Saturday, March 8, 2014
WATERVILLE -- The mother of missing toddler Ayla Reynolds says she's losing hope that police ever will solve the case, but at least three law enforcement experts from around the country say there are plenty of reasons for optimism.
FOR AYLA: A rally was held in support of missing toddler Ayla Reynolds in Portland’s Monument Square on Wednesday, her second birthday. Ayla’s mother, Trista Reynolds, right, and her friends, including Ashley Pouliot, left, listen to a song written for Ayla by musician Alan Pouliot, of Fairfield. Ayla was reported missing from her Waterville home on Dec. 17.
Portland Press Herald photo by John Ewing
FILE - This undated file photo obtained from a Facebook page shows toddler Ayla Reynolds, missing in Waterville, Maine. Reynolds was reported missing on Dec. 17, 2011 from the Waterville, Maine home of her father Justin DiPietro. With the reward expiring and the victim believed to be dead, the family is trying to move on despite not knowing what happened to the missing toddler. (AP Photo/obtained from Facebook, File)
Upcoming events for Ayla Reynolds
• The Shining Hope for Ayla event will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday at Riverton Community Center, 1600 Forest Ave., Portland, and includes food, beverages, a silent auction, door prizes and a flying lantern release. For more information, contact Cynthia Caron, president and founder of LostNMissing at 603-965-4621 or 603-548-6548.
• Peace for Ayla will feature caroling and a candle-lit walk. It begins at 6 p.m. Monday at the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection, 36 Cool St., in Waterville. Participants will walk along Violette Avenue, the street where Ayla lived before she disappeared, and sing Christmas songs.
Police probably are working quietly to build a stronger case, they said.
"A year is really nothing," said Chuck Drago, a retired police chief from of Oviedo, Fla., and law enforcement consultant. "It's a long time in terms of fresh evidence and so forth, but I'd assume police are nowhere near considering this a dead case, or giving up on it, or feeling like it won't be solved."
Nearly one year after Ayla Reynolds was reported missing, there are still no answers in the case. Friday afternoon, police from Waterville and the state will recap the ongoing investigation during an afternoon news conference, but Department of Public Safety spokesman Steve McCausland said earlier this week there will be no new announcements.
On Dec. 17, Ayla was reported missing from her Violette Avenue home by her father, Justin DiPietro. During the weeks that followed, police announced that they had ruled out any possibility that Ayla left the house on her own or that she was abducted. In January, police announced that Ayla's blood had been discovered in the basement of her home and the three adults who saw her last -- DiPietro, aunt Elisha DiPietro and Courtney Roberts -- were withholding information. In late May, police announced that Ayla probably was dead. The most recent news came in October, when McCausland announced that police had conducted a brief search along the banks of Messalonskee Stream, which had been drained for maintenance by a utility company.
Since then, there have been no updates, and Ayla's mother Trista Reynolds said the silence from police has become disquieting. Reynolds said she used to receive regular updates from state police detectives, but hasn't heard anything lately.
"They don't call me," she said. "The only time I hear from them is if I call them and leave them a message. The detective that I work with will call me, but they don't freely call me like they used to."
Reynolds, who has appeared on national and regional television and has helped organize several vigils and events to raise awareness about her daughter, is one of the most visible and recognizable faces in the ongoing saga. For that reason, people often approach her to share tips and rumors about Ayla's disappearance. When she forwards information to police, she's not sure whether those tips are investigated.
"I feel like state police are slowly giving up," she said.
Drago thinks it's unlikely police will give up anytime soon. A high-profile case such as this will be as "prominent for police as it was on Day 1," he said.
Drago, who provides professional consulting for police agencies and serves as an expert witness for both plaintiffs' and defense attorneys, said cases go cold when investigators run out of leads to follow, when they've spoken with everybody who is connected with the case, when they've exhausted every question.
"And even then, you continue to leave it open," Drago said. "You keep it active in terms of fliers being posted, keeping it on the police website, keeping the media involved as much as you can so the media keeps it alive; because you just don't know where your next lead is going to come from."
Mike Nault, a retired detective commander from Seattle, Wash., and an expert witness, said the case could be further along than the public knows. Even though no one has been named as a suspect and no arrests have been made, investigators might have enough information to do both. Police might be withholding suspects' names from the public to protect the integrity of the case, and they might not arrest someone until the case is strong enough to prosecute successfully. The burden of proof to justify an arrest is much lower than is needed to prove guilt in court, he said.
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SIGN: This sign has been recently placed at 29 Violette Ave. in Waterville where Ayla Reynolds was first reported missing seven months ago today.
Staff photo by David Leaming
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FAMILY: Trista Reynolds, holding her son Raymond Fortier, with her mother Becca Hanson in Portland last week. Raymond turned 1 on Saturday. Reynolds is the mother of Ayla Reynolds, who was reported missing on Dec. 17. Ayla’s second birthday is Wednesday.
Maine Sunday Telegram photo by John Ewing