Ayla Reynolds Uncle Arrested: Lance DiPietro Allegedly Assaults Relative

02/07/2012 02:50 pm ET | Updated Feb 10, 2012

The uncle of missing toddler Ayla Reynolds was arrested on Monday for allegedly attacking a relative who bad-mouthed the family, authorities said

Police in Waterville, Maine arrested Lance DiPietro, 27, brother of Ayla's father Justin DiPietro, following a parking lot brawl with 22-year-old Justin Linnell, Deputy Chief of Police Charles Rumsey told The Huffington Post.

Linnell, the father of Reynolds' cousin, was walking along the side of College Avenue when DiPietro hopped out of a Ford Explorer driven by Justin DiPietro that pulled into a parking lot at 12:15 pm. Lance DiPietro carried a novelty baseball bat as he approached Linnell and accused him of disrespecting his family.

"Lance DiPietro engaged in a verbal argument with Mr. Linnell that escalated to a physical confrontation," Rumsey said. "The fight ended when Mr. Linnell fell to the ground and was kicked in the face by Mr. DiPietro."

Linnell declined emergency medical attention at the scene, despite getting knocked down, kicked and left with a laceration to the back of his head and a contusion to the his face. DiPietro dropped the bat before the scuffle began, Rumsey said.

"Both parties agree that there has been bad blood between the two of them based on Justin Linnell's concerns with the family and things that he has said about the DiPietros," Rumsey said.

Authorities stressed that the incident is unrelated to the girl's disappearance.

"Anything about how it relates to the Ayla Reynolds case would be pure speculation," Rumsey explained.

Tensions are mounting in the search for the little girl, last seen Dec. 17, 2011. Over the weekend, Reynolds' Waterville home was vandalized, leaving two windows broken, the Associated Press reported. Police in Maine -- who've repeatedly questioned the validity of the father's story -- also dispatched dive teams on Friday into two local rivers to search for the 20-month-old's body, only to come up empty handed.

Lance DiPietro is charged with one count misdemeanor assault. He is due in court on April 17. Justin DiPietro was not arrested.


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