Dive Teams Search Icy River For Missing Maine Toddler
WATERVILLE, Maine (AP) — Divers searched a half-mile stretch of an icy river Wednesday for any sign of a toddler who’s been missing for more than three weeks, and authorities said investigators are considering all possibilities related to the girl’s disappearance.
The number of tips on the potential whereabouts of 20-month-old Ayla Renolds has now topped 600, said Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety.
“We have ruled out no scenario. We have ruled out no one,” McCausland told reporters gathered at a command post alongside the river Wednesday. Eighteen divers searched the river while trying to avoid floating chunks of ice.
WBZ-TV’s Lauren Leamanczyk reports
Ayla was reported missing from her father’s Waterville home on Dec. 17, and her disappearance was declared a crime. A $30,000 reward is posted for information leading to her return.
The girl’s father, Justin DiPietro, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he was grateful to law enforcement officials and said he had “complete confidence in them.”
“They’ve taken a lot of criticism, and people don’t really know what’s going on behind the scenes. These men have been out there working, working since Day 1. They missed Christmas. They missed New Year’s with their families. They are doing everything they can to get my daughter home,” he said.
Law enforcement officials have searched the woods near the girl’s home and trash bins throughout Waterville. The nearby Messalonskee Stream was drained nearly dry on Dec. 21 so wardens could get a better look from the ground and sky.
Maine Warden Service Lt. Kevin Adam said no specific tip had led investigators to the Kennebec River. Searchers wanted to eliminate the half-mile stretch between a dam and a bridge as a possibility, and the weather was favorable, he said. Thursday’s forecast calls for heavy snow.
DiPietro declined to discuss any details of what happened before his daughter went missing, including who else was in the home the night Ayla was last seen.
As for Ayla’s whereabouts, DiPietro said he tries not to let negative thoughts creep into his mind when he considers what might have happened.
“I’ve got to remain hopeful. I’ve got to remain optimistic. I’ve got to remain confident they are going to get Ayla home,” he said.
Waterville police Chief Joseph Massey said the intensity of the investigation remains the same as it was in the days immediately after Ayla was reported missing.
All family members and those who were in the house the night Ayla was last seen have been cooperating, Massey said. There were three adults and two children in the house, McCausland said, but investigators have declined to identify any of them other than DiPietro and his daughter.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.