Massive search continues for Dulce Maria Alavez; $35K reward offered

Law enforcement officials from various agencies continue their search for a 5-year-old girl who they say was abducted on Monday.

Search crews have been scouring Bridgeton City Park in Cumberland County after Alavez disappeared while playing on the swings with her 3-year-old brother Monday afternoon.

The children's mother was sitting in her car 30 yards away with an 8-year-old relative. The 3-year-old returned to the car without Alavez.

Investigators say Alavez was lured into the back seat of a red van by a male suspect who has been described as 5-foot-6 to 5-foot-8, with a thin build and acne on his face. He was wearing orange sneakers, red pants and a black shirt at the time of the reported abduction.

"We’re hopeful we’re going to find Dulce alive and we continue to search for any evidence or information to determine how Dulce went missing," Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae said in a Friday afternoon press conference.

On Thursday, Alavez's grandmother made a public plea for help.

“Please if you have any information, help us find my granddaughter. Do not be afraid of the police. We have not been able to eat nor sleep. You cannot imagine what we are going through. We are very sad. Please help our family, I beg of you,” Dulce’s grandmother stated.

More than 100 officers from state and local police searched Friday in Cumberland County, on the ground and using a state police helicopter.
Officials have exercised different strategies to find her include helicopter search, volunteer searches, media specialist, a dive team, sonar and teams of dogs searching.

Police described Alavez as 3-foot-5 with a medium build and dark-colored hair. She was last seen wearing a yellow shirt, black and white checkered pants with a floral design and white sandals.

A reward for information leading to an arrest in the case has been increased to $35,000.

Authorities asked the community Friday to be aware if anyone has changed their routine, changed their physical appearance or left town recently without explanation.