Teddy bear vigil held for missing Maine toddler
WATERVILLE, Maine—More than 100 people gathered Saturday for a teddy bear vigil to remember a toddler missing for ten weeks and to keep her case in the public eye.
Dozens of stuffed animals were donated in the name of Ayla Reynolds, who was reporting missing from her father's Waterville home on Dec. 17. Some of the toys are headed toward a memorial outside her father's home. Others will be donated to hospitals and police and fire departments and given away to other children.
"It's scary to think something like this could happen to someone," Desiree Collins said after donating a blue teddy bear. "It's scary to think what could have happened. She may have been taken or was killed."
Ayla was 20 months old when she was reported missing by her father, Justin DiPietro, who said he last saw her when he put her to bed the night before. Police are treating her disappearance as a crime, but no one has been charged.
Her mother, Trista Reynolds, lives in Portland.
Neither of Ayla's parents showed up at Saturday's event, but DiPietro's mother and sister made brief appearances.
"I want everyone to know we are thinking of her and we want her home," DiPietro's mother, Phoebe DiPietro, told the crowd.
Karen Josephine Francis, a friend of the Reynolds family, held up her cellphone and asked the crowd to cheer for Ayla while her grandfather, Ronald Reynolds, was on the other end.
"Right now, he's thinking his granddaughter is dead," Francis said. "He's giving up hope."
Organizers of the vigil were part of a Facebook group called Ayla's Angels, which has 470 members.
Laurie Bingham, of Waterville, says she started the group to make sure Ayla isn't forgotten. Police are continuing to investigate her disappearance.
"Since Day 1, this has struck my heart," Bingham said. "She doesn't deserve this, and her family doesn't deserve this."