WATERVILLE, Maine (AP) — Relatives of a woman whose toddler daughter is the subject of an intensive search said Monday that they were concerned about the girl's safety while she was staying with her father, who was caring for her when she disappeared.
Twenty-month-old Ayla Reynolds was reported missing Saturday morning by her father, Justin DiPietro, who called police to say she was not in her bed at his home in Waterville.
Welfare agents had placed Ayla with her father weeks ago while her mother, Trista Reynolds, was in rehab for substance abuse, Reynolds' stepsister Whitney Raynor said Monday. The toddler's maternal grandmother, Becka Hanson, told the Morning Sentinel newspaper it was the Department of Health and Human Services that took custody of the girl and turned her over to DiPietro.
After moving in with her father, the toddler suffered a broken arm, said Raynor, who serves as spokeswoman for the Portland family, which has sought to regain custody of the girl.
Waterville police Chief Joseph Massey has said the girl's broken arm was from an accidental fall. The Department of Health and Human Services, the state's child welfare agency, had no comment on the case Monday.
A phone number for the father couldn't immediately be located Monday, and The Associated Press was unable to reach members of his immediate family by phone. Police outside his house Monday said that he was not there and that the girl's disappearance remains a missing-person case.
The girl was last seen Friday night wearing green one-piece pajamas with polka dots and the words "Daddy's Princess" on them; she had a soft cast on her left arm.
Department of Public Safety spokesman Steve McCausland said police learned of the girl's cast on her arm from either DiPietro or guests at his home Friday night.
Two cars were towed Monday from near DiPietro's house, but police would not comment on who owned them or why they were taken away.
Massey said every lead reported by the public is being followed in hopes of locating the child.
"We are approaching this with every possible thought and angle in mind. It is currently a very open case," Massey said at a briefing.
He said about 75 officers, including game wardens specially trained in search and rescue, were working on the case.
As the search entered its third day, a Maine Warden Service plane circled overhead, wardens searched a stream near the father's house and residents joined in canvassing the neighborhood for any signs of Ayla.
Wardens focused most of their efforts Monday on Messalonskee Stream, and the FBI and state police were helping Waterville police investigate, McCausland said.
The stream meanders through Waterville, a city of about 16,000 residents 20 miles north of Augusta.
Many residents joined in the search. Carrie Harvey, who lives nearby, found a sippy cup lid near the neighborhood and turned it over to a warden.
"It's sad. Christmas is right around the corner. My heart cries out for that lady," Harvey, a mother of five, said of Ayla's mother.
Reynolds, who also has a baby boy, went to court Thursday to regain sole custody of Ayla, Raynor said.
Reynolds told ABC's "Good Morning America" on Monday that she and the father have been unable to get along in the last few weeks.
"I've had no contact with him; he's had no contact with me. All I know is he's the last man to see my daughter, and all I want to know is where she is," she said.
Investigators interviewed the parents, as well as other family members, and they were cooperative, Massey said.
The father moved four to six weeks ago to his childhood home in a tidy neighborhood of small ranch houses built after World War II, a neighbor said. A few blocks away is a park, alongside the stream.
A state police evidence van was parked outside DiPietro's gray, viny-sided bungalow on Monday, and two state troopers were stationed outside.
"It's just so sad, so sad. I hope we end up with a live child," said Ellen Paul, a retired Colby College employee who lives across the street from DiPietro's home. "I'm heartbroken for anybody to go through that kind of pain."
Associated Press reporter David Sharp in Portland, Maine, contributed to this report.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.