June 24, 2018
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Common sense not enough to crack Ayla Reynolds case

Renee Ordway
By Renee Ordway, Special to the BDN

In many ways solving crimes is easier today than ever before.

It’s not as easy as it appears to be on TV shows such as “CSI” and “Criminal Minds,” where complicated tests are run and data are received within minutes, but certainly science and technology have advanced the business of solving crimes.

But there are two very basic factors — and they aren’t scientific or technical — that, if missing, can grind a homicide investigation to a halt: a body and a cooperating witness.

In the case of Ayla Reynolds, the baby missing from her Waterville home since December, investigators have neither.

Just last week, with the snow mostly melted away, dozens of searchers again combed the banks of the Kennebec River and other area locations in search of Ayla’s body.

The three adults who were in the home the night she disappeared no longer are cooperating with the investigation, according to Department of Public Safety spokesman Stephen McCausland.

Common sense, of course, may indicate one thing, but common sense alone is not enough to make an arrest or prosecute a case.

Police have indicated they are extremely doubtful that a stranger snuck into the Waterville home and took Ayla. If the baby had wandered off on her own, common sense would tell you that she would have been found by now. She was only 20 months old. How far would she get?

Her father, Justin DiPietro, his sister Elisha DiPietro and his girlfriend, Courtney Roberts, were in the house that night. When they were talking to investigators their stories didn’t add up, police say, and now they aren’t talking at all.

It’s nearly beyond comprehension to think it possible for no one to be held accountable for this baby’s disappearance.

Or is it?

Let me remind you of 8-month-old Aisha Dickson, who was beaten to death at her home on Bald Mountain Drive in Bangor on Jan. 6, 1995.

Investigators did have Aisha’s broken body, but much like the Ayla Reynolds case, they had three adults who were home at the time and none of them cooperated with police.

Every bone in Aisha’s body, except for her spine, was broken. Her autopsy revealed injuries that had occurred when she was just 2 months old.

In the house with her that cold January night? Her father, DeShawn Dickson; her mother, Sarah Johnson; and Sarah’s mother, June Johnson.

Common sense indicates that someone in that house most likely was responsible for her brutal death.

But which one?

No one was ever charged. Dickson and Sarah Johnson went on to have more babies. Two at least were taken away from them by the Department of Health and Human Services and later adopted.

They moved away from Bangor and Aisha’s grandmother June Johnson returned to her native Honduras.

Aisha’s case remains one of the state’s unsolved homicides.

While discussing Ayla Reynold’s case the other day, someone said, “That guilt will eat someone alive. At some point someone will talk.”


In the meantime searchers will search, hoping, of course, to find something and at the same time hoping they do not.

As sad as it may be, when and if they do find Ayla’s body, it could go a long way toward helping ensure that her case does not end up on that unsolved list.

While common sense can’t prove a case and a person’s conscience can’t be counted on, science and technology can and they have come a long way since Aisha Dickson was murdered.

A vigil is scheduled for Ayla Reynolds on Wednesday, April 4, in Monument Square in Portland.

Have feedback? Want to know more? Send us ideas for follow-up stories.

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