BRIDGETON, N.J. (AP/FOX News) — Authorities believe a 5-year-old girl who disappeared this week while playing with a sibling at a New Jersey playground was taken against her will.
State police issued an Amber Alert late Tuesday night for Dulce Maria Alavez, who was last seen around 5 p.m. Monday at Bridgeton city park. The girl and her 3-year-old brother were playing there while their mother sat in her car with an 8-year-old relative.
The mother told police her son soon ran back to the car crying and pointed to the area where he last saw his sister.
They could not locate her and police were soon notified.
Initially, investigators searched the 1,000-acre Bridgeton park with K-9 units, helicopters and divers.
After interviewing witnesses, authorities came to believe the girl was taken by a man who apparently lured her to a van, put her in the back seat and drove off.
Dulce was last seen wearing a yellow shirt with a koala bear on the front, black and white checkered long pants with a flower design, and white sandals, police said.
She is 3 feet, 5 inches tall and weighs 40 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes.
The suspect is described as a light-skinned, possibly Hispanic male, the Bridgeton Police Department said.
The possible suspect is described as between 5 feet, 6 inches to 5 feet, 8 inches tall, with a thin build, no facial hair, and acne on his face.
He was wearing orange sneakers, red pants and a black shirt, police said.
“We don’t have any solid suspects, we are investigating all the possibilities. We have video surveillance that we’ve gathered from all of this area as much as we could obtain,” Chief Michael Gaimari with the Bridgeton Police Department told ABC 6.
CBS Philadelphia reports officers don’t know if the suspect is familiar to the girl or a complete stranger.
On Thursday, Dulce’s aunt says she believes her boyfriend is in the custody of federal immigration authorities.
According to NJ.com, Dulce’s mother, Noema Alavez Perez, is 5 months pregnant and the father of her child was interviewed by investigators and was then taken into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Alavez-Perez said she did not know why he was detained, and ICE officials would not confirm whether or not he was in their custody.
Police say as many as two dozen people may have been in the area around the time of the girl’s disappearance at the basketball courts next to the playground.
“She would never run off. She would never walk by herself or do something like that. This is the first time she did it,” said Dulce’s mother, Noema Alavez Perez.
Dulce’s aunt, Nayiber Alavez, says it’s been very hard for the family.
“It’s more harder for us because they judging us that we had something to do with it — when we don’t,” she said.
The girl’s disappearance has made other people in the community frightened for their own children.
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