Amber Alert: Vigil held as search continues for missing NJ girl

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Sunday, September 22, 2019
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More than 100 people gathered Saturday evening for a vigil in honor of a 5-year-old girl who has been missing for six days in Cumberland County, New Jersey.

BRIDGETON, New Jersey -- More than 100 people gathered Saturday evening for a vigil in honor of a 5-year-old girl who has been missing for six days in Cumberland County, New Jersey.

The reward for information leading to the whereabouts of Dulce Maria Alavez, who was last seen in a Bridgeton park around 5 p.m. Monday, has grown to $35,000. An Amber Alert remains in effect.

EXPLAINED:What are the criteria for issuing an Amber Alert?

During the vigil, family members explained how hard this week has been.

"At home, there is an emptiness since she hasn't come back," said Dulce's uncle, Abad Perez Alavez. "She hasn't hurt anyone, she's only an innocent child, who likes to have fun and play games, we don't why she's disappeared."

Dulce's grandmother made a plea for anyone with information to please come forward.

"I beg you, if you know something please call the police because the truth is the people that have the little girl don't know what you're causing us. I don't understand what's going on," said Dulce's grandmother, Norma Perez Alavez.

Law enforcement extended their search by air and by ground on Friday near the area she was last seen.

"At this point in the investigation, we continue to follow all possibilities. We remain hopeful that we're going to find Dulce alive," said a person speaking for the Alavez family.

During a news conference, Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae pleaded for anyone, including undocumented immigrants, to come forward with information.

"If you are an undocumented immigrant, do not be concerned about your immigration status, we do not care about your immigration status, we need your info to bring Dulce home," said Webb-McRae.

WATCH: The family of Dulce Maria Alavez issued a plea

Earlier Thursday, investigators were at Bridgeton City Park with bloodhounds tracking the 5-year-old's scent. They picked up something for approximately an hour, but then lost it.

They also visited the family's home, too.

Police reiterated on Friday that the family has been very cooperative.

Video taken shortly before Dulce Maria Alavez disappeared shows the child stopped at a store to get ice cream with her mother and brother.

WATCH: Last images of Dulce Maria Alavez before she went missing

At the time, Alavez was wearing a yellow shirt, black and white checkered long pants with a flower design and white sandals.

Once at the park, Alavez's mother Noema Alavez Perez said her daughter was playing on the swings with her 3-year-old brother, while she remained in a car with an 8-year-old relative approximately 30 yards away.

According to the mother, the 3-year-old returned to the car without his sister and they were not able to locate her after.

"I went looking for her and couldn't find her and I called the cops," Alavez Perez said. "They were looking for her all night. The dogs were out here."

Authorities said they have reports Alavez was taken by a light-skinned, possibly Hispanic male, roughly 5-foot 6-inches tall. He was believed to be wearing orange sneakers, red pants and a black shirt at the time of the incident.

Police said the man led Alavez from the playground at the park to a red van with a sliding door and tinted windows. The man then allegedly fled with the girl.

It's unknown if the man knew the girl or her family.

In a press conference Thursday, Webb-McRae said they are willing to expand beyond that theory and that the man's role may have been a possible witness.

"Our hope and expectation is that anyone who thinks that they saw anything that was remotely suspicious or could contribute to the return of Dulce to her family, we're asking them, we're appealing to them, we're encouraging them to come forward," Webb-McRae said.

WATCH: Amber Alert issued for missing Bridgeton, New Jersey girl

Dulce's aunt, Nayiber Alavez, said it's been very hard for the family.

"It's more harder for us because they're judging us that we had something to do with it -- when we don't," Nayiber Alavez said.

SEE ALSO: Bridgeton community joins in search for missing New Jersey girl

The abduction has left other residents, many of them immigrants, fearful for the safety of their children.

"The truth is, we are immigrants, workers who came here solely to work in this country and we don't feel safe that someone is stealing our children," said Efren Hernandez.

Anyone with information on her whereabouts should call the Bridgeton Police Department at 856-451-0033.


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