OAKLAND, Maine — Numerous law enforcement officials began canvassing a wooded area in Oakland early Wednesday morning in an effort to locate missing toddler Ayla Reynolds.
Department of Public Safety spokesman Stephen McCausland said Wednesday in a news release that more than 30 personnel from Oakland police, Maine State Police, four canine teams, state police divers and game wardens are participating in the search.
Search efforts are being focused on an area off Hussey Hill Road, McCausland said. He would not go into further detail about the cause of the search. A warden told the BDN late Wednesday morning that searchers are focusing on both sides of Hussey Hill Road.
“I’m not going to give any specifics,” said McCausland by phone Wednesday morning. “I was very clear as to what we were doing in the press release and I will get into additional details at [a scheduled 1:30 p.m. media briefing].”
A combination of woods and a small pond will be searched throughout the day, McCausland said.
The entrance to the search area Wednesday is cordoned off with police tape. A mobile command vehicle for the warden service and other vehicles were parked on Nike Lane. One Oakland police officer on the scene said he could not comment about the search.
The area is the planned location for Ridgewoods Estates. It was cleared within the last few years to make way for the development.
Paul Stevens, who lives in the area, said game wardens arrived at about 6:30 a.m.
“I’ve been hunting and snowshoeing out there before,” he said. “It’s all just trees, there’s not much out there until Zachary Drive. They must figure something is out there. I just hope they find her.”
Reynolds has been the subject of a police investigation for nearly two years since she was reported missing by her father, Justin DiPietro, on Dec. 17, 2011. DiPietro told police that Ayla had gone missing overnight from his Violette Avenue home in Waterville. Within days, investigators said they had ruled out that Ayla had been abducted by a stranger and in subsequent months, sought to pressure DiPietro and two other adults, DiPietro’s sister and girlfriend, who were in the home on the dates in question.
Police first said that they had found Ayla’s blood in DiPietro’s home and later that they were convinced DiPietro and the others hadn’t told them the truth about what had happened to the missing toddler.
No one has been charged in connection with the toddler’s disappearance and investigators have said repeatedly that they have ruled no one out as a suspect. At an emotional scene outside a courthouse in Portland last month, Trista Reynolds, who is Ayla’s mother, confronted DiPietro and his mother, Phoebe DiPietro, about the missing girl. Reynolds and Phoebe DiPietro accused each other of knowing what happened to Ayla; Justin DiPietro refused to speak.
Wednesday’s search in Oakland is the latest of numerous searches conducted by police, wardens and dive teams in and around Waterville, though investigators have been quiet about the case for several months.
McCausland originally announced that authorities would brief the public and media at 3 p.m., but later Wednesday morning changed the time to 1:30 p.m.
BDN writer Ryan McLaughlin contributed to this report.