Two weeks after Dulce Maria Alavez disappeared from a Bridgeton, N.J., playground, the 5-year-old girl’s mother renewed an appeal for the public’s help in finding her daughter, and begged anyone possibly holding the child to release her.
“Don’t give up on my Dulce,” Noema Alavez Perez, 19, said at the playground where the girl was last seen on Sept. 16. “Any little bit will help.
“She’s just an innocent girl,” Alavez Perez said to anyone who might be holding her daughter. “She’s just 5 years old.”
She spoke of two weeks of worry and sleeplessness in a house now without her daughter’s shouts and offered new details about the investigation.
She said that in the two weeks since Dulce disappeared, investigators have visited her several times to ask questions and see if she could identify people in photographs. The investigators also have taken her cell phone three or four times and returned it.
Alavez Perez said she does not think the girl’s father, who returned to Mexico before Dulce was born, had anything to do with her disappearance.
The mother, holding one of her daughter’s favorite toys — a figure from Frozen — said she has retreated to her parents’ house.
“I’m scared of going out now,” said Alavez Perez, who is five months pregnant with her third child. “People are saying things.”
Social media posts have accused her of being a bad mother and even of having a role in Dulce’s disappearance.
Dulce was last seen at the playground in the city’s 1,100-acre park about 4:20 p.m. Sept. 16 and authorities have scoured the area for her since.
Alavez Perez has said she drove to the park with her 8-year-old sister, 3-year-old son, and Dulce after buying ice cream. She said she stayed in the car with her sister to talk about homework while Dulce and her brother went to the playground, 30 yards away.
She originally said the boy returned crying and pointing to some buildings near the playground.
But on Monday, Alavez Perez said that when her sister said she could not see the younger children, they went to check on them and found the little boy crying. His ice cream was on the ground and he was pointing at buildings at the playground, she said.
Offering a new detail, Alavez Perez said investigators did not find the cup of coconut water ice or the spoon Dulce took with her to the playground.
An Amber Alert was issued more than 24 hours after Dulce 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. But officials have shifted back and forth on whether the man was a suspect or a witness, and the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office has said it is "treating this as a missing person investigation until evidence indicates otherwise.”
Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae has said investigators have not ruled out anything and are pursuing all leads.
Authorities ask that anyone with information call 1-800-CALLFBI (1-800-225-5324), selecting Option 4, then Option 8. Tips can be anonymously texted to TIP411 with “Bridgeton” in the message. Video and photos can be sent at fbi.gov/alavez.