Two Months Since 5-year-old Dulce Went Missing: What We Know
BRIDGETON — Nearly two months since 5-year-old Dulce Maria Alavez vanished after being last seen in a park, her family and law enforcement continue to urge anyone with information to come forward.
Police said a young witness reported seeing Dulce walking with a man toward a red van at Bridgeton City Park on Sept. 16, where she and her 3-year-old brother had just started playing while their mother sat in a nearby vehicle with an 8-year-old relative.
At the time of her disappearance, Dulce was wearing a yellow shirt with an elephant on the front, black and white pants and white shoes.
A State Police Amber Alert remains active and the child remains on the FBI's Most Wanted kidnapping and missing persons list. There is a $52,000 collective reward offered for information leading to an arrest in the case.
Investigators last month released a sketch of a man, described as a possible witness, that they would like to speak to about Dulce's disappearance. Police have said that the man pictured below is not a suspect or person of interest.
In a written statement, Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae said the man in the artist's rendering was reported to have been seen in the park, with one or two young children, around the time Dulce went missing. He was described as wearing a white T-shirt, blue jeans and a white baseball hat. The man is reported to be a Hispanic, standing about 5 feet 7 inches with a slender build and is between 30 to 35 years old.
The Prosecutor's Office last reshared the "missing child" poster featuring Dulce to its Facebook page on Nov. 9.
"We ask the public to remain vigilant and report any suspicious information. We are still looking for that one piece of information that cracks this case. We need the public's help to do so," Webb-McRae said on the one-month anniversary of Dulce's disappearance.
Information can be sent anonymously to the Bridgeton's TIP 411 text service by texting "Bridgeton" plus a tip to 847411, or by calling Bridgeton police at 856-451-0033, or the FBI at 800-CALL-FBI (225-5324) option 4, option 8.
The girl's mother, Noema Perez, spoke during a news conference on Sept. 30. She said the young relative she was with at the time of Dulce's disappearance was her own little sister. Perez also said her boyfriend — who is the father of a child she currently is pregnant with — was working in Philadelphia the day Dulce disappeared.
Dulce's father, Edgar Perez, was contacted in Mexico by the FBI in the days following the girl's disappearance, as previously reported by NBC Philadelphia.
Officials involved in the case have stressed they don't want anyone with information to be afraid to come forward, even if potential witnesses are in the country illegally. State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal told the Townsquare News Network that Dulce's case is an example of the community needs that motivated the Immigrant Trust Directive — a set of guidelines that limit voluntary law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration and customs enforcement authorities.
Critics of the directive say it offers "sanctuary," but Grewal repeatedly has said it is aimed at keeping the entire community safer by encouraging witnesses to speak with police.
Since Dulce's disappearance, a candlelit vigil was held at Bridgeton City Park on Sept. 21 hosted by the Missing Pieces Network.
In addition to official law enforcement searches, Dulce's family and community members have organized three weekend canvassing efforts in the area surrounding the park, handing out flyers and conducting their own, unofficial searches for the missing girl.
Another vigil tentatively is set for Saturday, Nov. 16, the two-month milestone of Dulce's disappearance, according to community members who have been helping the family.
With previous reporting by Dan Alexander