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Maine mom aims to draw attention to missing toddler case

Frustrated by slow progress in the biggest criminal investigation in Maine’s history, the mother of a toddler who vanished in December 2011 is releasing more investigatory details in hopes of calling attention to and solving the mystery of the girl’s disappearance.

Trista Reynolds said she believes that releasing the information given to her by state police detectives may be the only way to bring about justice for her daughter Ayla, who was 20 months old when she disappeared from her father’s home in Waterville.

“I’ve been patient,” she said yesterday. “I’ve waited almost two years now. I’ve done everything everyone asked. I’ve been working with state police. I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere, and by releasing this evidence and talking about it, I really feel this is the only way Ayla’s case is going to be solved.”

Reynolds, 25, revealed last week that the state police had said her daughter’s blood was found on Ayla’s father’s shoes and in his SUV. Investigators previously said that Ayla’s blood was found in her father’s bedroom.

In the coming days, Reynolds plans to release more details provided by investigators. She also is staging a news conference on the same day the father appears in court on unrelated charges.

The father, Justin DiPietro, previously said he has no idea what happened to his daughter or who is responsible. He couldn’t be reached for comment yesterday.

Bob Lowery from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children said what the grieving mother is doing is unusual, but he doesn’t fault her for doing what she thinks is right.

“I don’t think any of us can understand Trista’s pain,” Lowery said from the organization’s office in Virginia. “She wants answers. That part I do understand. With parents, not knowing what happened in the worst.”

DiPietro told the police he last saw her when he put her to bed the night of Dec. 16, 2011. He reported her missing the following morning.

The toddler’s disappearance set off a massive search with wardens and volunteers combing through the woods and neighborhoods and searching streams. The police and FBI agents went door to door.

The effort grew into the largest criminal investigation in Maine history when the police declared that the girl, who has not been found, was believed to be the victim of foul play. They now say they believe she’s no longer alive. They have also said the father and two other adults in the house know more than they’re telling.

Reynolds said a state police detective gave her, her boyfriend and his mother details in a January face-to-face briefing. She was pregnant at the time and wasn’t ready to discuss what she was told. After giving birth a month ago, she resolved to go public with the information. At this point, she figures it can’t hurt.

Reynolds said she didn’t consult with law enforcement about her strategy. The state police generally don’t discuss investigative details during an active investigation.

“I am her mother and can talk about whatever I want to talk about, release whatever I want to release,” she said. “Personally, I don’t care how state police feel about what I’m doing. Ayla is my daughter, and this is what I’m going to do.”

Deputy Attorney General Bill Stokes said it’s important to keep families of victims updated on investigations but that law enforcement officials know that means details might be made public.

As for the ongoing investigation, Stokes declined to say how long it could take before law enforcement gets answers.

“I’m confident that over time we will resolve this in the sense that justice will be done for Ayla,” he said. “But it’s got to be done on the basis of a professional evaluation of the evidence and the likelihood of success.”

Clint Van Zandt, a former FBI profiler, said he didn’t blame Reynolds for speaking out.

“Any parent has every right in the world to try to find out what happened to this child,” Van Zandt said yesterday.

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