Missing Ayla Reynolds: $30,000 Reward Offered

PHOTO:Ayla Reynolds is shown in this undated photo. Police in Maine are appealing to the public for help in locating the 20-month-old girl who was last seen December 16, 2011.PlayFAcebook/AP Photo
WATCH Missing Toddler Ayla: $30,000 Reward Announced

A $30,000 reward is being offered in the case of missing Maine toddler Ayla Reynolds, the largest missing person reward in the state's history.

In announcing the reward, police said that they believe there is foul play in the disappearance of the 20-month-old girl who has been missing since Dec. 17.

"We are confident that Ayla did not let herself out of the house," Waterville Police Chief Joseph Massey said. "We believe that someone removed Ayla from the house, and that is where our investigation is focusing."

Massey and local attorney John Nale said that calls were pouring in from private citizens and businesses wishing to make donations for a reward, with the money adding up to $30,000.

"I am very hopeful that the offer of a large monetary reward may serve to spur someone to make the phone call we desperately want to receive, the call that will lead us to Ayla Reynolds," Massey said.

Investigators searched for the toddler through the holiday weekend. Police said they believe that additional leads that came in over the weekend were prompted by the coverage of the case on "America's Most Wanted."

The leads, however, have not led to any suspects yet and authorities are conscious of the time that has passed since Ayla was last seen.

"In most missing person cases, the longer the investigation goes on the more concerned we become that we can find the person safe, particularly when the case involves the most vulnerable members of our community such as children and seniors," Massey said.

According to police, Ayla's father Justin DiPietro, 24, said he put the child to bed the night of Dec. 16 in his home, and awoke the next morning to find her missing. Police have said several other adults were in the home, including one non-relative. Reynolds was living with her father while the girl's mother, Trista Reynolds, 23, was in rehab for substance abuse.

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

Trista Reynolds' family said that the 20-month-old had been taken from their custody by the Department of Health and Human Services and placed with her father. Reynolds said the baby, who broke her arm at her father's house two weeks ago, had begun showing mysterious bruising on her leg.

While DiPietro did not comment on the girl's alleged injuries, he disputed the Reynolds family's account of Ayla's custody.

"Ayla was in my sole custody at the time of her disappearance per agreement between her mother and I, because she was unable to care for Ayla," he said in the statement, his first public comment since he reported Ayla missing. "I have shared every piece of information with the police."

DiPietro also contradicted Trista Reynolds' claim that the two parents had not been in contact in recent weeks. Reynolds told ABC News earlier this week that she had filed for sole custody of Ayla on Thursday, but had not told DiPietro and had not spoken to him recently.

Record Reward for Missing Maine Toddler

"Contrary to some statements floating around out there, I have been in communication with Ayla's mother over the last couple of weeks," DiPietro said. "The Waterville police have transcripts from my phone for verification of those communications."

DePietro reiterated that he was cooperating fully with police, providing them with any information they requested.

Police have said both parents have been cooperative, but investigators still have no sense of what happened to Ayla.

Massey said that 75 agents from the Waterville police department, Maine state police, Maine game warden service, and the FBI are searching for Ayla. The warden service once again searched a river close to DiPietro's house Wednesday, lowering the water level and conducting ground and aerial searches through the river bank. Agents also sifted through nearby Dumpsters and garbage cans, but the searches turned up nothing, he said.

The FBI conducted a door-to-door canvass of the neighborhood around DiPietro's home to ask neighbors if they had seen anything suspicious. Massey said the police department was following up on more than 100 leads that have come in to the department from the public.

Investigators are asking that anyone with information about Ayla please call the Waterville Police Department at 207-680-4700.