Thursday, April 24, 2014
WATERVILLE — Two years and 20 searches after she disappeared, Ayla Reynolds is still missing.
Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans A candle illuminates a growing teddy bear shrine for missing 20-month-old Ayla Reynolds outside her 29 Violette Ave residence in Waterville on Christmas Day.
Ayla Reynolds is one of six children who have been reported missing in Maine over the last 42 years and have not been found.
• On May 11, 1986, Kimberly Moreau, 17, was reported missing from Jay. She was last seen leaving her house with an unknown person driving a late-model white Trans-Am car. She was wearing a white blouse, blue jeans, white high-top sneakers and a men’s class ring engraved with “Mike ‘87” and “Mike Staples.” She had a surgical scar on her back. She would be 44 now.
• Cathy Marie Moulton of Portland was 16 when she was reported missing Sept. 24, 1971. She was last seen in downtown Portland, wearing a navy blue all-weather coat, navy blue pant dress and brown leather shoes. Her four eye teeth had been removed and she was wearing braces. She also was wearing thick glasses. She would be 58 today.
• Douglas Charles Chapman was reported missing on June 2, 1971, in Alfred. He was 3 years old at the time and was last seen playing in a sand box in his front yard. He is reported to have a mole on his right shoulder. He would be 45 now.
• Bernard Ross, 19, was reported missing from Ashland on May 12, 1977. He would be 55 today.
• Kurt Ronald Newton of Manchester was 4 when he disappeared Sept. 1, 1975, from a campsite at Chain of Ponds. He was camping with his family and was last seen riding a tricycle. Today, he would be 42.-- Information from National Center for Missing & Exploited Children website (missingkids.com) and published reports.
Police say someone knows what happened to the child, but no one is telling. Officials say as time goes by, finding out the truth gets harder.
The blond-haired, blue-eyed toddler who would now be 3 and a half years old was last seen in December 2011 at her 29 Violette Ave. home. Her father, Justin DiPietro, reported her missing the morning of Dec. 17, telling police he last saw her when he put her to bed the night before. DiPietro said he awoke to find Ayla’s bed empty, and he believes someone took her from the house.
State police believe Ayla is dead and have said that the three adults who were at the Violette Avenue home when Ayla was reported missing aren’t telling authorities everything they know.
In the last two years, police, state game wardens and volunteers have searched for Ayla, relatives and supporters have set up websites and written blogs, and psychics have offered opinions. Authorities say Ayla’s case has become the largest police investigation in state history.
Ayla is one of nearly 25,000 children in the U.S. reported missing who have been gone more than 60 days, according to Bob Lowery, senior executive director of the missing children’s division of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. An average of about 2,000 children are reported missing in the U.S. every day, he said.
Many are found quickly and returned to their homes within a day or so, he said.
“Cases like Ayla’s are unusual,” Lowery said last week. “A child of this age, missing this long, is rare, but we do experience them. We do see them around the country.”
Maine State Police continue to work on the Ayla case nearly every day, according to Steve McCausland, spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety. Police are interviewing and re-interviewing people, reviewing records and analyzing evidence as part of the investigation, which has cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, he said.
Lowery says the search must continue.
“We don’t give up hope for children, but we also don’t give false hope,” he said.
Even though nearly two years have passed since Ayla’s disappearance, investigators are still determined to find her, McCausland said.
“There are some days when there is frustration that creeps in and then we remember who we are working for and that frustration subsides because we’re working for Ayla,” he said. “The determination of investigators is as strong as it was two years ago and I’ve seen that firsthand and it is a determined, committed group of investigators that have been working this case and that work continues.”
Searching for Ayla
McCausland said this week that 20 searches have been conducted for Ayla in the two years since she was reported missing. Some of those organized searches have been public and some kept private, he said.
The Maine Warden Service coordinated the searches, which have included state and local police, FBI agents, firefighters, volunteers and dogs.
They have searched by air, land and water, inspected neighborhoods, gone house-to-house and scoured riverbanks, woods and fields.
Dive teams have searched the Kennebec River, Messalonskee Stream and other bodies of water in central Maine.
The most recent large-scale search was off Hussey Hill Road in Oakland, where police spent a morning diving in a pond in a field and searching a wooded area, with no sign of Ayla.
“The searches will continue,” McCausland said this week. “There will be more searches. None at this point are planned, but there will be more.”
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