Trista Reynolds’ sons are getting older and Raymond, who turns 4 Tuesday, is beginning to understand more.

Reynolds said her growing sons are one reason that she plans a quiet remembrance of her daughter Ayla, whose fifth birthday is April 4.

Ayla disappeared from her father’s Waterville home in 2011, when she was 20 months old, and Reynolds plans to set off of balloons and light candles on her birthday.

“I’m just doing something with my sons and my family. I’m not doing anything involving a bunch of people,” Reynolds, 26, of Portland, said Friday. “It has been a rough couple of weeks. I’m just kind of needing my space this year.”

Her sons, who are not related to Ayla’s father, Justin DiPietro, are growing older, and she said she has to think of them.

“Anthony will be 2 in August,” she said. “Raymond’s still asking tons and tons of questions. I’m trying to keep them away from everybody.

“Raymond is starting to understand what’s going on, so out of respect for him, I’m trying to take a step back.”

It’s a balancing act to keep Ayla’s memory alive yet try to protect her sons while working full time and wanting to spend more time with them, she said. She works at Five Guys Burgers and Fries in South Portland.

“Anthony resembles Ayla a whole lot,” she said. “He’s got her chipmunk chubby cheeks. He does everything she does. She was a busybody, always playing in cupboards and trying to get into the toilet. He tried to climb in the oven the other day.”

Reynolds said this time of year is tough for her, a memory of the days before Ayla was born, when she was having a baby shower, getting a room ready for the daughter who would be coming into her life, and then going into labor.

When Ayla was reported missing from 29 Violette Ave. in Waterville, it launched what state law enforcement officials have said is the largest criminal investigation in Maine’s history.

Ayla was staying with DiPietro, who reported her missing. He maintains she was abducted during the night, but authorities have ruled that out and say he; his girlfriend at the time, Courtney Robeters; and sister Elisha DiPietro, who were in the house that night, aren’t telling the whole story.

Steve McCausland, spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety, said in an email Friday that the case “remains open and active and there are no new developments.”

Reynolds said she remains dedicated to finding the truth of what occurred that night.

She is urging the state to establish a cold-case squad to work on homicide cases that never have been solved.

“I don’t want to be one of those moms who dies and never ends up knowing,” she said.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17


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