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Ayla Reynolds Missing: Maine Toddler Disappeared Day After Her Mother Tried To Regain Custody

First Posted: 12/20/11 11:57 AM ET Updated: 12/20/11 11:57 AM ET

Ayla Reynolds
Police in Waterville, Maine started searching for Reynolds on Saturday morning. They later called in outside agencies for assistance. This photograph of Reynolds posted on a Facebook page dedicated to the missing toddler.

By GLENN ADAMS, Associated Press

WATERVILLE, Maine -- Police said they were considering all possible scenarios in the search for a missing 20-month-old girl, whose disappearance unleashed a flood of leads from a concerned public.

"We are looking at everything. We don't want to miss anything along the way as we continue on in this investigation," Waterville Police Chief Joseph Massey said as the search continued Monday for Ayla Reynolds.

Ayla was reported missing Saturday morning by her father, Justin DiPietro, who called police to say she was not in her bed in Waterville.

She was last seen Friday night wearing a green one-piece pajama set with polka dots and the words "Daddy's Princess" on it.

Relatives of Ayla's mother, meanwhile, said they were concerned about the girl's safety while she was staying with her father, who was caring for her.

Welfare agents had placed Ayla with her father weeks ago while her mother, Trista Reynolds, was in rehab for substance abuse, Reynolds' stepsister Whitney Raynor said Monday. The toddler's maternal grandmother, Becka Hanson, told the Morning Sentinel newspaper it was the Department of Health and Human Services that took custody of the girl and turned her over to DiPietro.

After moving in with her father, the toddler suffered a broken arm, said Raynor, who serves as spokeswoman for the Portland family, which has sought to regain custody of the girl.

Massey has said the girl's arm was broken in an accidental fall. The Department of Health and Human Services had no comment on the case Monday.

A phone number for the father couldn't immediately be located, and The Associated Press was unable to reach members of his immediate family by phone. Police outside his house Monday said that he was not there and that the girl's disappearance remains a missing-person case.

Massey said every lead reported by the public is being followed in hopes of locating the child.

"We are approaching this with every possible thought and angle in mind. It is currently a very open case," the chief said at a briefing. He said about 75 officers, including game wardens specially trained in search and rescue, were working on the case.

SEE PHOTOS FROM THE SEARCH FOR AYLA REYNOLDS: (article continues below)

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  • Ayla Reynolds

    Investigators are searching for Ayla Reynolds, a 20-month-old Maine girl believed to have vanished from her bed while her family slept. Reynolds' father, Justin DiPietro, told investigators he last saw the child at around 8 p.m. on Dec. 16, 2011, when he put her to sleep in her own bedroom. The following morning, at around 8:50 a.m., he called police to say her bed was empty. This photograph was posted on <a href="http://www.facebook.com/Help.Find.Ayla" target="_hplink">a Facebook page dedicated to the missing toddler</a>.

  • Ayla Reynolds

    Police in Waterville, Maine, started searching for Reynolds on the morning of Dec. 17. They later called in outside agencies for assistance. This photograph of Reynolds was posted on <a href="http://www.facebook.com/Help.Find.Ayla" target="_hplink">a Facebook page dedicated to the missing toddler</a>.

  • Ayla Reynolds

    Reynolds is described as 2 feet, 9 inches tall, about 30 pounds, with short blonde hair and blue eyes. This photograph was posted on <a href="http://www.facebook.com/Help.Find.Ayla" target="_hplink">a Facebook page dedicated to the missing toddler</a>.

  • Ayla Reynolds

    Reynolds was wearing green pajamas with polka dots at the time of her disappearance. She also had a soft cast on her left arm. This photograph was posted on <a href="http://www.facebook.com/Help.Find.Ayla" target="_hplink">a Facebook page dedicated to the missing toddler</a>.

  • Ayla Reynolds

    Reynolds was living with her father in Waterville. Her mother lives in Portland. This photograph was posted on <a href="http://www.facebook.com/Help.Find.Ayla" target="_hplink">a Facebook page dedicated to the missing toddler</a>.

  • The Search

    Maine wardens search a field on Monday, Dec. 19, 2011, two blocks from the home where 20-month-old Ayla Reynolds vanished from her bed sometime late Friday or early Saturday in Waterville, Maine. The Maine Warden Service, the FBI and Maine State Police have assisted Waterville police in the search. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

  • The Search

    A state trooper walks to his cruiser on Monday, Dec. 19, 2011, in front of the home where 20-month-old Ayla Reynolds vanished from her bed sometime late Friday or early Saturday. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

  • The Search

    A Waterville police cruiser idles on Monday, Dec. 19, 2011, across the street from the home where 20-month-old Ayla Reynolds vanished from her bed sometime late Friday or early Saturday in Waterville, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

  • Ayla Reynolds

    A billboard alerts passersby about missing toddler Ayla Reynolds.

As the search entered its third day, a Maine Warden Service plane circled overhead, wardens searched a stream near the father's house and residents joined in canvassing the neighborhood for any signs of Ayla.

Two cars were towed Monday from near DiPietro's house, but police would not comment on who owned them or why they were taken away.

Wardens focused most of their efforts Monday on Messalonskee Stream, and the FBI and Maine State Police were helping Waterville police investigate, said Steve McCausland of the Maine Department of Public Safety.

The stream meanders through Waterville, a city of about 16,000 located 20 miles north of Augusta.

Many residents joined in the search. Carrie Harvey, who lives nearby, found a sippy cup lid near 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.

Reynolds, who also has a 7-month-old baby, is now doing better after rehab, and she went to court Thursday to regain sole custody of Ayla, Raynor said.

Reynolds told ABC's "Good Morning America" on Monday that she and the father have been unable to get along in the last few weeks.

"I've had no contact with him; 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," she said.

Investigators interviewed the parents, as well as other family members, and they were cooperative, Massey said.

The father moved four to six weeks ago to his childhood home on Violette Street in a tidy neighborhood of small ranch houses built after World War II, a neighbor said. A few blocks away is a park, alongside the stream.

A state police evidence van was parked outside DiPietro's gray, vinyl-sided bungalow on Monday, and two state troopers were stationed outside.

"It's just so sad, so sad. I hope we end up with a live child," said Ellen Paul, a retired Colby College employee who lives across the street from DiPietro's home. "I'm heartbroken for anybody to go through that kind of pain."

___

Associated Press reporter David Sharp in Portland, Maine, contributed to this report.

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