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Divers search icy river for any sign of Maine toddler missing for more than 3 weeks
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 possible whereabouts of 20-month-old Ayla Reynolds 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 Kennebec River Wednesday. Eighteen divers searched the river while trying to avoid floating chunks of ice.
Ayla was reported missing from her father's Waterville home on Dec. 17, and her disappearance was declared a crime. A $30,000 reward, raised from private donors, 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.
"This is just us expanding our search area, trying to think of all the different scenarios, and doing what we can do to find Ayla," Adam said.
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.
DiPietro said he tries not to let negative thoughts creep into his mind when he considers what might have happened to his daughter.
"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 that although it had been 26 days since Ayla vanished, "our intensity and our commitment to find Ayla is as great today as it was the first day."
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.
McCausland said investigators continue encouraging anyone with information, no matter how immaterial it might seem, to call state police.
"That might be the piece of information we need to crack this case wide open," McCausland said.