By: Christian Oberly
Additional reporting, photos, and video by: Kevin Howard, Ryan Schumacher, and Isaiah Showell
BRIDGETON, N.J. — The New Jersey State Police have issued an Amber Alert for Dulce Maria Alvavez, the 5-year-old girl who went missing on Monday, Sept. 16 after arriving at the Bridgeton City Park with her mother, brother, and another relative. Detectives now believe she was abducted by a Hispanic man driving a red van with a sliding side door and tinted windows.
The Amber Alert reads as follows:
Dulce is a Hispanic female, approximately 3’, 60-70 pounds, brown eyes, and brown hair. She was last seen wearing a yellow shirt (with an elephant), black and white pants and white shoes.
Detectives believe that Dulce was taken by a light-skinned Hispanic male, 5’6″ to 5’8″, thin build, no facial hair and facial acne, wearing orange sneakers, red pants, and a black shirt.
The suspect was last seen leading Dulce from the Bridgeton City Park playground to a red van with a sliding side door and tinted windows at approximately 4:20 P.M. yesterday afternoon.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the New Jersey State Police Missing Persons Unit at (609) 882-2000 ext. 2857, Bridgeton Police Department at (856) 451-0033 or CALL 911 immediately.
This Amber Alert was issued just after 10 p.m. and comes after two days of searching conducted by police agencies from across the state, as well as the Alavez family and concerned community members.
Early reports confirmed that Dulce Maria Alvavez was with her mother at a local custard stand on Monday, Sept. 16 shortly before arriving at the Bridgeton City Park. In interviews, her mother, Noema Alvavez, explained that they went to the park to play after getting ice cream. Not long after Dulce and her 3-year-old brother went to play near some storage buildings adjacent to the playground, the 3-year-old returned to his mother alone, crying. After searching for a short time, the mother contacted her brother to help look. And just before 5 p.m. she reached out to local police.
Police searched into the night, checking neighborhoods and viewing surveillance footage they could acquire, but eventually suspended the search until it could resume on Tuesday morning. Local police cordoned off the area near the storage buildings and the raceway until search and rescue dogs could be brought on-scene. A helicopter hovered overhead, scanning back and forth above the trees and river.
Bridgeton Police Department Chief Michael A. Gaimari gave a brief press conference around 5 p.m. to state that police had expanded the area of the search to cover the whole park and that they were using sonar to examine the bodies of water. He also explained that more searchers from the New Jersey Search and Rescue Council would be on-scene to assist, and that once police cleared the area, volunteer searchers could begin. At the time, authorities were not sure what happened to Dulce, but with the release of the Amber Alert, it appears police now believe Dulce was taken by a Hispanic man driving a red van.
Chief Gaimari’s press conference can be viewed below, as well as interviews conducted by Follow Local News’s Isaiah Showell. An earlier version of this story can be found here.
We will update the story as more details come in.