PORTLAND, Maine — The mother of a 20-month-old girl who disappeared from her father's home said she's trying to remain optimistic that her daughter is OK as dozens of law enforcement officers in Waterville investigate 100 leads received from the public.
Trista Reynolds said she's Tuesday trying to keep it together for an 8-month-old son who remains in her care but acknowledges the past few days have been tough.
"Sometimes I think that she's OK. Sometimes I start thinking that the worst can happen. That's how I've been feeling. I lay my head down at night and wonder where she is. Am I going to see her again? Do I get to see her beautiful smile?" Reynolds said of her daughter Ayla. "She's my little girl."
Searchers on Tuesday resumed looking for the youngster who was last seen Friday night when the father, Justin DiPietro, put her to bed. He called police to report her missing the following morning when he found her bed empty.
On Tuesday, a state police evidence vehicle remained outside the home that DiPietro shared with his mother in Waterville. State police stationed outside the house told reporters that the DiPietros were not there. Their whereabouts were unknown to the public and The Associated Press could not find phone numbers for them.
Volunteers joined game wardens and local police in canvassing the neighborhood in an effort to ensure a thorough search. Police were checking out trash bins across the city. FBI agents were knocking on doors. And a stream a few blocks from DiPietro home was lowered so wardens could get a better look, both from the ground and from an airplane overhead, officials said.
"Ayla Reynolds is etched in all our minds and reminds every investigator why it's important to stay focused and committed to the task at hand: to bring Ayla back home," said Waterville Police Chief Joseph Massey.
The girl's disappearance remained classified as a missing person case on Tuesday, but some family members feared the worst.
"Statistically speaking, she's not OK. I hope that baby is strong enough not to become a statistic," said Jessica Reynolds, Trista's older sister.
The Reynolds family was advised after meeting with Waterville police to return to their homes 75 miles to the south in Portland to let police conduct their investigation. The Reynolds sisters were holed up in a hotel Tuesday to stay away from the media frenzy.
"I'm watching my sister fall to pieces," Jessica Reynolds said. "I don't think she has any tears left to cry."
Trista Reynolds told The Associated Press that she and DiPietro never lived together as a couple and that he showed little interest in his daughter in the 18 months Ayla spent with her mother. But Reynolds said a drinking problem prompted her to enter rehabilitation in Lewiston for 10 days in October; she said that although her mother and older sister cared for Ayla during that time, child welfare agents intervened to place the girl with DiPietro.
Last week, Reynolds filed court papers that she hoped would lead to the return of her daughter. The filing occurred the day before Ayla was last seen in Waterville.
Reynolds said she began to question Ayla's care after the girl suffered a broken arm. She said she and her family encouraged child welfare agents to check on Ayla, but that they didn't follow through.
The Maine Department of Health and Human Services had no comment on Reynolds' assertions Tuesday. Confidentiality laws bar the child welfare agency from even confirming whether it's working with an individual or family, said spokesman John Martins.
Associated Press writer Glenn Adams in Waterville contributed to this report.