(BRIDGETON, N.J.) — The search for 5-year-old Dulce Maria Alavez entered its fifth day Friday with no significant leads or suspects, as authorities increased the reward for any information on the missing New Jersey girl to $35,000.
“I’m hopeful that we’ll find Dulce alive because we have no physical evidence,” Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McCrae said at a press conference Friday afternoon.
Bridgeton Chief of Police Michael Gaimari said at the same press conference there are no “strong suspects” at this time.
Dulce was last seen Monday afternoon near City Park in Bridgeton, New Jersey. The FBI, state police, missing persons unit, helicopters and the downtown ship dive crew have been part of the search effort.
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 statement from the Bridgetown Police Department.
Gaimari said that authorities expanded the search area about a mile and a half in each direction around the park on Friday, to make sure that they had covered their tracks. He would not say what, if anything, was recovered.
Gaimari also addressed rumors that Dulce’s mother had been arrested, calling them “erroneous.”
The New Jersey State Police issued an 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 an unidentified man, who was light-skinned and possibly Hispanic, wearing a black shirt and red pants with orange sneakers. He was described as being around 5-foot-6 to 5-foot-8 and having a thin build, acne and no facial hair.
Webb-McCrae said the investigation has led them to a place where “we just want to talk to the man described.” They are looking into the possibility that the person who took Dulce could be in the state or somewhere else in the country.
She said the public should be aware of any behavioral changes they observe in those close to them, including any sudden changes in appearances, plans, or vehicles.
Webb-McCrae emphasized that state police, her office and the FBI were not concerned with anyone’s immigration status if they did come forward with information.
On Friday, local authorities announced that the reward money for any information had been increased from $25,000.
The FBI, the prosecutor’s office, and the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association are each contributing $5,000. Two local businesses, Tortilleria El Paisano and Newfield National Bank, are each offering $10,000.
Dulce’s grandmother addressed the public on Thursday, begging anyone with information to come forward.
“Please, if you have any information help us find my granddaughter, do not be afraid of the police,” she said in Spanish at a press conference. “We have not been able to eat or sleep. You can’t imagine what we are going through. We are very sad.”
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