1 year later: Still no sign of missing Bridgeton girl Dulce Maria Alavez
Sept. 16 marked one year since 5-year-old Dulce Maria Alavez disappeared from a park in Cumberland County.
Local, state and federal law enforcement agencies involved in the investigation say that they believe that the Bridgeton girl’s disappearance was a crime of opportunity. The community and the FBI are pleading with those who were in the Bridgeton City Park on the day that the girl went missing to come forward to share what they may know.
“Every day I would wake up and hope to find that message on my phone that she’s alive, we found her,” Alavez family spokesperson Jackie Rodriquez said in a previous interview on News 12 New Jersey.
Dulce Alavez was playing on the playground in the park with her younger brother when she went missing. Her mother was sitting in a car nearby.
“I know someone out there knows something,” Rodriquez said.
In the hours and days following her disappearance, community and law enforcement search parties yielded no results. Almost 30 hours after she went missing, an Amber Alert was sent out with the description of a Hispanic man driving a red car.
“There’s a variety of different types of abductions,” says FBI Special Agent Daniel Garrabrant, who oversees the case.
Garrabrant says that it is now believed that Dulce was abducted by a stranger in a crime of opportunity. He says that the abductor is likely someone local or familiar with the area. A steady stream of tips has come in since the Amber Alert was sent out. Thousands of tips, according to Garrabrant.
All of the tips have been investigated, but the FBI says that the tips have not led to a suspect. The agency says that the family – both in Bridgeton and where Dulce’s father lives in Mexico – have been cooperating in the investigation.
“We don’t have any clear indication that they are involved in anything,” Garrabrant says.
But the question remains: How did no one witness the abduction?
“Someone had to see something. Maybe they didn’t realize what they were looking at and seeing at the time,” says Bridgeton Mayor Albert Kelly.
Garrabrant says that time is working against the FBI in the investigation.
“As time goes on, people’s memory and recollection fades a little bit. But what doesn’t fade is the behavior of the offender, and that’s really key. We think that people likely had seen the offender the day before the abduction, maybe lurking around the park, hanging in the park area,” he says.
The agent says that any small detail could be the piece of the puzzle to solve the crime.
The FBI and Mayor Kelly want to stress that immigration status will never be questioned for anyone who does decide to come forward with information. They say that the main focus is to bring Dulce home safely.