When Ayla Reynolds, then 20 months old, went missing from her father's home in Maine in the middle of the night in December 2011, we all hoped the nightmare would be over quickly for her family. But now here we are, more than a year later, and not only has Ayla not back home, but her family's been delivered a staggering blow.
Ayla's step-grandfather has come out to say that his granddaughter is dead. What's more, he says his family has been forbidden from discussing how they know the little girl is gone.
Confused? It sounds like everyone is.
Police in Maine said late last year that it was "unlikely" that Ayla was still alive. Depressing but not definitive. There was at least a little room for hope there.
More from The Stir: Ayla Reynolds' Dad's Confession Complicates Missing Child's Case
But now Jeff Hanson, step-father of Ayla's mom, Trista Reynolds, is saying there is no hope. On the website the family has maintained for the little girl, Hanson said the state has "unequivocal" evidence that Ayla died a year ago, noting that a $30,000 reward once offered for the girl's return has been withdrawn. He says the family found this out last month when they met with the police.
The cops, on the other hand, won't talk. They won't comment on Hanson's statement, not even on his claims that the family has been forbidden from talking so they don't jeopardize the case.
Procedurally, it all makes sense. Police tend to tell families things that they don't want out because they realize the family needs answers.
But put yourself in the Reynolds/Hanson clan's shoes. They can't even talk about whether or not the little girl is really dead? How do you move on from that? How do you possibly get closure?
Either the child is dead or she's not. Is it really fair to force this family to keep pretending they don't know?
Have you been following Ayla's case?