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Maine stream drained, trash searched, 100 leads followed in hopes of finding missing toddler
WATERVILLE, Maine (AP) ' Investigators combed through trash bins, drained a stream and pored over more than 100 leads offered by the public in the search for a 20-month-old girl who disappeared from her father's home over the weekend.
The FBI also stepped up its effort to find Ayla Reynolds on Tuesday, launching a door-to-door canvass of neighbors to glean any scrap of information that may lead them to the little girl, said Waterville Police Chief Joseph Massey. The investigation remains a missing-person case, he said.
Massey refused to speculate on whether Ayla was alive, saying authorities are focused on finding her.
"We've ruled out nothing," said Massey, whose central Maine agency has combined efforts with firefighters, state police, game wardens and the FBI.
Ayla was last seen when her father, Justin DiPietro, put her to bed Friday night. 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.
While the neighborhood was canvassed, police were checking out trash bins across the city. A stretch of Messalonskee Stream a few blocks from DiPietro home was drained nearly dry so wardens could get a better look, both from the ground and from an airplane overhead, officials said.
Massey said each of the 100 leads that have been given to police was being followed.
Meanwhile, Ayla's mother said she's trying to remain optimistic that her daughter is OK. Trista Reynolds said she's 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."
Police said both of Ayla's parents, who live separately, continued to cooperate with police as the search was in its fourth day.
"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," Massey said.
Asked if other children in the area were at risk, he said, "No," and did not elaborate.
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. Reynolds and her older sister, Jessica, 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.
Associated Press writer David Sharp in Portland contributed to this report.