- "I would never do anything to harm her," Justin Dipietro says
- Ayla Reynolds, 20 months, was last seen December 16
- Dipietro says he was unaware of any concerns regarding his parenting
The father of a missing 20-month-old Maine girl said Monday he wants his daughter home and "I would never do anything to harm her."
"She's my daughter, she's my child, she's my world, she's everything to me," Justin Dipietro said on NBC's "Today" about his daughter, Ayla Reynolds.
Ayla was last seen December 16, when Dipietro said he put her to bed. He later reported her missing.
Waterville, Maine, Police Chief Joseph Massey has previously said authorities were confident that someone took Ayla from the house. But on Friday, Massey said in a statement police now believe foul play was involved in the child's disappearance and that the case "has evolved from the search for a missing child to a criminal investigation."
Asked about that on Monday, Dipietro said, "As far as I know ... that's just been a change in terminology." He said he believed "we're at the same place that we were on day one with this."
On why he hasn't conducted interviews publicly, Dipietro said the first few days following Ayla's disappearance he was "emotionally incapable of coming out to do an interview." He said police also warned him he could hinder their investigation by doing so.
However, he said, he decided to in order to reach out to whoever has Ayla, "and to let them know that what you're doing isn't right. You may think what you're doing is right for Ayla, but it's not. You have no right. You're not her parent. She belongs home with her family."
The night he put Ayla to bed was "just a normal night," he said on "Today."
The girl's mother, Trista Reynolds, previously told HLN's Nancy Grace that she raised Ayla for 18 months, and that Dipietro had become involved after she "needed to go and get a little bit of help for myself." She told HLN she entered rehab.
Dipietro had sole custody of Ayla when she disappeared. The day before Ayla went missing, Reynolds filed court documents seeking sole custody of the girl. The 23-year-old mother told HLN she didn't tell Dipietro she was going to court because he was "vindictive" and "verbally abusive."
"I can tell you what I'm not," Dipietro said on "Today" on Monday. "I love my daughter. I would never do anything to harm my daughter. She's the world to me."
Asked about Reynolds' previous statements to "Today," in which she questioned Dipietro's parenting skills and said she was concerned Ayla wasn't safe in his care, Dipietro said he was unaware of any concerns. "We had both agreed that me having her at this point in time was the best thing for her," he said.
He added that he is "doing anything possible that I can to get my daughter home. It feels like a helpless situation at some points."
Police said last week they had received 370 leads, and Massey said Friday that investigators and searchers had spent "many thousands of hours looking for Ayla (and) evaluating evidence."
A $30,000 reward from private citizens and business leaders was offered last week for information that would lead investigators to Ayla.
The girl is described as having blond hair and being about 2 feet, 9 inches tall, and weighing 30 pounds. She was last seen wearing green pajamas with white polka dots and the words "Daddy's Princess" across the front. She also had a soft cast on one arm.