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Video: Dad of missing child: ‘I’ll do anything to get my daughter home’

  1. Closed captioning of: Dad of missing child: ‘I’ll do anything to get my daughter home’

    >>> in waterville, maine. good morning to you.

    >> reporter: good morning, peter. police have scoured this area searching local trails, woods and waterways and spent a considerable amount of time at her father's home where the little girl was last seen. they've turned this into a criminal investigation . they've looked long and hard, even offering a $30,000 reward for information leading them to ayla reynolds . still no sign of the little girl . the missing person case is a criminal investigation , in a statement released friday night, the waterville police department says "we believe that foul play has occurred in connection with ay ayla 's disappearance. we base our conclusions as evidence gathered by investigators during the past two weeks." ayla was last seen by her father, josh dipietro . she had a soft cast on her arm from what police called an accidental fall. dipietro hasn't been seen publicly since ayla disappeared but is cooperating with the investigation. in a statement he said "it's important the public hear it from me personally that i have no idea what happened to ayla and i'm not in hiding."

    >> this investigation has gone over for two weeks. law enforcement satisfied itself a 20-month-old little girl could not have wandered away in the middle of the night from her own volumition.

    >> reporter: her mother, trista reynolds has made repeated pleas.

    >> i love her, i miss her, i want her home.

    >> reporter: reynolds says ayla was in dipietro 's care when she was in treatment for substance abuse . in an interview with matt last week, trista reynolds questioned dipietro 's actions.

    >> he said he's not hiding, but why won't he talk to me?

    >> reporter: and what happened to ayla , a question for the maine state police as they take the lead in what's turning out to be an increasingly mysterious case.

    >> every investigator involved in this case as far as they're concerned are still looking for a live, little 20-month-old girl.

    >> reporter: and late last night, trista reynolds issued the following statement exclusively to the "today" show, she says "when i found out from law enforcement that this has become a criminal investigation , i got chills up and down my spine, but i am keeping my faith. i am not giving up." we should add police are sifting through nearly 400 leads in the case. at this point they have not named any suspects. peter?

    >> aditi roy reporting, thank you. the father justin dipietro is with us exclusively. good morning. thank you for your time today.

    >> i thank you for having me.

    >> this is our first chance to speak to you publicly. can you give us a sense why you're coming forward now?

    >> there's a few reasons why. initially the first few days i was emotionally incapable of coming out to do an interview, and i had been advised that by coming on and doing an interview, by law enforcement , it could possibly hinder the investigation, and i'm here to help in any way i can, and by coming on here is in hopes of reaching out to the person that does have my daughter and to let them know that what you're doing isn't right. you may think what you're doing is right for ayla , but it's not. you have no right. you're not her parent. she belongs home with her family.

    >> justin , as you heard in the piece, police believe foul play is involved. what are investigators telling you about what happened, what they believe may have happened here?

    >> as far as i know, from -- that's just been a change in terminology. as far as i know, we're at the same place that we were at on day one with this.

    >> can you tell us about the last time that you saw your little daughter? i know it's now more than two weeks ago. she was wearing polka dot pajamas, the top said "daddy's little princess ." tell us about that night.

    >> it was just a normal night, there was nothing -- i put her to bed and just been a normal night.

    >> a lot has been said about you, obviously, in the last couple weeks, before we had a chance to speak to you directly. what do you think people should know about you and about your relationship to your little girl ?

    >> i can tell you what i'm not. i love my daughter. i'd never do anything to harm my daughter. she's the world to me.

    >> if we could ask you specifically, ayla 's mother, trista has been on the air with us twice, specifically questioned your parenting skills , even raised the question of an arm injury that your daughter has. she said she worried ayla wasn't safe in your care. your reaction to that?

    >> as far as i know, there was never any concerns. we had both agreed that me having her at this point in time was the best thing for her.

    >> trista had been in october in rehab for substance abuse . can you tell us specifically then about your daughter, tell us what makes your daughter so special?

    >> she's my daughter. she's my child. she's everything to me.

    >> mr. dipietro , justin , what do you hope happens now, what do you think will happen now and what are you doing to help try to find her at this point?

    >> i just want my daughter home. i'm doing anything possible that i can, to get my daughter home. feels like a helpless situation at some points, but i'm doing what i can, it's part of the reason i'm coming on here today in hopes of reaching out to the person that does have her.

    >> our thoughts are with you and your entire family. we should note if you have any information, call maine state poli police, that's their phone number on the korean, 207-624-7076. again, ayla reynolds now missing for about two weeks.

By
TODAY contributor
updated 1/2/2012 8:50:32 AM ET 2012-01-02T13:50:32

For the first time since his daughter was last seen on Dec. 16, the father of a missing Maine toddler spoke publicly Monday about the search for Ayla Reynolds and appealed to her abductor to return her safely.

Justin DiPietro, who was the last one to see his 20-month-old daughter when he put her to bed more than two weeks ago, spoke exclusively with TODAY’s Peter Alexander about his daughter’s disappearance, which was ruled a criminal investigation Friday by police in Waterville, Maine.

Ayla Reynolds, 20-months-old, disappeared December 16, her father said.

“By coming here, it was in hopes of reaching out to the person that does have my daughter to let them know that what they’re doing isn’t right,’’ DiPietro said from Maine in the live interview Monday morning. “You may think what you’re doing is right for Ayla, but it’s not. You have no right. You’re not her parent. She belongs home with her family.

“I just want my daughter. I’m doing anything possible that I can to get my daughter home. It feels like a hopeless situation at some points, but I’m doing what I can.”

No suspects have been named by police, but DiPietro’s parenting skills have been questioned by the girl’s mother, Trista Reynolds, who appeared on TODAY last week. Reynolds underwent a 10-day stint in a rehabilitation program for alcohol abuse in October, during which time she and DiPietro agreed that he would take care of their daughter. Before her disappearance, Ayla had a soft cast on her left arm in what police called an accident.

'She's the world to me'
Throughout most of the interview, DiPietro spoke in an unemotional monotone, but his eyes lit up when asked about his feelings toward his daughter and he smiled, becoming slightly choked up.

“I love my daughter,’’ DiPietro said. “I would never do anything to harm my daughter. She’s the world to me.’’

In a statement released exclusively to TODAY Sunday night, Reynolds said, “When I found out from law enforcement that this has become a criminal investigation I got chills up and down my spine, but I am keeping my faith. I am not giving up.’’

Ronald Reynolds, the child’s grandfather, also has been “begging and pleading’’ for Ayla’s return and has been wearing a green ribbon, which is the symbol for missing children.

Authorities have scoured nearby lakes, woods, fields and private properties for weeks and have spent significant time investigating DiPietro’s home in search of the child after determining that Ayla, who had recently started walking, did not leave the house on her own. A privately-funded $30,000 reward also has been posted, leading to nearly 400 tips from as far away as California regarding her disappearance.

On Friday, authorities announced that it has become a criminal investigation.

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“We believe that foul play has occurred in connection with Ayla’s disappearance,” the Waterville Police Department said in a statement. “We base our conclusions on evidence by investigators during the past two weeks.’’

Defending his silence
While Reynolds has appeared publicly multiple times since Ayla went missing, Monday marked DiPietro’s first public appearance. He had previously released statements through the Waterville police and has been cooperating with authorities during the entire investigation. On the night of Dec. 16, he said he put Ayla to bed as she wore polka dot pajamas that read “Daddy’s Little Princess’’ on them. At 8 a.m. on Dec. 17, DiPietro went to check on her and found she was gone, officially reporting her missing at 8:50 a.m.

“He said he’s not in hiding, but why won’t he come out?’’ Reynolds told TODAY last week. “Why won’t he talk to me? Why is he staying away? What is he so afraid of, to not come out and talk to me?’’

Story: ‘Just talk to me,’ mom of missing Maine tot begs dad

In Monday's interview, DiPietro defended his silence. “Initially, the first few days I was emotionally incapable of coming out to do an interview,’’ he told Alexander. “I had been advised that by coming on and doing an interview by law enforcement that it could possibly hinder the investigation, and I’m here to help in any way I can.’’

Reynolds said last week on TODAY that she and DiPietro have not spoken since their daughter’s disappearance and that she had concerns about her daughter’s safety while living with DiPietro. Reynolds lives 75 miles away in South Portland, and she last saw her daughter on Nov. 21. A day before Ayla’s disappearance, Reynolds filed for “parental rights and responsibilities’’ regarding custody of Ayla.

“He would never let me see her,’’ Reynolds told TODAY. “I would call to talk to her, and he would get mad about it. If I did see her and I would notice something on her like a bruise or just something, instead of reacting in a calm manner, he would lash out about it or kind of go into defense.’’

“As far as I know, there was never any concerns,’’ DiPietro said Monday. “We both agreed that me having her at this point in time was the best thing for her. She’s my child. She’s my world. She’s everything to me.’’

Although the investigation has now become a criminal one, DiPietro has not been made aware of any other major developments by investigators.

Story: Dad of missing toddler: ‘What you are doing isn’t right’

“As far as I know, that’s just been a change in terminology,’’ he said. “As far as I know we’re at the same place that we were at on Day One with this.’’

Anyone with information regarding the child’s disappearance is urged to contact the Maine State Police at 207-624-7076.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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