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Video: Mom: Baby Ayla’s dad ‘didn’t protect’ her

NBC, msnbc.com and news services
updated 12/23/2011 9:50:38 AM ET 2011-12-23T14:50:38

The mother of missing toddler Ayla Reynolds told NBC's TODAY Show Friday that investigators were keeping her in the dark about the search for her 20-month-old daughter.

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"Everything I'm hearing I'm hearing from news reporters," Trista Reynolds said. "I'm just like everybody else out there right now. I'm not hearing from any detectives, any state police, nothing — just what I hear on the news."

Ayla was living with her father, Justin DiPietro, who reported her missing from her bed in the central Maine city on Saturday morning. DiPietro told police he last saw her when he put her to bed the previous night. He said she was wearing green pajamas with polka dots and the words "Daddy's Princess" on them. She also had a soft cast on her broken left arm.

On Thursday, police intensified their focus on the house where Ayla was living, while continuing to look through local fields and waterways and chasing down tips from the public.

Two hundred leads on the missing little girl have come in, investigators said.

'I just want her home'
Reynolds said she planned to attend a candlelight vigil for Ayla at Monument Square in Portland, Maine, later Friday.

"I just want her home," she told TODAY. "And I'm hoping for maybe my Christmas present ... that she's going to come home."

The day before Ayla vanished, Reynolds said she had filed for sole custody in the courts.

"I trusted him to keep her safe," Reynolds said, speaking of DiPietro. "And now she is missing and I don't know where she is. I blame him right now. He did not protect her the way he was supposed to."

Investigators put up crime-scene tape around the house where Ayla lived with DiPietro in a neighborhood of neatly kept tract homes, called two of the state's top homicide prosecutors to the site Thursday and brought a state police support van to the scene. But Waterville Police Chief Joseph Massey insisted that the toddler's disappearance remains a missing child case — that "everything remains open and we're not discounting anything."

Image: Ayla Reynolds
AP
Police have recieved more than 200 tips from the public in connection with the disappearance of Alya Reynolds.

"That is the last place Ayla was seen. So as you might expect, we're going to give a lot of attention to that particular house, looking for any clues where she might be or where it would help us to locate her," Massey said. "We need to go through that as thoroughly as we can, just like we do in any other investigation."

He said officials from the state attorney general's office, including criminal division chief William Stokes, were at the house, but that was just to give them an opportunity to look at the site.

"We're at a point where we thought it was appropriate for him to come in and just do a walk-through," Massey said. "We're just at a different point in the investigation."

Clint Van Zandt, a former FBI profiler, told TODAY that the move made sense.

"On the off-chance she was a victim of crime, you get one chance and one chance only to get the evidence," he said. "That's what they're doing right now."

Ayla ended up with her father in October after child welfare workers intervened while Reynolds checked herself into a 10-day rehabilitation program for a drinking problem.

Cadaver dogs brought in
Reynolds told TODAY that while DiPietro was a caring parent, she thought "the way he was going about things was wrong." She did not elaborate.

Reynolds says she has now been sober for three months.

On Thursday, cadaver dogs were brought in to Waterville's airport and searched streams and waterways. Scores of state and local police, firefighters, game wardens, marine patrol officers and trained civilian volunteers have joined the effort.

Massey said police have made "significant progress" even though Ayla has not been found.

"There are a lot of things that we've eliminated, and that's just as important as identifying things," he said.

In a statement released Tuesday, DiPietro said that he doesn't know what happened to Ayla.

"I have no idea what happened to Ayla, or who is responsible," he said. "I will not make accusations or insinuations towards anyone until the police have been able to prove who's responsible for this."

On Friday, Trista expressed gratitude for the support she has received in the search for Ayla.

"Can I just thank everyone out there, especially the mothers, mother to mother, who's out searching for my daughter and who's been there looking and not given up and given their prayers?" she said on TODAY.

The Associated Press, NBC News and msnbc.com staff contributed to this report.

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