BIDDEFORD, Maine — The mother of Ayla Reynolds held a birthday vigil for the missing toddler Friday evening in Biddeford.

Ayla would have turned 4 years old on Friday, and the occasion was celebrated as nearly 70 people turned out at Mechanics Park on the waterfront to sign a giant card, release balloons and light candles in her honor. Rainfall that started just after 7 p.m. cut short an event that was scheduled to last almost an hour longer.

The vigil has been announced as the last such event that will be scheduled by Trista Reynolds, who has helped organize or attend several public events to honor her daughter since the girl disappeared from her father’s home in Waterville in December 2011.

“I need to take a break for a little while,” Reynolds, who has two sons under the age of 3, told reporters at the Friday event. “There’s a lot of focusing I need to do at home.”

The case of Ayla Reynolds, who was 20 months old when she disappeared, has since become the largest missing person investigation in Maine history, and for months, the mystery attracted national media attention.

If Trista Reynolds does indeed decide to take a step back from public view after the Friday night vigil, it would mark a change in approach for Ayla’s mother.

Reynolds and her family have been publicly outspoken since Ayla went missing, at times publicly admonishing police for not making an arrest in the case.

But as she prepared to step out of the public spotlight Friday night, Trista Reynolds softened her stance on the police work.

“I’m always going to be a little dissatisfied, but I’ve got to keep my faith and trust in the state police because … her life is in their hands,” she said. “If I don’t stay positive towards them, I’m not going to get my justice. Some days I’m like, ‘You’re not doing your job,’ and some days I’m like, ‘You know what? You are doing your job and you’re doing it the best that you can.’ So I’ve got to be thankful.”

Maine State Police officials have long acknowledged it’s unlikely Ayla will be found alive. Police have furthermore said they don’t believe she was abducted, rather that she was the victim of foul play. Police said that at one time it was believed the girl’s father, Justin DiPietro, was not being fully truthful about what transpired the night of Ayla’s disappearance.

Police said blood found in the partially finished basement of the DiPietro home was tested and could be traced to Ayla. Several high-profile searches for the body in wooded areas and bodies of water near the Waterville residence, including one in Oakland in late October 2013, turned up fruitless.

No one has been charged in the case, and the child has never been found.

DiPietro and the rest of Ayla’s paternal family have been mostly silent to the media about the case and have never granted a request for comment from the Bangor Daily News.

Ayla was staying in Waterville with DiPietro, his sister and girlfriend prior to her disappearance because Trista Reynolds had checked herself into a facility for substance abuse treatment.

Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.