A Maine toddler whose 2011 disappearance sparked a massive and ongoing investigation has been declared legally dead, clearing the way for her mother to file a wrongful-death lawsuit against her father.
Cumberland County Probate Judge Joseph Mazziotti on Wednesday issued a court order that toddler Ayla Reynolds died on or around December 17, 2011. The judge says the preponderance of evidence supports the order.
The judge’s order allows Ayla’s mother, Trista Reynolds, to file the lawsuit against Ayla’s father, Justin DiPietro.
The father has told police he believes Ayla was abducted. Investigators who found blood in the father’s basement bedroom say they believe Ayla was killed. Ayla was staying with her father in Waterville the day she disappeared.
This photo provided by Trista Reynolds shows Ayla Reynolds, her 2-year-old daughter, who went missing in December 2011 from her father’s home in Waterville, Maine
Ayla Reynolds was 20 months old when she went missing in December 2011
A wrongful death suit differs from a criminal complaint. Wrongful death claims are brought against a defendant who has caused someone’s death either negligently or through intentional harm. Since Ayla has now been declared dead, Trista can file a complaint.
No one has been charged with a crime.
Trista Reynolds’ attorney has said the goal of the lawsuit is to find out what happened to Ayla.
‘Nobody wants to stand in front of a judge and ask them to declare their child dead,’ Trista Reynolds said to NECN. ‘But when it’s the only way to get justice … what are you going to do?’
A death declaration will allow for a wrongful-death lawsuit to be filed against Ayla’s father
Trista Reynolds believes the father was involved in the disappearance of her daughter
Trista hopes to depose the last three people to see Ayla alive: DiPietro, his sister, and his ex-girlfriend. Investigators have said the trio have not been forthcoming and may hold the key to discovering what happened to Ayla.
‘There are some things that I know that nobody else knows, and there are things I’ve seen that nobody else has seen,’ Trista said. ‘What I do know, is no, I don’t think they’ll ever find Ayla’s body.’
Trista has been vocal about her belief that DiPietro was involved in the child’s disappearance. She was seen screaming ‘murderer’ at Ayla’s father several years ago outside of court.
Justin DiPietro (pictured) says he believes his child was kidnapped
Trista Reynolds holds a photo of her daughter, Ayla Reynolds, during an interview with the Associated Press in Westbrook, Maine on September 17, 2013