A Maine toddler who disappeared nearly six years ago from her father's home has officially been declared dead by a judge.
Joseph R. Mazziotti, the judge of probate in Cumberland County, signed an order on Wednesday stating that Ayla Reynolds "died on or about December 17, 2011."
Trista Reynolds, the child's mother, filed to have Ayla declared dead last week so she could begin the process of a civil lawsuit against the child's father.
"Nobody wants to stand in front of a judge and ask them to declare their child dead," she said in an exclusive interview Monday. "But when it's the only way to get justice ... what are you going to do?"
Just 20 months old at the time, Ayla was reported missing from the Waterville home of her father, Justin DiPietro, triggering the largest search and criminal investigation in Maine's history.
DiPietro told police Ayla was abducted, but they say there is no evidence to support his claim. Investigators say the girl's blood was found in DiPietro's basement, and that they do not believe she is alive.
Reynolds said she wants to depose DiPietro, his sister, and his ex-girlfriend, the last people to see Ayla alive. Investigators say those three people have not been forthcoming and may hold the key to the case.
"I hope they do kind of contradict each other [in their testimony] and someone slips," said Reynolds. "I hope somebody tells the truth."
While Reynolds hopes a civil case will produce new evidence, she does not believe investigators will ever find Ayla's body based on conversations she has had with police.
"There are some things that I know that nobody else knows, and there are things I've seen that nobody else has seen," she said, not wanting to compromise the criminal case. "What I do know, is no, I don't think they'll ever find Ayla's body."
Justin DiPietro could not be reached for comment earlier this week. He now lives in California.