Vanished | Where is Ayla Reynolds?
The toddler was last seen Dec. 16, 2011, in Waterville. She was never found.
It has been more than a decade since Ayla Reynolds vanished from a home in Waterville, Maine. Even after all these years, the image of her smiling face has not been forgotten. The disappearance of the 20-month-old sparked the largest investigation in state history, but there she was never found. It is a mystery that has captured the minds of people all across the state and even the country.
In this special, our team goes back through every piece of reporting since the day Ayla went missing. We retrace the steps of investigators, her family, and journalists in the hopes of shining a light on a case that still just does not make sense. The question remains: Where is Ayla?
Part 1: The Disappearance
On the morning of Dec. 17, 2011, Ayla Reynolds's father, Justin DiPietro, called police to report his daughter missing from his mother's house on Violette Avenue, where the two were staying. He was there with his then-girlfriend, Courtney Roberts, and his sister, Phoebe DiPietro. They claimed they put the 20-month-old to bed the night before, and when they woke up, she was gone.
"We are aggressively investigating this case," Waterville police Chief Joe Massey said. "We're following every lead. Our goal is to find her. We're going to do everything that we can."
Part 2: The Investigation
As hours turned to days, search efforts turned up nothing. It was becoming more and more clear Ayla would not be home in time for Christmas. Still, the community and her family held on to hope. The story of the little girl's disappearance quickly spread and even made national headlines.
Both parents made separate appearances on network television as they searched for answers. Trista Reynolds took aim at her ex, Justin DiPietro.
"He's the only one that can answer my questions," Reynolds said on the Today Show. "You know like, we have a daughter that is missing. We used to be able to get along all the time. He was last one to see her alive."
Part 3: Blood Found
Six weeks after Ayla Reynolds disappeared came signs the house where she was last seen held answers. Police were told by Ayla's father, Justin DiPietro, that someone came into the home in the middle of the night and took her, but investigators did not believe it.
"The story doesn't pass the straight-face test," Maine Public Safety spokesman Stephen McCausland said at the time.
Police made public that blood, later confirmed to be Ayla's, was found in the basement of the home. There was still not enough to charge anyone.
Five months after Ayla vanished, police delivered the news everyone feared: she was not going to be found alive.
"This is not likely to have a happy ending," McCausland said. "There is nothing that we have found that leads us to believes that she's alive."
Trista Reynolds's family allowed news outlets into their home as they watched the press conference delivering that news. She immediately burst into tears as her sadness turned to anger.
"He f---ing knew! That man killed my baby," Reynolds shouted.
Part 4: Declared Dead
In 2017, at Trista Reynolds's request, a judge finally declared Ayla legally dead. The judge ruled her time of death on or about Dec. 17, 2011, when she was reported missing by her father, Justin DiPietro.
NEWS CENTER Maine went back to the home on Violette Avenue, where DiPietro's mother Phoebe and sister Elisha still live. Neither of them wanted to be interviewed.
When confronted in her driveway, Elisha said she "refused" to believe her niece was dead, and said her family had nothing to do with Ayla's disappearance.
Phoebe, Ayla's grandmother, accused the media of wanting to "convict" them.
As for Justin, he fled the state. A few months after the judge's ruling, a reporter with the TV show Crime Watch Daily tracked him down in California.
"I was just wondering how you were coping with that," the reporter asked.
"Not very good," DiPietro responded.
"Do you think it was from someone that you know? Or a stranger?" she asked.
"Um yeah someone someone that yeah, I know," he replied. "Could we meet at another time?"
Now that Ayla was declared legally dead, on the seven-year anniversary, Trista Reynolds and her attorneys filed a wrongful death lawsuit against DiPietro.
"I wonder if this is haunting you Justin," she said during a press conference. "I wonder if our daughter haunts your dreams or if you see her blue eyes when you close your eyes at night. I wonder if you even think about that night that night you murdered her."
Justin DiPietro and his attorneys have denied any wrongdoing and called the lawsuit "meritless."
Part 5: What Now?
More than a decade later, there are still no answers about what happened to Ayla Reynolds.
On the 10-year anniversary Waterville police Chief Joe Massey said the case has haunted him from day one.
"This is one of several that you know you always say to yourself you'd like to see it solved," he said. "The Ayla Reynolds case was the largest case was the largest criminal investigation in the state of Maine and it had a significant impact."
Maine State Police insisted the case is still active. They have gotten hundreds of tips over the years. Lt. Jeffrey Love said the DiPietro family likely holds the answers.
"We still feel they do have more information that could help us," Love said.
Ayla's mother, Trista Reynolds, continues her legal fight against Justin DiPietro.
The suit has since expanded to include his mother and sister and is still be litigated.
"I'm going to keep fighting and I'm going to keep sharing her story because our story, Ayla's story and my story, is going to save someone some day," she said. "I know it will."
: How To Watch
You can watch Vanished: Where is Ayla Reynolds? only on NEWS CENTER Maine. It's available on the free NEWS CENTER Maine+ app available on Roku and Amazon Fire. You can also find the special on YouTube.