September 16, 2023
As the search for a young girl who went missing near a South Jersey park four years ago continues, authorities have released an age-progression photo to show what Dulce Maria Alavez might look like now.
The photograph was generated in collaboration with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and shared by the Cumberland County Prosecutor's Office. It shows what Dulce, who was five years old when she vanished, could look like as a nine-year-old.
"In the absence of evidence confirming Dulce's demise, investigators hold out hope that Dulce is still alive," Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae and Bridgeton Police Chief Michael Gaimari said in a joint statement.
On Sept. 16, 2019, Dulce went missing after being let out of her mother, Noema Alavez Perez's vehicle with her three-year-old brother to play at the playground at Bridgeton City Park in Cumberland County, New Jersey.
After about 10 minutes, the young boy returned to his mother's car, crying, saying he could not find Dulce. The boy was pointing toward adjacent buildings where Dulce may have wandered off.
"I can't find my daughter," Alavez Perez told a 911 dispatcher. "We were up there at the park, and people say that somebody probably took her. "They said somebody threw (my son's) ice cream on the floor, and my daughter just ran away," Alavez Perez said in the 911 call, describing what others at the park told her when she went to look for Dulce."
A surveillance video from a store showed Dulce picking out ice cream in a yellow shirt before her mother took her and her brother to the park.
Authorities alleged that an unidentified man led Dulce into a red van around 4:20 p.m. At the time, he was described as wearing a black shirt, orange sneakers, and red pants. His physical features were described as between 5-foot-6 and 5-foot-8 tall with a thin build, no facial hair, and acne on his face.
Over a week after her disappearance, Dulce was placed on the FBI's "Most Wanted" list of kidnapped or missing children. Anyone at Bridgeton Park between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. was asked to check their phones for any videos or pictures that could have helped with the search.
In October 2019, about a month after Dulce's disappearance, law enforcement released a composite sketch of a person of interest. The updated description of the male in the sketch said he was a light-skinned, possibly Hispanic male wearing a white T-shirt, blue jeans, and a white baseball hat.
In December 2019, Alavez Perez appeared on an episode of Dr. Phil where she was asked if she set up her daughter's kidnapping. She denied the allegations and said when the police suspected her family of involvement, they pointed out that she was not crying. She said she was given a polygraph test.
In March 2020, rumors that Dulce was found in Austintown, Ohio, were proven to be false.
"This type of activity hinders investigators' efforts in locating Dulce and determining the circumstances surrounding her disappearance," police said in a statement.
A year after Dulce went missing, Alavez Perez expressed that she wished she had not let her kids go to the playground alone to 6ABC. "I would say I'm sorry for not looking over her," Alavez Perez said.
On April 25, 2021, Edgar Perez, Dulce's father, who was deported to Mexico in 2018, posted a YouTube video in honor of her seventh birthday. The video shares pictures and videos of Dulce before her disappearance and Perez discussing how he misses his daughter.
Two years ago, on the second anniversary of Dulce going missing, authorities also released age-progression photos of the girl who was seven years old. After some skepticism over the original photo, a second one was released to "maximize our opportunity to obtain information from the public about possible sightings," prosecutors said.
The search for Dulce has been relatively quiet over the last two years. In June, a Florida group, the Anti-Predator Project, joined the search for the girl, NJ.com reported.
"We specialize in all things human trafficking- and missing children-related," co-founder and president Trent Steele said. "Between everybody on our team, we've got over a couple hundred years of missing children and human trafficking and organized crime case experience between us."
There is a standing $75,000 reward for information leading to Dulce Maria Alavez.
On Saturday at 4:30 p.m., there will be a vigil at Dulce's Tree, an area dedicated to the missing girl at Bridgeton City Park.
Anyone with information about Dulce's disappearance can call the Bridgeton Police Department at (856) 451-0033. Calls can also be placed to the FBI's toll-free tipline at 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324), where callers should select option 4, then option 8, or submit an anonymous tip to the agency online.