Mom: I Was Scratching Lottery Tix When Girl Went Missing; Don’t Judge Us
BRIDGETON — When 5-year-old Dulce Maria Alavez went missing at a city park, her mother was in a car playing scratch-off lottery games and helping another family member with homework, the mother said Monday.
Two weeks after 5-year-old Dulce Maria Alavez disappeared from a playground at Bridgeton City Park, her mother returned to the park Monday to make a plea for her safe return. The appearance was streamed live by 6ABC.com.
Dulce Maria Alavez has been missing since the afternoon of Sept. 16. She remains at the top of the FBI's Most Wanted kidnapping and missing persons list.
Dulce was last seen walking toward a red van with a man at Bridgeton City Park, according to Bridgeton police. As the investigation progressed, an Amber Alert was issued by State Police that is still in effect.
Police are looking to speak with a man described as light-skinned, possibly Hispanic, between 5-foot-6 and 5-foot-8 with a thin build, no facial hair, and with acne on his face. He's been described as wearing orange shoes.
Standing in front of a fence with signs hoping for her safe return Monday, 19-year-old Noema Alavez Perez read from a prepared statement in English and thanked law enforcement for their continuing efforts to find Dulce. The family has also at times addressed media or the public in Spanish.
"Today marks two weeks since the monster that took my daughter," Perez said, holding Dulce's favorite toy, a doll of Elsa from the movie "Frozen."
She continued: "On that day my life changed for the worst. I have not been the same ever since. People are saying bad things about me. Please stop the rumors. Please stop pointing fingers when you don't know and you don't know who took her."
Perez said at one point people were "judging me because of what I did in the past. Just because of my past doesn't mean I'm doing the same thing," but she didn't clarify what she'd been referring to.
She additionally said Dulce was "has nothing to do with the problems we had in the past, or people we have trouble (with) -- why her? Why does she have to pay the consequences? She's just a small girl. She doesn't even know."
A few days after Dulce went missing, police posted on social media to dispel rumors her mother had been arrested, and to ask people to stop spreading misinformation.
Perez said she doesn't go out much because she is "scared" because people "say things" to her.
"I beg you all please don't give up on my daughter. Let's keep pushing to find her safe. Please continue to share her picture on social media and pass out fliers," she said. "Don't be afraid to call in any tips. If your were in the park that day please double check your phone for pictures. Any little bit may help,"
She also answered questions from reporters in both English and Spanish about herself and the case.
Perez said there has not been a custody issue with Dulce's birth father, who she identified earlier as Edgar Perez, and said they don't talk much. She doesn't think he had anything to do with Dulce's disappearance because he is in Mexico and doesn't have the money to come to the United States.
She also shared more information about the events of the afternoon Dulce disappeared, and disclosed that her 3-year-old son "doesn't talk."
Police have previously said Dulce had been playing with her 3-year-old brother while Perez remained in her vehicle parked about 30 yards away with an 8-year-old relative — which the mother described Monday as her own younger sister. The 3-year-old came back to the car without Dulce and after a brief search of the immediate area, Perez called 911, police said.
"He was crying and when I asked 'where's your sister' -- he just pointed behind the building. That's it because he doesn't speak," Perez said Monday.
She said that after stopping for ice cream at a Sunoco station they drove over to the park, where Dulce and her brother immediately got out and ran over to the playground. She said from the parking lot she could not see the swings because of a hill.
"I was scratching my lottery tickets and my sister got her homework out. But when my sister told me there was no sign of them we went and checked," Perez said.
They walked to the park and found her son crying but didn't see Dulce, Perez said. About 10 minutes went by from the time her children left the car to when she came across her son, she said.
Perez said her boyfriend — who is the father of the child she is currently five months pregnant with — was working in Philadelphia the day Dulce disappeared.
Perez again asked anyone with information about Dulce's disappearance.
"If somebody knows anything please come forward and talk. We miss her a lot, everyone does," Perez said. "She was the only one who would make a lot of noise at the house. She would be screaming, playing around, Now the house is real quiet.
Authorities have asked anyone with information to contact 800-CALL-FBI. More than $35,000 in reward money is also available to anyone who provides information that leads to her recovery.
Dulce's grandmother also spoke on Monday, and asked whoever has Dulce to leave her at a store or anywhere, according to a family spokeswoman who translated her comments from Spanish.
Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae did not return immediately return a message from New Jersey 101.5 Monday seeking comment about Perez's comments.
The original Amber Alert issued about Dulce's disappearance remained active on Monday.