BRIDGETON — It’s been almost three weeks since 5-year-old Dulce Maria Alavez went missing from City Park, but officials aren’t giving up on finding her.

“To date, we are still searching for that key piece of information that we need to lead us to Dulce, or to the circumstances surrounding her disappearance,” Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae said during a news conference Friday morning. “We continue to examine new leads as they come in and re-examine massive amounts of information we have collected to see if new information helps us connect the dots.”

Dulce was reported missing Sept. 16, and state police issued an Amber Alert for her the next day.

Police said the girl may have been taken by a man who led her away from the playground, where she was playing with her 3-year-old brother, and into a red van.

Her mother, 19-year-old Noema Alavez Perez, was sitting in her car with an 8-year-old relative when she saw her son run back to the car crying and pointing to where he last saw Dulce, police said.

So far in the criminal investigation into Dulce’s disappearance, more than 300 law enforcement officers from various agencies have contributed, Webb-McRae said. They’re searched over 200 locations spanning out from the park into the city, including abandoned buildings and desolate areas, processed through 1,000 tips that have be received and identified and investigated more than 500 vehicles.

Officials have also made contact with registered sex offenders in the county to find out their location when Dulce when missing, she added, and reviewed video from where she disappeared, throughout the city and boarding townships.

Webb-McRae also confirmed that a citizen-run search of the area has been organized for 12:30 p.m. Sunday.

Earlier this week, Alavez Perez spoke to news outlets, begging residents not to give up on their search.

“Let’s keep pushing to find her safe,” said Perez, who was speaking to KYW-TV 3, out of Philadelphia. “If they could just return my daughter, she is just an innocent girl.”

At the news conference, police Chief Michael Gaimari said that no one has been cleared through the investigation, and that they’ve received numerous tips from outside and county and each one has been investigated.

Members of the undocumented immigrant community don’t have to be afraid of providing information to police, Webb-McRae said. Witnesses will not be asked about immigration status, she explained, echoing statements made by Attorney General Gurbir Grewal and Gov. Phil Murphy asking for people to come forward.

Under Grewal’s Immigrant Trust Directive, issued in November, local law enforcement agencies are discouraged from entering into agreements with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Since Dulce’s disappearance, officials from the State Police, FBI, as well as city police and the Prosecutor’s Office have searched for her using dogs, helicopters and boats to no avail.

“In the absence of physical evidence indicating that Dulce has been physically harmed, we remain hopeful and continue to act under the premise that she is alive,” Webb-McRae said. “We continue to consider all theories, and we want the public to understand that no piece of information is too small or too insignificant to track down.”

A $40,000 reward has been offered for information leading to Dulce’s whereabouts and she’s been placed on the FBI’s Most Wanted list of missing or kidnapped persons. On Friday, the Philadelphia Lodge #5 of the Fraternal Order of Police is offering an additional $5,000 reward in the case.

“This case is going to be closed with a tip from the public,” said FOP Lodge 5 President John McNesby. “Somebody out there has information that will help close this case.”

Anyone with information about Dulce can call Bridgeton police at 856-451-0033 or the FBI at 800-CALL-FBI, or text information to tip411, beginning the text with Bridgeton. Anyone with video or pictures may upload them to fbi.gov/alavez.

Search ongoing for Dulce Maria, what you need to know about the case

Contact: 609-272-7241

mbilinski@pressofac.com

Twitter @ACPressMollyB

Staff Writer

My beat is public safety, following police and crime. I started in January 2018 here at the Press covering Egg Harbor and Galloway townships. Before that, I worked at the Reading Eagle in Reading, Pa., covering crime and writing obituaries.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.

PLEASE BE ADVISED: Soon we will no longer integrate with Facebook for story comments. The commenting option is not going away, however, readers will need to register for a FREE site account to continue sharing their thoughts and feedback on stories. If you already have an account (i.e. current subscribers, posting in obituary guestbooks, for submitting community events), you may use that login, otherwise, you will be prompted to create a new account.

Load comments