Trista Reynolds and her attorney, William Childs, hold a news conference Dec. 17, 2018, to announce a wrongful death lawsuit that accuses Justin DiPietro of causing the death of Reynold’s daughter, Ayla, in December 2011. Reynolds is seen holding a photo of DiPietro. Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald file

WATERVILLE — Newly obtained police evidence has led the mother of Ayla Reynolds to request an expansion of her wrongful death lawsuit against the missing child’s father and family, with the complaint now alleging that adults responsible for Ayla’s care just over a decade ago tried to “clean up” her blood inside a Waterville home and hid the girl’s body.

Ayla Reynolds is seen in the photograph that was distributed after she disappeared from a Waterville home in December 2011. She was 20 months old at the time. Courtesy photo

The lawyer for Trista Reynolds, mother of Ayla, filed the new documents Friday at Cumberland County Superior Court in Portland. William Childs writes that his client is requesting the complaint be amended now that they have reports and photographs from the Office of the Maine Attorney General and Maine State Police, which began investigating Ayla’s disappearance the morning of Dec. 17, 2011.

The amended complaint includes new counts against Justin DiPietro, Ayla’s father, and also names Elisha and Phoebe DiPietro, Justin DiPietro’s sister and mother, respectively.

Childs writes that his office had an expert review the police evidence and a resulting report includes evidence showing “the distribution of bloodstains of Ayla’s blood” throughout the Waterville home where she lived, and “evidence that a person or persons attempted to ‘clean up’ Ayla’s blood before investigating authorities arrived to document the scene.”

Attempts to reach Childs for additional comment Sunday and Monday were not successful.

If the amended complaint is approved by a judge, all three defendants would face civil counts of wrongful death, conscious pain and suffering, and wrongful interference with the body of a deceased person. Additionally, Phoebe DiPietro would face a count of premises liability, and Justin DiPietro would face a count of breach of parents’ duty of care to a minor child.


Maine State Police have not brought criminal charges in the case and say it remains open and active.

Investigators seal off 29 Violette Ave. in Waterville with crime scene tape on Dec. 24, 2011, during the initial investigation into the disappearance of Ayla Reynolds. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel file

Michael J. Waxman, Justin DiPietro’s attorney, said Monday that he was “a little taken aback” by the amended complaint. Though he’s reviewed the complaint, he is waiting to receive the expert report that the amendment is based on.

“It’s hard for me to understand the new amended complaint without first reading the report,” Waxman said Monday. “I’m a little bit shocked that at this late juncture we’re now receiving these new allegations.”

Waxman anticipates objecting to these new findings.

“It’s hard for me to believe that these claims wouldn’t have been in their minds when they initially fined the complaint,” Waxman said.

In December 2011, blonde-haired and blue-eyed Ayla was 20 months old and in the care of Justin DiPietro at his mother, Phoebe DiPietro’s, house at 29 Violette Ave. in Waterville. Justin DiPietro called to report Ayla missing on the morning of Dec. 17.


Trista Reynolds, left, and Justin DePietro, right, speak on the steps of City Hall during a vigil in Castonguay Square in Waterville for their missing toddler, Ayla Reynolds, on Jan. 28, 2012. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel file

Justin DiPietro has said that the night Ayla went missing, he put her to bed around 8 p.m., and his sister, Elisha DiPietro, checked on Ayla around 10 p.m. Elisha DiPietro was home that night and so was Justin DiPietro’s then-girlfriend, Courtney Roberts. Justin DiPietro has maintained that Ayla must have been abducted during the night. Phoebe DiPietro was reportedly was not there the night before he called police.

Ayla’s disappearance launched the state’s largest and costliest investigation, but Ayla was never found and no charges have been filed in her disappearance. Police have said that they did not find evidence to suggest that Ayla was abducted, and that the adults who were in the house when Ayla disappeared know more than they are saying. Authorities believe the child’s disappearance was the result of foul play.

In 2017, six years after Ayla’s disappearance, a probate judge declared Ayla legally dead and named Trista Reynolds personal representative of Ayla’s estate. Reynolds went on to file the wrongful death lawsuit against Justin DiPietro in 2018 in Cumberland County Superior Court. The case has been slowed down by the pandemic, Childs said previously.

The wrongful death lawsuit is a civil case, meaning the attorney would have to meet a lower burden of proof than in a criminal case.

The motion to expand the lawsuit was prompted by a report from a forensic expert hired by Childs to review the investigation done by law enforcement. The documents state that the report includes information about the number, locations and appearance of the bloodstains from Ayla in the house, and the expert’s identification that someone “attempted to ‘clean up’ Ayla’s blood before investigating authorities arrived to document the scene.”

“Justin, Elisha and/or Phoebe, acting alone or in concert with one or both of the other Defendants, planned and/or participated in removing and concealing Ayla’s body, taking it away from Phoebe’s house to an unknown location,” the amended complaint alleges.


Childs has previously said that the forensic report is subject to a confidentiality order from the court.

The document goes on to say that there is “sufficient evidence” that Elisha DiPietro, Phoebe DiPietro and Justin DiPietro, either together or separately, unsuccessfully tried to clean up the bloodstains found throughout the house and planned or participated in moving Ayla’s body out of the house and hiding the body in an unknown location.

The expert’s report also cites evidence “directly contradicting the theory put forth by Justin DiPietro that Ayla was abducted from her first floor bedroom the night of December 16, 2011, while at least three adults and two other children in the house were sleeping, and that none of them were alerted to the fact that the abduction was taking place.”

Justin DiPietro, father of Ayla Reynolds, is seen in 2013. Portland Press Herald file photo

The amended complaint lists Justin DiPietro’s last known address as being Winnetka, California. When DiPietro’s was served a copy of the original complaint at his California residence in 2017, he denied his identity even though the person who served him noted he matched the photo that was provided, according to an exhibit in the complaint.

The Maine State Police investigation into Ayla’s disappearance is still ongoing and investigators continue to ask anyone with information about the case to call 800-452-4664 or 207-624-7076, or leave anonymous tips on the Maine State Police website.

Morning Sentinel staff writer Taylor Abbott contributed to this report. 

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