WATERVILLE, Maine — The area being searched for a missing 20-month-old girl in Maine is being expanded to include trails and more waterways, and investigators are painstakingly checking out all tips, which now total more than 160, police said Wednesday.
A stream has already been drained in the search for Ayla Reynolds, and authorities said other streams, rivers and ponds in Waterville were also being checked as the area grows outward from the girl's neighborhood of neatly kept postwar homes.
More than 60 townspeople — many of them mothers with young children — gathered for a candlelight vigil for Ayla, praying, singing hymns and offering support to those helping in the quest to find the girl.
"I can tell you, they are working just as hard as if it was their own child," City Manager Mike Roy told the group at the vigil at the First Congregational Church. A photo of a smiling Ayla, a few children's drawings and stuffed toys formed a centerpiece at the front of the pews.
Searchers have looked through trash bins and lowered portions of Messalonskee stream in the central Maine city of about 16,000 residents.
More streams and ponds were lowered Wednesday, Police Chief Joseph Massey said, and additional woods and open areas were checked. The Maine Marine Patrol searched the Kennebec River, at the city's edge. The FBI continued Wednesday to go door-to-door in a "knock and talk" canvassing effort.
Dozens of new tips from the public poured in, bringing the total to more than 160, and each one was being checked out, Massey said.
"That is keeping investigators very, very busy, as you can imagine," the chief said.
The toddler was last seen Friday night when her father, Justin DiPietro, said he put her to bed wearing a green one-piece pajama set with polka dots and the words "Daddy's Princess."
DiPietro called police the next morning to say she wasn't there. Several other adults were in the home at the time, but Massey declined to identify them.
Tuesday night, DiPietro addressed the public for the first time, saying in a statement he had "no idea what happened to Ayla, or who is responsible."
DiPietro released the statement through the Waterville police, saying his family and friends will do "everything we can to assist in this investigation and get Ayla back home."
He and Ayla's mother, Trista Reynolds, continue to cooperate with police in what remains a missing-person case, Massey said.
An Amber Alert, which lets the public know about an abducted child, wasn't declared, and no manhunt is under way. State police say the case didn't fit the criteria for an Amber Alert because Ayla was reported missing about 12 hours after being last seen, and there was no vehicle and no suspect.
Before Wednesday night's vigil, which was moved indoors because of raw weather and freezing rain, Cori Cote held her 16-month-old daughter and said wanted to support Ayla's family.
"I couldn't imagine losing my little girl," she said. "I want Ayla back safe."