Update, Friday, 11:27 a.m.
The reward for information about Dulce Maria Alavez’s disappearance and suspected kidnapping is now $30,000; made up of contributions from local business owners and multiple law enforcement agencies.
Update, 5:34 pm.
The New York Post reports that federal authorities have confirmed that Dulce’s mother’s boyfriend, 27-year-old Edgar Martinez, is in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody, appearing to confirm earlier statements made by Dulce’s mother.
Authorities in New Jersey are asking for the public’s help in the search for a 5-year-old girl who went missing in a park earlier this week — while offering a total of $20,000 in reward money for information leading to the little girl or a suspect in the case.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, Dulce Maria Alavez, 5, vanished while on a family outing at City Park in Bridgeton late Monday afternoon. Details about the timeline and the circumstances of the disappearance remain unclear, but Dulce is believed to have been on a playground with her younger brother while her mother and another child, reportedly the girl’s aunt, were in a nearby vehicle. At some point, the boy became upset and indicated to his mother that his sister had gone off in the direction of some storage buildings.
After police interviewed eyewitnesses at the park, they issued am AMBER Alert on Tuesday and said they were looking for a kidnapping suspect and a red van.
At a press conference Thursday afternoon, Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae told reporters that authorities are still pursuing leads connected to the red vehicle and the male suspect, but wished to speak to further witnesses.
“We encourage anyone who was at the park to call us,” Webb-McRae said, adding that authorities were offering a total of $20,000 in reward money, given by local business and law enforcement agencies, for information that leads police to the little girl or to a suspect in a possible kidnapping.
Authorities had earlier said they were looking for a light-skinned Hispanic male of slight build, between 5 feet 6 inches and 5 feet eight inches tall, with acne on his face, no facial hair, and who was wearing red pants and orange sneakers when an eyewitness or eyewitnesses told police they saw him “leading” Dulce to a red van with tinted windows and a sliding door on the passenger side.
Asked by a reporter if she still believed the man who fit that description is the person responsible for the suspected abduction, Webb-McRae said, “I don’t believe anything until we are able to determine how Dulce disappeared.”
Earlier Thursday, an ABC News 6 reporter tweeted a photo of FBI investigators searching the area of the park with bloodhounds. In response to a question about the bloodhounds, the prosecutor said that investigators are following up on any and all possible leads.
Search for Dulce Alavez continues minutes ago police and FBI agents returned to the playground with a bloodhound. pic.twitter.com/DEzLZQSGJu
— John Rawlins (@JRawlins6abc) September 19, 2019
Webb-McRae also said that authorities are widening the vehicle search to include both red SUVs and red vans.
“We are looking at red vehicles,” Webb-McRae said. “When you receive descriptions, sometimes they may not be accurate.”
Webb-McRae declined to answer a reporter question about whether she believes Dulce’s mother, Noema Alavez Pérez, is a credible witness.
Alavez Pérez has given interviews with local media outlets pleading for her daughter’s return and denying that her family had anything to do with her daughter’s disappearance. She has said in these interviews that she believes police suspect her of possible wrongdoing and have indicated they think Alavez Pérez knows where her daughter is.
“They think I’m lying; I’m telling the truth,” the mother told the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Alavez Pérez, 19, who is reportedly 5 months pregnant, told the newspaper the police questioned her boyfriend, who is the father of the unborn child but not Dulce. She claimed that authorities discovered during questioning that her boyfriend was undocumented, and that he was taken into ICE custody; possibly facing deportation. Federal authorities have not confirmed this claim.
Dulce’s father is reportedly in Mexico and has been in contact with Alavez Pérez by phone. According to NBC Philadelphia, police said at the news conference that authorities are working to locate him.
Later in the press conference, Dulce’s grandmother gave a tearful plea before reporters; her statement was delivered in Spanish and repeated by a translator.
“”Please, if you know something that will help us find my granddaughter, don’t be afraid of the police,” Norma Pérez said.
According to NBC Philadelphia, the Dulce lives with her grandmother, who is her legal guardian.
“We have not been able to eat nor sleep,” Pérez continued.
“You can’t imagine what we are going through. We are very sad.”
Authorities have also said that witnesses who speak to law enforcement will not be questioned about their immigration status.
Alavez was last seen at Bridgeton City Park around 4:20 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 16.
No lead is too small, and anyone providing tips will not be questioned about their immigration status, says Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae. pic.twitter.com/hXzh6xWxtw
— Oona Goodin-Smith (@oonagoodinsmith) September 19, 2019
Anyone with information about Dulce’s disappearance is urged to contact police at 856-451-0033 or text anonymously to TIP411.
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