Help Find NJ Girl’s Kidnapper — Clues Someone You Know May Be Involved
BRIDGETON —The kidnapper who took Dulce Maria Alavez five days ago from a city park could still be in the city — and may even be the person next door, the county prosecutor said Friday.
Police described a light-skinned and possibly Hispanic man driving a red van as having taken the 5-year-old girl.
"The investigation has led us to a place where we just want to talk to the man described. We need more information from the public," Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae said on Friday.
"At this point in the investigation, we continue to consider all possibilities. We remain hopeful that we are going to find Dulce alive," she said.
Among new details released Friday:
— Investigators have spoken to about 75 people.
— Investigators have yet to speak to the little girl's father, who is in Mexico and has been described as estranged from the family.
— Authorities have stopped and spoken to the owners of numerous red vans seen on surveillance footage or through registration records.
— No physical evidence has been recovered, despite authorities combing a 1.5-mile radius around Bridgeton City Park near the high school.
Webb-McRae said that often someone in the community will unknowingly be associated a criminal offender but may not connect changes in their behavior to their involvement.
Some of the clues outlined by Webb-McRae:
— Sudden absences from work or school while offering reasonable reasons.
— Missing scheduled appointments and commitments.
— Suddenly leaving town, sometimes with a plausible reason.
— A change in use of alcohol or drugs.
— Altering clothing and appearance.
— Discarding clothing.
— Changing the appearance of their vehicle.
— They may become anxious, nervous or irritable.
— The person may either have a strong interest in developments in this case or divert discussion of the investigation.
Bridgeton Police Chief Michael Gaimari said the search area was expanded with the help of local departments, State Police and the FBI. An estimated 125 law enforcement officers were part of the search on Friday, according to Webb-Rae.
Gaimari and McRae would not release specific details about the investigation including whether the boyfriend of Dulce's mother, Noema Alavez Perez, is in immigration custody.
McRae thanked Dolce's family for their cooperation and said they are actively involved in the investigation. They also encouraged people not to report "frivolous" information and knocked down a rumor that Perez had been arrested.
"Every time that someone calls in a frivolous lead that takes our attention away from our ultimate goal which is to bring Dolce home safely," McRae-Webb said.
Webb-McRae repeated her assurances that investigators are not interested in anyone's immigration status and that tips can be reported anonymously by calling the city's TIP 411 text service by texting "Bridgeton" plus your tip to 847411.
Information can also be called in at 800-CALL FBI (225-5324) option 4, option 8.
Bridgeton has one of the highest concentrations in the state of immigrants.
The reward grew to $35,000 for information with an additional $10,000 added by the NJ State Policemen's Benevolent Association.
"If this truly is an abduction, somebody somewhere knows something and besides the family nobody wants a happier ending than the police that are out there searching for a clue or some resolution to this," NJSPBA president Patrick Colligan told New Jersey 101.5. "It's tough to look at a picture of that little girl and not feel for the family and feel for the officers that are out there looking,"
A reward of $5,000 was put up by the FBI along with $5,000 from the Prosecutor's Office, $5,000 from Bridgeton restaurant Tortilleria El Paisano, $10,000 from Newfield National Bank and $1,000 from the Lakewood Scoop.
A vigil was planned in the park at 7 p.m. Saturday by resident Jackie Rodriguez. She told the Vineland Daily Journal she was touched by the search because she has three children. She asked attendees to wear yellow.