WATERVILLE – The search for Ayla Reynolds expanded Wednesday as investigators examined dozens of tips they have received from the public since the search began Saturday morning.

The search extended to the Kennebec River south of the Waterville-Winslow bridge, foot trails off Kennedy Memorial Drive near Shaw’s Plaza, woods near Head of Falls and a small pond on First Rangeway, near the toddler’s home on Violette Avenue.

“We continue to receive leads — we have approximately 165 leads that have come in since we started the investigation,” Waterville Police Chief Joseph Massey told reporters. “The searches go on. We want to rule out every possible area that we can in our efforts to find Ayla.”

About 50 civilian volunteers from the Maine Association for Search and Rescue joined the estimated 80 law enforcement officers, firefighters, game wardens and volunteers in a sweep of Waterville that has spread far from the girl’s immediate neighborhood.

The volunteers have helped authorities with searches all over Maine, said Steve McCausland, spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety, “usually for lost hunters, lost children.”

“There are 50 of them,” he said, “some of them with dogs. They’ve come in from all over the state, working with wardens and firefighters, and they have fanned out all through the area.”

The Maine Marine Patrol also joined the search, using boats on the Kennebec River south of the city center.

The FBI continues its work on the case, visiting homes in the area and talking to residents.

Ayla, who is about 20 months old, disappeared Friday night or early Saturday morning from the home she shares with her father at 29 Violette Ave. Her left arm is in a soft splint because of a fall she took three weeks ago.

Massey said Ayla’s parents, Justin DiPietro, 24, and Trista Reynolds, 23, are cooperating. He would not discuss who else was in the house Friday night, whether a crime is suspected or whether blood or any other forensic evidence was found in the house. He said it is still a missing-child case.

In a statement released to the Morning Sentinel on Tuesday night, DiPietro said he had been given sole custody of the child. He disputed reports that he and Ayla’s mother, who lives in the Portland area, didn’t talk after Ayla went to live with him.

Massey said DiPietro produced his statement for investigators Tuesday afternoon, without an attorney. The statement was delivered to the command staff Tuesday evening and a decision was made to share it with the newspaper.

Ayla’s mother told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Monday that she had filed paperwork seeking sole custody of the toddler on Dec. 15.

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

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 not provided details.

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.

She 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.

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

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