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'I still have hope that she's alive,' mother of missing 5-year-old New Jersey girl says

Julie Shaw, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in News & Features

BRIDGETON, N.J. -- After walking one more time through the playground where she last saw her 5-year-old daughter, Noema Alavez Perez wondered aloud about her disappearance. She knows so little.

All she knows is that her daughter, Dulce, raced off to play, ran toward someone -- and then she was gone.

There was a witness: Dulce's 3-year-old brother, Manuel. But he can say only so much.

"He saw everything, but like he's too young," the 19-year-old mother said last week. "For him, it's hard to talk."

Four months later, Dulce Maria Alavez is still missing.

Authorities have interviewed 1,000 people, including the child's father in Mexico, people who were in Bridgeton City Park on the day she disappeared, and registered sex offenders in Cumberland and surrounding counties. They have chased down countless leads from tip lines from sources as far away as California, Michigan, and Texas, Bridgeton Police Chief Michael Gaimari said.


After all that work, Gaimari remains hopeful and insists that the investigation has made progress. "I'm optimistic she's alive," he said.

A task force of investigators from the police department, New Jersey State Police, county prosecutors, and the FBI meets daily as part of what Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae described as "an active ongoing investigation."

Authorities have urged anyone with information about the child's disappearance to call law enforcement. There is a $75,000 reward for information on her whereabouts.

"If you can come forward ... I'm telling you that may be the crucial piece that finds" Dulce, said FBI Special Agent in Charge Gregory Ehrie, head of the Newark field office.


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