One mystery has been solved in the disappearance of Maine toddler Ayla Reynolds. But it just makes the case of the 20-month-old gone missing in mid-December that much more confusing.
For many parents looking into the case in Waterville, Maine from the outside, there's been one particularly troubling detail casting suspicion on the girl's father, Justin DiPietro. Ayla wasn't just dressed in "daddy's princess" pajamas the night she disappeared from her crib. She had a cast on a broken arm. It sounded suspiciously like a neglected kid, making folks wonder if he had something to do with his child's disappearance. But now we know it could have happened to any of us.
Both Justin and his mom, little Ayla's grandmother, Phoebe DiPietro, have come out to talk to media this week, and they're telling the same story. Justin says he was carrying Ayla in one arm, groceries in another, when he slipped on a set of stairs at the home he shares with his mom. Falling on the little girl, he said, was unavoidable but completely accidental. Phoebe backs him up. She told CNN she heard a thump and rushed in to find her son and granddaughter on the ground.
Of course mother and son could have made the whole thing up, but I can't help feeling like they're telling the truth. The cast on little Ayla's arm proves the DiPietros did take her to a hospital -- which is not the MO of a neglectful family. Plus hospital workers are trained to spot abuse and neglect, but there have been no reports of them making a complaint to child protective services.
But this story rings true to me for a much more personal reason. Something very similar has happened to me. In fact, there is still a dent in the wall of my home where I slammed into the wall with my then baby daughter in my arms. I was walking, I tripped, and it was nothing but sheer luck that I was able to twist my body so that I took the brunt of the impact of hitting the wall instead of her. Every once in awhile, when I'm washing the walls or sweeping in that corner of the house, I look at the spot and shudder. That dent just as easily could have been made by her head instead of my body.
What happened to Ayla Reynolds' arm has likely happened to hundreds of kids. Heck, thousands of kids. When we're carrying our kids, we encounter any number of hazards, from ice on the driveway to the cat running in between our feet, that can make us fall. And if we do what the DiPietros did -- take the child for medical care after an incident -- no one thinks we're bad parents.
If Ayla Reynolds hadn't gone missing a few weeks later after her dad put her to bed, chances are no one would think Justin DiPietro was a bad parent either. They would just think he was a dad who had an accident with his kid.
Her dad certainly looks less guilty now. Sadly, we still don't know what happened between 8 p.m. when Justin put Ayla to bed and 9 a.m. when he realized she wasn't in her crib.
Did you think Ayla Reynolds' father may have played a role in her disappearance? What about now?