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Missing Toddler Declared Dead, Opening Door For Lawsuit

PORTLAND, Maine - A Maine toddler whose 2011 disappearance sparked a massive and ongoing investigation has now been declared legally dead.
 
Cumberland County Probate Judge Joseph Mazziotti issued a court order Wednesday that toddler Ayla Reynolds died on or around Dec. 17, 2011. The probate judge said the preponderance of the evidence supports the order.
 
Mazziotti's order allows Reynolds' mother, Trista, to file a wrongful-death lawsuit against Ayla's father, Justin DiPietro.
 
The father told police he believes his daughter was abducted, and his family has maintained that belief. But investigators who found blood in the father's basement bedroom believe Ayla was killed.
 
No one has been charged with a crime.
 
Trista Reynolds' attorney, William Childs, has said the goal of the lawsuit is to find out what happened to Ayla. Childs didn't immediately comment Wednesday.