The mystery of 5-year-old Dulce Maria Alavez’s disappearance from a park in Bridgeton is deepening, with officials on Monday reporting no major break in their search for the girl after a week of investigation.
Authorities say they are still looking for a man in a red van who has been described by investigators as both a possible suspect and a possible witness in the girl’s disappearance.
The reward for information in the case now stands at $35,000, but there is no indication whether it has
generated useful tips.
Dulce was last seen in a playground at Bridgeton’s 1,100-acre City Park about 4:20 p.m. Sept. 16 and authorities have scoured the area for her since. An Amber Alert was issued more than 24 hours after she was last seen, saying the girl was apparently abducted — possibly by a man who, witnesses told investigators, may have led her into a red van.
Reporting they had no new developments to report, Bridgeton Police and Cumberland County’s Prosecutor’s Office on Monday asked anyone who took cell phone photos or videos in the park’s recreational area between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. the day Dulce vanished to share them with the FBI at fbi.gov/alavez.
County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae has said investigators have not ruled out anything in the search for the girl and are pursuing leads.
“When you follow a lead and it doesn’t take you to bringing Dulce home, we pivot, we reconsider the information, and we recheck, and take every new lead,” Webb-McRae said Friday.
Anyone providing tips on Dulce’s disappearance will not be questioned about immigration status, the prosecutor has said. Spanish-speaking officers are available in the majority-Hispanic area to talk to tipsters.
The girl’s mother, 19-year-old Noema Alavez Perez, and her family have cooperated with law enforcement, officials say.
Alavez Perez said she drove to the park with her 8-year-old sister, 5-year-old daughter, and 3-year-old son after buying ice cream.
Alavez Perez said she stayed in the car with her little sister to talk about homework while Dulce and her brother went to the playground 30 yards away.
A short time later, the boy returned crying and pointing to some buildings near the playground, Alavez Perez has said.
She went to look for Dulce but found no trace of her. Police were then called in.