'It's Very Quiet Now Without Her': Family Filled With Grief, Hope in Month Since 5-Year-Old's Disappearance - NBC 10 Philadelphia

'It's Very Quiet Now Without Her': Family Filled With Grief, Hope in Month Since 5-Year-Old's Disappearance

"She never liked to sleep alone. She liked it when we hugged her"

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A Month Later, 5-Year-Old New Jersey Girl Remains Missing

    It has been one month since Dulce María Alavez vanished from a park in Bridgeton, New Jersey. The girl's mother, however, hasn't given up hope in finding her daughter. (Published Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019)

    Lee esta historia en español aquí.

    It wasn't supposed to be this way. The house wasn't meant to feel so empty.

    Standing in the bedroom she shared with her 5-year-old granddaughter, Norma Pérez gazed at her own bed and recalled the young girl curling up beside her underneath the covers. Dulce María Alavez had her own small mattress, but rarely did she sleep there.

    "She never liked to sleep alone. She liked it when we hugged her. That way she fell asleep faster," Pérez, who is the child's legal guardian, recalled.

    Sketch of Man Released in Connection to Missing Girl

    [PHI] Sketch of Man Released in Connection to Missing Girl

    Police released a sketch of a man they are seeking who they say may have information on the disappearance of Dulce María Alavez, who vanished from a park in rural southern New Jersey on Sept. 16. NBC10's Denise Nakano has the latest details on the investigation.

    (Published Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019)

    Things have changed since the girl vanished from a Bridgeton, New Jersey, park on the afternoon of Sept. 16. Federal, state and local authorities have scoured the area, followed more than 1,000 tips and checked in with registered sex offenders to no avail.

    "We don't understand why this happened to us. Sometimes it's really hard to believe that this has happened to our family," Noema Alavez Pérez, Dulce María's mother, lamented.

    Alavez Pérez recalled how happiness turned into sorrow the day her daughter went missing. It was supposed to be a joyous day. Dulce María loved pizza and her mother planned to take her to her favorite restaurant, the one that always made her happy.

    Instead, a stop at the park led to the girl's disappearance, with authorities working on the hypothesis that she was abducted by a man as she played at Bridgeton City Park.

    Police described the suspect as a light-skinned male who appeared to be between 5-foot-6 and 5-foot-8 inches tall with a thin build. He was clean-shaven and had acne on his face. The suspect wore orange sneakers (possibly Nike), red pants and a black T-shirt.

    In hopes of finding her, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has added Dulce María to its Most Wanted list for kidnapping victims. A reward for information leading to her return stands at $52,000.

    Where Is Dulce María? Despite Thousands of Tips, No Sign of 5 Year Old

    [PHI] Where Is Dulce María? Despite Thousands of Tips, No Sign of 5 Year Old

    Tthe search for Dulce María Alavez, 5, is near the end of its third week. But despite thousands of tips, the FBI's involvement and an Amber Alert, there is no sign of the girl who went missing after running to the swings at Bridgeton City Park in New Jersey Sept. 16.

    (Published Friday, Oct. 4, 2019)

    Federal agents have spoken to the child's biological father, who lives in Mexico. Alavez Pérez, too, has been questioned, though authorities said she has been helpful.

    Most recently, police released a sketch of a possible witness.

    All the leads have come up dry.

    "It's really been hard for us because she's always been in the house with my mom," Alavez Pérez said. "It's very quiet now without her."

    Despite the time that has elapsed since Dulce María vanished, both her family and the authorities are clinging to hope.

    "We have not given up and remain hopeful that we will determine the circumstances that led to Dulce's disappearance," Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae said in a statement. "... We are still looking for that one piece of information that cracks this case. We need the public's help to do so."

    Likewise, Alavez Pérez looks forward to the day when she might be able to hold her daughter in her arms once again.

    "I have faith in God that he's going to bring her back safe and sound," Alavez Pérez said.