BRIDGETON, N.J. (CBS) — The search continues for 5-year-old Dulce Maria Alavez, who police believe was taken from a Bridgeton park eight days ago. Authorities say they’ve made contact with the girl’s father.
The family of little Dulce told Eyewitness News there is now a $65,000 reward being offered for information that leads to the whereabouts of the 5-year-old.
They’re hoping the cash may encourage someone with information to come forward. Bridgeton police, however, say the verified reward remains at $35,000.
“Everyone in my family is really worried about her because we haven’t heard anything,” Dulce’s mother, Noema Alavez Perez, said.
It’s been more than a week since Perez has seen her daughter.
Dulce was last seen in the afternoon of Sept. 16, playing on the swings at Bridgeton City Park and then vanished. Police believe she was abducted.
Dulce’s mother talked about the void her disappearance has left.
“Since she hasn’t been here it’s been a lot quieter in the house. She’s usually running around the house. She’s the one who makes the most noise out of all of the kids in the house,” Perez said.
Dulce is now on the FBI’s Most Wanted list, and there is a reward being offered for information leading to the 5-year-old’s whereabouts.
Retired FBI agent JJ Klaver says tracking down Dulce’s abductor may be challenging due to the undocumented immigrant community in the area.
“Some people in this community are likely undocumented and that poses very particular challenges to law enforcement conducting these types of investigations and trying to get information from the community — from people in the community who might be witnesses to something or might have information becomes a real challenge because those people, particularly undocumented immigrants, are very fearful of any potential contact with law enforcement,” Klaver said.
Perez says the FBI has interviewed Dulce’s father, who is in college in Mexico.
“I told him that I was pregnant by him and he didn’t believe me until my daughter was one month and he saw that my daughter had his face,” Perez said.
As the investigation enters its ninth day, little Dulce’s family is holding onto hope.
An Amber Alert issued last Tuesday for Dulce remains in effect.
The suspect is described as a light-skinned, possibly Hispanic, man, and standing 5-foot-6 to 5-foot-8 with a thin build. He has no facial hair but he does have acne. Police say he put Dulce in a red SUV or van.
Dulce was last seen wearing a yellow shirt with an elephant, black and white pants, and white shoes.
*** If you have any information, please call police at 856-451-0033 or text anonymously to TIP411. ***