‘No one is cleared’ — The search for 5-year-old NJ girl goes national
BRIDGETON — The search for a missing 5-year-old who disappeared from a city park on Sept. 16 has gone national.
The Cumberland County prosecutor said Friday that investigators do not believe that Dulce Maria Alavez is in the area. The city's police chief also said that no one has been cleared as a suspect.
There has been no sign of the girl who appears to have vanished from a playground at Bridgeton City Park as she played with her 3-year-old brother. She remains at the top of the FBI's Most Wanted kidnapping and missing persons list. The State Police Amber Alert remains active.
Dulce was last seen walking toward a red van with a man at Bridgeton City Park, according to Bridgeton police.
Her mother, Noema Alavez Perez, 19, said on Monday that she was in her car scratching lottery tickets. The young mother also was helping her own sister, who is 8 years old, with homework.
During an update on Friday morning, Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae said that the investigation remains open and active and proceeding as if she were alive because there is no physical evidence she has been harmed.
More than 300 local, county, state and federal agents have worked on the search for Dulce. About 200 buildings have been searched and more than 1,000 tips have been received and processed, according to the prosecutor.
"Five hundred vehicles have been identified and investigated, over 50 different types of legal processes have been served including court orders and including subpoenas. Investigators have made contact with numerous sex offenders from throughout the county to ascertain their whereabouts around the time Dulce went missing," Webb-McRae said.
Webb-McRae said investigators are still looking for the "key piece of information that we need to lead us to Dulce or the circumstances surrounding her disappearance."
Police Chief Michael Gaimari said that no one has been "cleared" as a suspect in the case.
"Until the child is located and until we can determine what happened to the child, no one is cleared," Gaimari said.
Asked whether Dulce's father, who is living in Mexico, has spoken with authorities, officials on Friday said only that the family has been cooperative.
Webb-McRae acknowledged that Dulce's mother had announced another search of the park on Sunday afternoon and would not rule out another larger search by law enforcement.
Gaimari said tips have been received from beyond the immediate area and been investigated by the FBI and other agencies.
Webb-McRae downplayed the importance of the red vehicle and the description of the man who a witness said had walked Dulce away from the park.
"I am not wed to the red vehicle. The witness that gave us that information was a child of tender years. I will not discount it, I will not ask the public to disregard it," Webb-McRae said.
The prosecutor also reiterated to those with information who may be hesitant to come forward because of their immigration status that authorities will not ask them about their immigration status.
Audio tape of the initial call by Perez to police was released on Thursday and posted by 6 ABC Action News.
"I can't find my daughter," Perez told the dispatcher, adding that people told her that "probably someone took her."
She could not remember what Dulce was wearing except for "flowery pants" and "white heels."
Webb-McRae dismissed the initial comments made to Perez as "hearsay."
Gaimari added those who spoke to Perez were interviewed several times by police before the Amber Alert was issued.
"We have to vet that information. We have to verify that information by interviewing witnesses in order to satisfy the requirements of issuing an Amber Alert," Gaimari said.
Anyone with information should call the FBI at 800-225-5324, option 4, option 8.