream near DiPietro’s home was emptied as investigators continued looking for clues. The waterway was drained overnight Monday so the Maine Warden Service could walk the banks Tuesday, said Waterville Police Chief Joseph Massey. He said it also made visibility better from the warden service’s airplane.

Investigators also examined Dumpsters, garages, backyards, ball fields and wooded areas near the home. They said little about what they have found.

Massey said his department, the warden service and the FBI are intensifying efforts to find the child. The FBI is doing a “knock and talk” campaign on nearby streets, looking for answers.

“It’s still a missing-child case,” Massey said. “I’m not going to speculate on whether she’s alive or when she might come home. We need to follow the logical conclusion of a logical sequence of events. We’ve ruled nothing out, so I don’t want to stand here and speculate.”

Massey said DiPietro, 24, and Trista Reynolds, 23, have been interviewed and are cooperating. He would not say whether police suspect anything criminal in the girl’s disappearance.

Massey also would not say why police seized two vehicles Monday – one of them registered to DiPietro – or what authorities might be looking for in those vehicles.

Ayla was reported missing by her father just before 9 a.m. Saturday, about 10 to 12 hours after he said she was put to bed.

Massey has said that a neighbor reported hearing a motor vehicle arrive at the home Friday night. He also has said that several adults were at the home when Ayla went to bed Friday night, and at least one of them was not a family member.

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.

Her left arm is in a soft splint. She has short, thin blond hair.

Members of the FBI’s Boston-based Child Abduction Rapid Deployment Team canvassed neighborhoods in Waterville on Tuesday, interviewing residents in a search for clues.

The FBI team is one of several across the country, composed of four to six agents with special training in investigating crimes against children and experience in abduction cases, according to the FBI website. The teams work with members of the FBI behavioral analysis unit.

The teams follow a strategy called the Child Abduction Response Plan, applying basic investigative techniques in a focused way aimed at recovered a missing child.

Massey said the federal agents will do a “knock and talk” at every home in the area around 29 Violette Ave. The strategy has been successful in other missing-child cases, he said.

Massey said police who have searched the neighborhoods so far have focused on the landscape outside the homes – bushes and other areas.

Many of the residents have been interviewed by state and local authorities, and the FBI agents will re-interview them, said Steve McCausland, spokesman for the state police. “They’re retracing those footsteps to see if anything might have been missed.”

A spokesman for the FBI in Boston, Gregory Comcowich, would not discuss specifics of the case or what prompted the FBI response. He said the FBI teams have been deployed 75 times since 2006. Of the 83 victims involved, 31 have been recovered alive and 17 are still listed as missing.

He would not characterize the remaining 35 victims or say how many children were found dead.

Massey said 75 law enforcement officers have been engaged in the search each day since Saturday. He said police have received more than 100 tips from the public.

“We are very much committed to this investigation and will follow it to its conclusion,” he said.

 

Portland Press Herald Staff Writer David Hench contributed to this report.

 

Morning Sentinel Staff Writer Doug Harlow can be contacted at 612-2367 or at: [email protected]