December 15, 2013

Ayla Reynolds still missing from Waterville home 2 years, 20 searches after she disappeared

The blond-haired, blue-eyed toddler who would now be 3 1/2 years old was last seen in December 2011 at her 29 Violette Ave. home.

By Amy Calder acalder@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

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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.

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Others still missing in Maine

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.

McCausland won’t discuss what, if anything, investigators have found during the searches, but he said the operations have allowed police to eliminate certain areas as possible locations for evidence of Ayla’s whereabouts.

“There have been some items found which we have disclosed following searches, but we have not gotten into any specifics,” McCausland said.

The latest search in Oakland yielded the discovery of bones, which police said were later tested and confirmed to be from an animal.

Although odds of finding Ayla alive are not good under the circumstances, Lowery, of the Missing and Exploited Children’s Center, said his organization will continue working to find her. The center sends representatives to the location where the child was reported missing, distributes images of missing children, develops age-progressed photos of missing children and help spread awareness.

Others found alive

Searches are important, as police look for the children as well as clues to their whereabouts, Lowery said. But he concedes that in many cases it’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

Time is the enemy, but there are exceptions.

“We have seen cases where children were found alive who were thought to be deceased,” Lowery said.

Examples include Jaycee Dugard, the 11-year-old girl kidnapped in 1991 in South Lake Tahoe, Calif. She was found in August 2009, after spending 18 years as the captive of her kidnapper, Phillip Craig Garrido.

Shawn Hornbeck was kidnapped Oct. 6, 2002, as he rode his bicycle near his home in Richwoods, Mo., and was missing more than four years before he was found Jan. 12, 2007. He had been kidnapped by Michael J. Devlin.

Elizabeth Smart was 14 when she was abducted from her bedroom June 5, 2002, in Salt Lake City and nine months later was found about 18 miles from her home with kidnappers Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzie.

And more recently, on May 6 this year, three women from Cleveland were rescued from a house where they were held captive by Ariel Castro, who abducted them between 2002 and 2004.

Smart and Dugard were both discovered because of alert strangers. Hornbeck and the women in Cleveland managed to escape their captors and get help.

The Ayla case initially was handled by Waterville police, which later turned the investigation over to state police. Waterville police still assist in the case, with officers from Waterville and other area agencies often seen participating in searches.

Waterville Police Chief Joseph Massey said he’s reluctant to comment on the case now because said his department is no longer the lead agency. But Massey said he thinks investigators do not want to miss an opportunity to crack the case.

“I think that’s a prudent thing to do,” Massey said. “I think a lot of people don’t realize that sometimes during an investigation we want to eliminate possibilities. When people talk about progress, that’s part of the process, eliminating people and eliminating areas. That certainly helps define the investigation.”

Massey conceded that generally the longer a case goes unsolved, the more likely evidence can be destroyed, lost or tampered with.

“So, in the best case scenario, we’d like to solve all serious cases within a few hours,” he said.

As time passes, police are also concerned about evidence being left out in the elements.

“Any time a person is reported missing, we’re dealing with a person, so time becomes very critical, particularly if the person is at risk or vulnerable because of their age, physical or mental condition,” Massey said. “When we get those types of cases, we aggressively work them and obviously, we know time can be a factor, so we put a lot of resources into those kind of investigations.”

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