Trista Reynolds, mother of missing toddler Ayla Reynolds, holds a picture of her daughter during a 2014 drawing attention to the case. Reynolds has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Ayla’s father and is now seeking to expand that complaint to also include the child’s grandmother and aunt. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel file

The mother of Ayla Reynolds, who had already filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the missing girl’s father, has expanded the scope of the civil action to include the child’s grandmother and aunt.

The lawyer representing Trista Reynolds, Ayla’s mother, wrote in the documents the complaint should be amended to include the two relatives as bearing responsibility for the child’s death, based on new police evidence. A judge in the case granted that request.

Trista Reynolds alleges the three family members all played a role in trying to “clean up” the child’s death before police could investigate the child’s disappearance, which became the largest and costliest police investigation in Maine history.

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

Ayla was reported missing by her father, Justin DiPietro, from the Waterville house of her grandmother, Phoebe DiPietro, on Dec. 17, 2011. Justin DiPietro and his sister, Elisha DiPietro, were at the house the night Ayla was reportedly last seen.

“Plaintiff believes there is sufficient evidence now to allege that Elisha DiPietro and Phoebe DiPietro, individually or together with Justin, had the opportunity and means to participate in causing severe injury to Ayla that led to Ayla’s death,” according to the motion to amend the civil lawsuit, written by Trista’s lawyer, William Childs.

“Plaintiff further believes there is sufficient evidence to now allege” that all three DiPietros “participated in an unsuccessful attempt to clean up and conceal the blood stains found in multiple locations” before authorities arrived, Childs writes.


The family also planned or participated “in removing Ayla’s body from Phoebe’s house and concealing it in an unknown location,” Childs writes, all of which was done “with the intent and purpose of concealing and preventing the discovery of evidence relevant to Ayla’s injuries, disappearance and death, both from Trista and from the investigating authorities.”

Childs writes that Trista Reynolds retained a forensic expert who examined this newly disclosed police evidence, which included “numerous reports and analyses from the Maine State Police Crime Laboratory.” The evidence was not available to Childs when he originally filed the original wrongful death complaint against Justin DiPietro in 2018.

Justin DiPietro, the father of Ayla Reynolds, in 2013. Portland Press Herald file

Ayla Reynolds has never been found and no one has been charged criminally in the case. A judge in 2017 declared her dead, paving the way for Trista Reynolds to file the wrongful death lawsuit, which is a civil action separate from a criminal investigation conducted by police.

That expert’s report, according to Childs, had already cited 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.”

The Maine State Police have consistently said the adults who were at the house with DiPietro when Ayla disappeared know more than they are revealing. Authorities said they found no evidence Ayla was abducted from the house during the night, when temperatures hovered just below freezing and snow covered the ground.

State police have said they consider Ayla’s case to be “unsolved,” not “cold,” because investigators continue to work actively on it. Authorities said they continue to welcome any information related to the case. Anyone with information should call 1-800-452-4664 or 207-624-7076, or leave an anonymous tips on the Maine State Police website.


Justin DiPietro, whose last known address was Winnetka, California, has denied having anything to do with Ayla’s disappearance, and has long maintained someone must have abducted her from the house.

His lawyer, Michael J. Waxman of Portland, said Friday morning that he is only representing Justin DiPietro and not Phoebe and Elisha, who will likely need their own legal representation. Their inclusion in the suit could potentially further delay progress in the case, he said.

Waxman noted that he’s had an opportunity to question Reynolds’ forensic expert in a court deposition, and said “it doesn’t make me feel their case is stronger than it was before I spoke with them.”

“They have an uphill battle in this case to prove my client caused this child’s death,” Waxman said. “They don’t have solid evidence any particular person did any particular thing to this girl.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new comments from Michael J. Waxman and to clarify that a judge granted the request to amend the complaint brought by Trista Reynolds. 

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