What to Know
- Dulce María Alavez, 5, disappeared from a Bridgeton, NJ park two weeks ago while headed to a swingset, her mother, Noema Alavez Pérez, says.
- Law enforcement, searchers and her desperate family have been combing the park looking for any sign of what happened to Dulce María.
- Police have not identified a suspect, though one theory police have circulated is that she may have been taken by a man in a red van.
Five-year-old Dulce María Alavez ran out of her mother's car and toward the swings at a neighborhood park in New Jersey two weeks ago Monday, her mother says.
Since that day, at about 4 p.m. at Bridgeton City Park, there's been no sign of the little girl who loves the movie "Frozen" and recording videos on her mom's phone.
No sign despite a search that has involved multiple law enforcement agencies, including the FBI; dozens of searchers; family members desperately hanging up flyers; and an Amber Alert.
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"Today marks two weeks since the monster took my daughter. On that day my life changed for the worst," Dulce María's mother, Noema Alavez Pérez, said Monday, at the park where she says Dulce María disappeared.
"I beg you all, please don't give up on my Dulce. We keep pushing to find her safe."
She acknowledged that she has been the subject of suspicion, though police have not named any people of interest or suspects. She said police have searched her phone and given it back to her.
"People are saying I had something to do with this, and saying bad things about me, saying rumors," Alavez Pérez said. "Please stop pointing fingers when you don't know and you don’t know who took her."
She answered some questions about that day, saying she stayed in the car while Dulce María and her brother, 3, ran to the swings because she was scratching a lottery ticket and helping her sister get her homework out. A play set on the playground was visible from the car, she said, but the swing set was hidden by a small hill.
When she walked over toward the swings, she found only the boy, crying, she said. Ice cream he had been eating was on the ground. Previously, Alavez Pérez had told NBC10 that Dulce María also had ice cream with her as she went to the swings -- and that investigators haven't even been able to find the 5-year-old's ice cream cup or spoon.
The leading theory behind Dulce María's disappearance on the afternoon of Sept. 16 is that she was kidnapped by a man as she played at Bridgeton City Park around 4 p.m., authorities have said. Police had pulled over red vans in the area, as one lead has been that a man led the girl from the playground to a red van with a sliding side door and tinted windows.
At the time of her disappearance, Dulce María wore a yellow shirt, black and white checkered pants with a flower design and white dress sandals. She has dark brown hair that was tied into a ponytail, police said. She stands around 3 feet, 5 inches tall.
Police said Dulce María was taken by 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.
Dulce María has been added to the FBI's "Most Wanted" list of kidnapping victims. The Bureau has also interviewed Dulce María's father, who lives in Mexico; Alavez Pérez said she had spoken last week to him, but she didn't elaborate on the conversation.
She said the search had been incredibily difficult for the family, saying she and her parents have missed so much work that they have lost their jobs and are relying on food stamps.
She said she can't sleep, instead staying up and looking at photos of Dulce María.
During the emotional interview, the girl's grandmother -- who shared custody of her -- sobbed and begged for Dulce María's return.
Alavez Pérez also thanked law enforcement for their efforts and begged neighbors in Bridgeton to keep looking.
"Please keep passing along her picture on social media and passing out flyers. Don’t be afraid to call any tips. If you were here in the park that day, please double check your phone for pictures -- any little bit may help.”
Dulce María and her family live in Bridgeton, a small Latino-majority city of 25,000 surrounded by one of the most rural areas of the state. It's the seat of Cumberland County, which is the leading producer of vegetables, potatoes, melons, flowers and sod in the state.
A third of Bridgeton's residents live in poverty and nearly three in 10 lack health care insurance. It is 51% Latino, according to U.S. Census figures, but some locals believe it could be as much as 70-80% Latino.