An Amber Alert remains in effect in New Jersey for 5-year-old Dulce Maria Alavez amid a statewide manhunt for an unidentified individual who police say was seen leading the little girl into a red van.
Dulce was last seen Monday afternoon in the area of City Park in Bridgeton, New Jersey.
Dulce’s mother reported to authorities that she saw her daughter playing on the swings with her 3-year-old brother, about 30 yards away, while she remained in her car with an 8-year-old relative. The mother said the toddler returned to her car without his sister and she was unable to find her, according to a press release from the Bridgetown Police Department.
Local, state and federal authorities have been searching for the little girl ever since.
Dulce’s mother, Noema Alavez Perez, said her daughter “would never run off” or “walk by herself.”
“All of us are missing her a lot,” Perez told reporters Wednesday.
The New Jersey State Police issued the Amber Alert for Dulce early Wednesday after investigators interviewed people who were in the area at the time she vanished. Based on those interviews, detectives believe Dulce was taken by a light-skinned, possibly Hispanic man wearing a black shirt and red pants with orange sneakers.
The unidentified man is described as being around 5-foot-6 to 5-foot-8 and having a thin build, acne and no facial hair. He was last seen leading Dulce from the Bridgeton City Park playground into a red van with tinted windows and a sliding door on Monday at approximately 4:20 p.m. local time, according to the New Jersey State Police.
“It could be anybody. We don’t know if it’s a family member, strangers,” Dulce’s aunt, Nayiber Alavez, told reporters Wednesday. “But the only thing we’re asking is for her to come back home safely.”
Bridgeton Police Chief Michael Gaimari said investigators haven’t ruled anything out and that the individual responsible for Dulce’s disappearance could be a stranger or a known person. Detectives have been in constant contact with the little girl’s mother and will conduct follow-up interviews with more family members.
“We don’t have any solid suspects, we are investigating all the possibilities,” Gaimari told reporters Wednesday. “We have video surveillance that we’ve gathered from all of this area as much as we could obtain.”
Surveillance footage shows Dulce with her mother and little brother buying ice cream at a nearby store before they headed to the park on Monday afternoon. She’s seen wearing a yellow shirt, black-and-white checkered pants with a flower design, and white sandals. Her long dark hair was pulled back in a pony tail at the time.
Dulce is Hispanic and roughly 3 feet, 5 inches tall, police said.
Anyone with information on her whereabouts is urged to call the New Jersey State Police Missing Persons Unit at 1-609-882-2000 ext. 2554, the Bridgeton Police Department at 1-856-451-0033, or to immediately dial 911.