WATERVILLE — Two years and 20 searches after she disappeared, Ayla Reynolds is still missing.

Police say someone knows what happened to the child, but no one is telling. Officials say as time goes by, finding out the truth gets harder.

The blond-haired, blue-eyed toddler who would now be 3½ years old was last seen in December 2011 at her 29 Violette Ave. home. Her father, Justin DiPietro, reported her missing the morning of Dec. 17, telling police he last saw her when he put her to bed the night before. DiPietro said he awoke to find Ayla’s bed empty, and he believes someone took her from the house.

State police believe Ayla is dead and have said that the three adults who were at the Violette Avenue home when Ayla was reported missing aren’t telling authorities everything they know.

In the last two years, police, state game wardens and volunteers have searched for Ayla, relatives and supporters have set up websites and written blogs, and psychics have offered opinions. Authorities say Ayla’s case has become the largest police investigation in state history.

Ayla is one of nearly 25,000 children in the U.S. reported missing who have been gone more than 60 days, according to Bob Lowery, senior executive director of the missing children’s division of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. On average, about 2,000 children are reported missing in the U.S. every day, he said.

Many are found quickly and returned to their homes within a day or so, he said.

“Cases like Ayla’s are unusual,” Lowery said last week. “A child of this age, missing this long, is rare, but we do experience them.”

Maine State Police continue to work on the Ayla case nearly every day, according to Steve McCausland, spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety. Police are interviewing and re-interviewing people, reviewing records and analyzing evidence as part of the investigation, which has cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, he said.

Lowery says the search must continue.

“We don’t give up hope for children, but we also don’t give false hope,” he said.

Investigators are still determined to find her, McCausland said. “There are some days when there is frustration that creeps in and then we remember who we are working for and that frustration subsides because we’re working for Ayla,” he said.


McCausland said last week that 20 searches have been conducted for Ayla in the two years since she was reported missing. Some of those organized searches have been public and some kept private, he said.

The Maine Warden Service coordinated the searches, which have included state and local police, FBI agents, firefighters, volunteers and dogs.

They have searched by air, land and water, inspected neighborhoods, gone house-to-house and scoured riverbanks, woods and fields.

Dive teams have searched the Kennebec River, Messalonskee Stream and other bodies of water in central Maine.

The most recent large-scale search was off Hussey Hill Road in Oakland, where police spent a morning diving in a pond in a field and searching a wooded area, with no sign of Ayla.

“The searches will continue,” McCausland said this week. “There will be more searches. None at this point are planned, but there will be more.”

McCausland won’t discuss what, if anything, investigators have found during the searches, but he said the operations have allowed police to eliminate certain areas as possible locations for evidence of Ayla’s whereabouts.

The latest search in Oakland yielded some bones, which police said were tested and confirmed to be from an animal.

Although odds of finding Ayla alive are not good under the circumstances, Lowery, of the Missing and Exploited Children’s Center, said his organization will continue working to find her. The center sends representatives to the location where the child was reported missing, distributes images of missing children, develops age-progressed photos of missing children and help spread awareness.

Time is the enemy, but there are exceptions, Lowery said. “We have seen cases where children were found alive who were thought to be deceased.”

Examples include Jaycee Dugard, kidnapped in 1991 in South Lake Tahoe, Calif. She was found in August 2009, after spending 18 years as a captive. Shawn Hornbeck of Richwoods, Mo., was kidnapped Oct. 6, 2002, and was missing more than four years before he was found Jan. 12, 2007. More recently, on May 6 this year, three women from Cleveland were rescued from a house where they were held captive for more than 10 years.

.Someone out there has a key piece of information that is important to Ayla’s case, even though that person may think it trivial, Lowery said. “Ayla’s mother needs answers and we really urge that person to come forward and share that information,” he said.


Three adults and three young children were in the Violette Avenue house the night Ayla reportedly disappeared. Besides DiPietro and Ayla, DiPietro’s then-girlfriend, Courtney Roberts, of Portland, and her young son were there, as well as DiPietro’s sister, Elisha DiPietro, and her infant daughter.

Justin DiPietro told police that when he put Ayla to bed Friday night, Dec. 16, 2011, she was wearing a green one-piece pajama outfit with polka dots and “Daddy’s Princess” on the front. Her left arm was broken and in a soft splint and sling. DiPietro said he fell on Ayla weeks before when he slipped while carrying groceries into the house.

The child had been in her father’s care since October while her mother, Trista Reynolds, was in a drug rehabilitation program.

On Dec. 15, 2011 – the day before Ayla disappeared – Reynolds, who lived in Portland, filed for full custody of her daughter.

Six days after her disappearance, police put crime scene tape around the house at 29 Violette Ave., which is owned by DiPietro’s mother, Phoebe DiPietro. Phoebe DiPietro reportedly was not home the night Ayla disappeared.

Two weeks later, police announced they suspected foul play. More than five months into the investigation, police said they believed Ayla was dead.

“We do not think we’ve gotten the full story from the three adults who were in the home that night,” McCausland said this week. “That would be Justin, Elisha and Courtney. Our stance has not changed. We think that they know more than they’ve told us.”

All three adults were contacted through Facebook this week and only one responded.

“All I have to say,” Elisha DiPietro wrote, “is that I love my niece and hope that she comes home soon.”


McCausland said police are still getting calls from people offering tips in the case. Early on, they asked that psychics no longer call, and that directive still stands, he said.

If people have essential information they have not shared, police want to hear from them, he said. He asked that they call 624-7076.

“If people have called in with information, they do not need to re-call,” McCausland said. “We can assure them that that information was tracked down, even though we may not have called them back.”

Amy Calder can be contacted at 861-9247 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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