Family of missing Maine tot still seeks justice

AP News
Posted: Jun 01, 2012 2:50 AM
Family of missing Maine tot still seeks justice

Police believe a Maine toddler who went missing in the days leading up to Christmas is no longer alive, but there's no evidence they're any closer to finding her body or bringing charges against the person who's responsible.

Ron Reynolds, grandfather of Ayla Reynolds, said the family cannot have closure until the body is recovered and the responsible party is brought to justice.

"I want justice for Ayla," he said Thursday in Portland after watching a news conference in which investigators provided an update on the five-month investigation.

Ayla was 20 months old when she was reported missing Dec. 17 from her father's home in Waterville. The toddler had last been seen wearing polka dot pajamas with the words "Daddy's Princess" on them. She had a cast on her broken left arm.

Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, told reporters Thursday that it's "highly unlikely" that she'll be found alive. But he said investigators remain determined to solve the mystery of her disappearance.

"We are in this for the long haul. This case will never close until Ayla is found," said McCausland, who noted that investigators have followed up on more than 1,100 tips.

In Portland, Ayla's mother, Trista Reynolds, and her father and mother, burst into tears while watching the news conference.

"My worst nightmare has really come true. What hurts the most is I don't even know where she's at," said Trista Reynolds, who noted that there can be no proper burial until Ayla's body is found.

Ron Reynolds said the family suffers every day that Ayla remains missing. "Why Ayla? She never bothered anybody. She never hurt anybody. Why hurt Ayla?" he said.

Officials pressing for more information about Ayla Reynolds' whereabouts announced that a $30,000 reward for information will expire June 30. They appealed for anyone with information leading to Ayla's whereabouts to contact police.

"To the person or persons responsible for her disappearance, we ask that you now come forward, accept responsibility for what you have done, show us that you are human and relieve yourself, Ayla's family and this community of this burden," said John Nale, a lawyer who led the effort to raise the reward money.

Ayla's father, Justin DiPietro, told police said he thinks Ayla was abducted, but police say there's no evidence of that.

State police confirmed that Ayla's blood was found in DiPietro's house and said DiPietro, his girlfriend and his sister who were there the night Ayla disappeared know more than they're telling police.

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Police repeated that assertion Thursday when reporters asked about the father. "We believe he knows more than he's told us," McCausland said.

Neither DiPietro nor a lawyer hired by members of his family returned a call. There was no answer when a reporter knocked on DiPietro's door.

No arrests have been made in the case.

After Ayla was reported missing, dozens of game wardens, FBI agents and local and state police officers participated in the search in this central Maine city of 16,000 residents about 20 miles north of the state capital, Augusta.

Police checked trash bins and FBI agents knocked on doors. Officials even went so far as to drain a stream so wardens could get a better look.

Recently, divers searched the Kennebec River and retrieved some items. Investigators declined to comment on those items Thursday.

Investigators said it's unfortunate that so much time has passed without a break in the case. "This isn't `CSI' where everything is solved in 60 minutes," McCausland said.

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