WATERVILLE — Police on Saturday said vandalism overnight Friday at the Violette Avenue home where toddler Ayla Reynolds was reported missing in December was reckless and cowardly.

A window on the street side of the modest, vinyl-sided home was smashed, as was a larger, double-pane window on the side of the house, next to a door. Three Waterville police officers responded within two minutes of a phone complaint at 11:15 p.m. Friday about the breakage, Waterville Police Chief Joseph Massey said, but no rocks or thrown objects were found, leading police to believe the windows were broken by someone using a bat or some other object the person then took away.

“It’s pretty disturbing, and I’m simply not going to tolerate having someone go up and harass people, damage their property.” Massey said at an outdoor news conference Saturday afternoon. “Whoever went there knew that there were people inside the house, including a small child.

“Breaking windows with that much force, sending glass flying all over the place, waking people up at that hour of the night, exposing them to the cold, possible injury — I think it’s pretty low, kind of cowardly.”

Waterville police were sent to 29 Violette Ave. that night after a 911 call from homeowner Phoebe DiPietro, the mother of Justin DiPietro, who reported his daughter, Ayla Reynolds, missing on the morning of Dec. 17. Phoebe DiPietro reported someone was throwing things through windows.

Massey said the force of the blows broke the glass, the screens on the windows and the blinds. Glass shards were all over the kitchen floor, he said.

He said police will be stepping up patrols in the area, as they would for any similar incident. He said there were no leads suggesting who did the damage.

Phoebe DiPietro was home at the time of the vandalism; as was her daughter, Elisha DiPietro, who is Justin’s sister; and Elisha’s 19-month-old daughter, Gabrielle, Ayla’s cousin.

Massey would not speculate about the motive for the vandalism. He said this was the only incident of criminal mischief reported at the house since Ayla’s disappearance seven weeks ago.

Massey would not comment on perceived public frustration in the case of the missing toddler. Police know who was at the home the last time Ayla reportedly was seen and that blood found in the basement was that of the missing child.

“These types of calls are actually quite serious,” Massey said of the vandalism. “There is a chance that someone could be injured by flying glass. It scares people, and it could escalate into a confrontation between the occupants of a home and the suspect.”

No one inside the home was injured. Massey said officers checked the surrounding area thoroughly for suspects and evidence. A tracking dog and a dog handler from the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office were sent to the scene and conducted a track toward Matthews Avenue, where the scent was lost, possibly indicating the culprit left in a vehicle.

Justin DiPietro returned to the Violette Avenue home at about 10 a.m. Saturday. He did not return calls to his cellphone Saturday. The house is posted with no trespassing signs.

DiPietro came out of the house briefly to move his car about 10:15 a.m. but did not respond to a reporter’s request for comment.

Massey said that if someone is identified as a suspect in the vandalism, he or she would be charged with criminal mischief, a misdemeanor crime and possibly other charges.

Ayla Reynolds was 20 months old when she was last seen sleeping in her bed the night of Dec. 16.

Maine State Police are investigating the case. On Friday they sent dive teams back to Waterville to search areas of the Kennebec River and Messalonskee Stream for clues to Ayla’s whereabouts. Also, massive ground search was conducted in the days following the child’s disappearance.

Police have said that the three adults who were in the house at the time of Ayla’s disappearance — Justin DiPietro; his girlfriend, Courtney Roberts; and his sister, Elisha — aren’t telling authorities everything they know.

Phoebe DiPietro has told police she was not home when the toddler was reported missing.

Police said evidence of Ayla’s blood was discovered in the basement of the home during the investigation, but have not provided additional details. A $30,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case remains unclaimed.

Anyone with information about who may be responsible for the vandalism incident is asked to call the Waterville Police Department at 680-4700. State police are asking that tips on the missing child be directed to them at 624-7076.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

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