Waterville police announced a $30,000 reward Monday for information leading to the location of missing 20-month-old Ayla Reynolds, and they revealed that they are now “very confident” that Ayla was taken from her father’s home.
The reward is being offered by a local attorney on behalf of several individuals and businesses in the community. Police Chief Joseph Massey said at an afternoon press conference that it was the largest reward in a missing person case that he could recall in Maine history.
Ayla Reynolds was reportedly last seen in her father’s home on the night of December 16, and Massey said that at this point in the investigation, police “are confident that Ayla did not walk out of the house by herself.”
Figuring out who she left with and under what circumstances is now the focus of the investigation, according to Massey. He would not speculate on whether she was taken away by someone within the house or by an intruder.
Maine State Police had said Saturday that investigators planned to continue searching for Ayla over the holiday weekend “outside the microscope” of national media attention.
Crime scene tape was put up on Thursday around the Waterville home of Ayla’s father, where she was reportedly last seen on December 16, and prosecutors from the state attorney general’s office criminal division were seen visiting the house. That afternoon, police downplayed the significance of the activity at the home, insisting that it was routine, according to the Morning Sentinel.
WMUR reported that Waterville Police Chief Joseph Massey said authorities did not need a search warrant to seal off and search the property because they had the family’s permission. Massey also said that family members were being cooperative but none had taken a lie detector test.
Search efforts on Friday were hampered by snowfall, and police issued a statement Saturday saying that they needed room to investigate the case without the media spotlight on them.
Ayla’s father, Justin DiPietro, reported her missing on December 17, telling police that he had put her to bed the night before and she was gone when he woke up that morning.
Trista Reynolds, Ayla’s mother, told NBC’s “Today Show” Friday that she blamed DiPietro for whatever happened to their daughter, saying, “I trusted him to keep her safe…He did not protect her the way he was supposed to.”
Reynolds filed documents in court seeking full custody of Ayla the day before she was last seen, but she did not believe DiPietro was aware of that. DiPietro had taken over caring for Ayla when Reynolds entered a rehab program in October, but the girl broke her arm in his custody a few weeks before her disappearance. He claimed the injury occurred when he fell while carrying her.
DiPietro issued a statement last week denying that he had any knowledge of where Ayla was or who was responsible for her disappearance.