Authorities in New Jersey are offering a $20,000 reward for information about the disappearance of a 5-year-old girl who vanished from a playground Monday afternoon.
Dulce Maria Alavez disappeared from City Park in Bridgeton. Authorities said a man, possibly Hispanic, led Dulce from the park to a red van with a sliding side door and tinted windows. The man had Dulce get in the backseat before he drove away at around 4:20 p.m., according to a statewide Amber Alert late Tuesday night that remains active.
At a press conference Thursday, Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae said authorities believe the unidentified man, wearing orange shoes, was in the area when Dulce disappeared and may have information that would assist in the investigation.
Dulce’s maternal grandmother also spoke at the press conference, imploring anyone who had information to please come forward.
“Please, if you have any information, help us find my granddaughter,” she said in Spanish through a translator. “We have not been able to eat nor sleep. You can't imagine what we are going through."
"We are very sad," the woman said through tears. "Please help our family. I beg of you.”
Webb-McRae said the woman’s name would not be disclosed to give the family privacy and that she would not answer any reporters' questions.
The reward includes $10,000 from a local business and $5,000 each from the FBI and prosecutor's office.
Police in Bridgeton, which is in the far southern part of the state, said the girl's mother told officers that she last saw her daughter playing on the park's swings with her 3-year-old brother. The mother said she was about 30 yards away from her children sitting in her car with an 8-year-old relative.
When the 3-year-old returned to the car without Dulce, the mother said she tried to find her but couldn't. The mother reported her daughter missing at around 4:50 p.m., according to police.
Bridgeton Chief of Police Michael Gaimari said in a press release on the department's Facebook page that Tuesday's Amber Alert was issued after "interviewing and re-interviewing people" at the park Monday afternoon.
Dulce was last seen wearing a yellow shirt with a koala bear on the front, black-and-white pants and white sandals. She is described as Hispanic, with black hair and is roughly 3 feet, 5 inches tall.
The man who police are searching for is described as having a thin build, light skin, no facial hair, and acne. He is said to be between 5 feet, 6 inches and 5 feet, 8 inches tall, and was wearing a black shirt, red pants, and orange sneakers, possibly Nikes.
More than 50 officers from various police departments, along with city fire department personnel, K-9 units, and the FBI Child Abduction Rapid Deployment unit are assisting in the search for Dulce, Bridgeton police said.