Missing Toddler Ayla Reynolds Had Unstable Home Life

Father of Ayla Reynolds received custody when mom went to rehab.

ByABC News
December 20, 2011, 12:26 PM

Dec. 20, 2011— -- Details of an unstable home life have emerged in the case of missing Maine toddler Ayla Reynolds, who was vanished from her father's house Friday night.

Reynolds was reported missing Saturday morning by her father, Justin DiPietro, who told police he put the 20-month-old to bed on Friday night and found her missing the next morning. The girl had been placed in his custody just weeks before by the Department of Health and Human Services because her mother, Trista Reynolds, had entered rehab for substance abuse, according to Trista Reynolds' relatives.

The toddler's grandmother, Becka Hanson, told the Morning Sentinel newspaper that she had been watching Ayla while her daughter, Trista, was in rehab, but that Ayla was taken by the DHS and placed with DiPietro. Trista's other child, a 9-month-old, remained in the Reynolds' family custody.

Trista and her 9-month-old son are currently living in a motel in South Portland, according to Hanson. Trista Reynolds had filed to regain custody of her daughter Dec. 15, the day before the disappearance. She told ABC News that DiPietro did not know she had filed the paperwork.

According to Trista's step-sister, the missing girl had recently broken her arm at her father's house and had begun showing bruises on her skin, the Morning Sentinel reported.

Waterville police chief Joseph Massey has said the girl broke her arm during an accidental fall.

Police are continuing their search for the girl for the fourth straight day, after Monday's canvasses of a nearby river and aerial searches turned up nothing. Massey said the police are following every lead that comes in from the public, and have not ruled out abduction.

Waterville police, state police, game wardens and FBI are all involved in the search, with more than 75 law enforcement agents now helping the investigation, Massey said. Twenty-five agents helped conduct the river search, which Massey called a "logical" step because of its proximity to where Ayla was last seen.

Police towed two vehicles in front of DiPietro's house Monday, but would not comment on why. Massey has said that there were several adults at DiPietro's home the night of the disappearance, including one non-relative. DiPietro did not return calls for comment.

A candlelight vigil is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. today, though a vigil held last night in front of DiPietro's home was sparsely attended.