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Ayla Reynolds, Missing Toddler, Was Kidnapped: Police

By GLENN ADAMS   12/26/11 05:31 PM ET   AP

WATERVILLE, Maine -- A 20-month-old girl who vanished a week before Christmas after being put to bed in her father's home was taken away and didn't walk out on her own, investigators said Monday as they announced the largest reward ever offered in the state to help find a missing person.

It marked the first time since the search for Ayla Reynolds began that police have directly said they don't believe she left the house by herself.

"At this point in the investigation ... we are confident that Ayla did not walk out of the house by herself," Waterville police Chief Joseph Massey said at a news conference at which he announced a $30,000 reward was being offered for help finding her. "We believe that someone was involved in taking her out of the house, and that's where the focus of this investigation has turned."

The reward, gathered with donations from residents and businesses in the Waterville area, is the biggest ever offered in Maine for a missing person, state Department of Public Safety spokesman Steve McCausland said.

Massey said the developments in a mystery that's been featured on national television programs have not shifted the matter from a missing-person case to a criminal investigation. Despite the passing of the Christmas holiday with no sign of Ayla, police remain committed to finding her, the chief said.

"The intensity of the investigation is as high today as it was the first day," he said. "We continue to employ every single resource we have."

Massey was joined at the news conference by Waterville attorney John Nale, who appealed for the safe return of Ayla.

"I ask and I plead with the person or persons who have Ayla Reynolds that they please keep her safe and return her safely to us," Nale said.

Hundreds of police officers, game wardens and local residents have been searching for Ayla since she was reported missing by her father, Justin DiPietro, on the morning of Dec. 17. Massey said a report about the case on the Fox network television program "America's Most Wanted" during the weekend generated some leads, which are being checked by police.

DiPietro told investigators he last saw Ayla when he put her to bed the night before at his home in Waterville, a city of 16,000 residents about 20 miles north of the state capital, Augusta. He said she was wearing polka dot pajamas with the words "Daddy's Princess" on them and had a cast on her broken left arm.

Ayla ended up with her father after child welfare workers intervened while her mother, Trista Reynolds, checked herself into a 10-day rehabilitation program.

Reynolds, who completed the rehab, had filed court papers that she said she hoped would lead to the return of her daughter. The filing came the day before Ayla was last seen.

DiPietro has said he has "no idea what happened to Ayla or who is responsible." He said last week his family and friends would do "everything we can to assist in this investigation and get Ayla back home."

SEE PHOTOS FROM THE AYLA REYNOLDS CASE:
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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.

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