December 17, 2012

Caroling, candlelit walk in Waterville mark anniversary of Ayla Reynolds' disappearance

By Ben McCanna
Staff Writer

WATERVILLE -- A group of about 20 people brought holiday cheer Monday to the site of the city's most notable mystery.

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Glenda Armandi, left, and Jessica Verdejo join two dozen other people in singing Christmas carols on Monday outside the home at 29 Violette Ave. in Waterville, where toddler Ayla Reynolds was reported missing one year ago.

Staff photo by David Leaming

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Vigil organizer Karen Francis and others place candles at the base of a lawn sign, bearing a photo of missing toddler Ayla Reynolds, outside 29 Violette Ave. in Waterville on Monday. Reynolds was reported missing from the home one year ago.

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The event, Peace for Ayla, featured caroling and a candlelit walk along Violette Avenue -- the street where toddler Ayla Reynolds was reported missing a year earlier, on Dec. 17, 2011.

At the same time, many people's thoughts turned to Friday's mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

"These are not things that we want," said Kevin Morse of Waterville at Monday's vigil. "It's like the president said on TV, we've got to make changes to make sure things like this don't happen again."

The group, moving in a pack along a half-mile route up and down the quiet residential street, belted out a variety of holiday songs, including "Silent Night," "12 Days of Christmas" and "Jingle Bells."

Conrad Armandi, of Oakland, sang in a clear, confident baritone as the group paused outside 29 Violette Ave. -- the home of Ayla's grandmother, Phoebe DiPietro, where the child was last seen. He said he was impressed by the turnout, despite the cold and snowy night.

"It's very important that we don't forget," he said of Ayla's disappearance. "It's one way that we can show we care, by doing this."

Ayla's home was well-lit on the inside and out, but there was no sign of its occupants.

John and Pam Cyr, who have lived on Violette Avenue for 45 years, opened their front door to hear the music and shout merry Christmas and the chorus moved past. John Cyr said time is beginning to heal the neighborhood's wounds.

"It's getting better, but it was pretty rough for a long time. God only knows what happened to her," he said.

Cyr, who also said the Newtown incident was on his mind, praised the group's ability to "keep on with life" and embrace the Christmas spirit.

The event was organized by members of Ayla's Angels, a Facebook group with almost 3,000 followers.

Ayla was reported missing on Dec. 17, 2011, by her father, Justin DiPietro.

No one has been named as a suspect or a person of interest. DiPietro contends that Ayla was abducted.

Police say a kidnapping did not happen and they believe the three adults who saw her last -- her father, aunt Elisha DiPietro and Courtney Roberts -- are withholding information in the case.

Investigators also believe Ayla is dead. State police are asking that anyone with information call them at 624-7076.

Ben McCanna -- 861-9239

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