8th birthday celebration held for missing Bridgeton girl Dulce Maria Alavez

The young girl vanished from the Bridgeton City Park back on September 16, 2019.
BRIDGETON, New Jersey (WPVI) -- A birthday celebration was held for Dulce Maria Alavez in Bridgeton Monday evening.

The missing girl is now eight years old. She was just five when she disappeared from Bridgeton City Park in 2019.

Her family and law enforcement still have hope that she is alive.

"In the absence of evidence to the contrary, we hold out hope that she is alive. This is an ongoing investigation," said the Cumberland County Prosecutor's Office in a statement.

The party decorations were Moana-themed -- one of her favorite movies.

SEE ALSO: Another age-progression image released of Dulce Maria Alavez, girl last seen at Bridgeton park

Age-progression photos released Thursday (left) and Wednesday (right) show what Dulce Maria Alavez could look like today.

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children



"Her birthday's today. She's supposed to be eight, and she's not here with me or my family and that's hard," said the girl's mother, Noema Alavez-Perez. "I feel sad, empty that Dulce's not here today."

Police say the girl was playing in the park with her brother Manuel behind the Bridgeton High School on September 16, 2019, when she disappeared.

Dulce's mother was in her car while the children played, and that's when the girl vanished.

Alavez Perez said in a previous interview with Action News that she regrets letting her daughter leave her sight.

"It gives me bad memories because I wish I could go back to the time and come with her to the park and not leave her alone," she said.

A day after Dulce was kidnapped, authorities issued an Amber Alert with one key suspect characteristic: a man in a red van.

Investigators scoured the area for signs of Dulce and that red van. Police and the community participated in search after search in hopes of finding any key piece of evidence. Nothing has ever been found and no red van has ever been located that could be connected to Dulce, according to authorities.

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MISSING FOR A YEAR: FBI special agent Daniel Garrabrant shares new information on the disappearance of Bridgeton, New Jersey girl Dulce Maria Alavez.



Two descriptions of a possible suspect started to emerge early in the investigation.

According to the Amber Alert, which was derived from initial witness accounts, Dulce may have been taken by a light-skinned, possibly Hispanic male who is 5'6" to 5'8" tall, thin build, no facial hair, but has acne on his face. He was seen wearing orange sneakers, possibly Nike, red pants, and a black shirt.

A month later, on October 15, 2019, police released a composite sketch, describing the man as Hispanic, roughly 5'7", slender build, roughly 30-35 years old. He last seen wearing a white T-shirt, blue jeans and a white baseball-style hat.

Bridgeton Police Chief Michael Gaimari Sr. says there were more than just children on the court that day and witnesses were re-interviewed. This helped authorities provide a more accurate depiction of the person that could bring some answers in the case.

The FBI says the public should be on the lookout for a young Hispanic male, roughly 25 to 35 years old who was seen in the area of the playground.

READ MORE: Sketch released of possible witness in case of Dulce Maria Alavez

On October 15, 2019, nearly a month into the case, police released a composite sketch of a person who may have information on Dulce Maria Alavez's disappearance.



In September 2021, a walk and vigil were held to mark the two-year anniversary of her disappearance. Police also released a new age-progression photo of what Dulce might look like today.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says observing milestones like birthdays or anniversaries for missing people can help to keep the public aware.

The organization created the two different age-progressed photos of Dulce in hopes that someone may recognize her.

Dulce's father, who lives in Mexico, was questioned during the initial investigation. He has repeatedly denied having anything to do with her disappearance.

How you can help



Anyone with any information can call the Bridgeton Police Department at 856-451-0033.

You can also report anonymous tips to the Cumberland County Prosecutor's Office by clicking here.

You can also call the FBI's Toll-Free Tipline at 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324) and select option 4, then select option 8, or submit an anonymous tip to the agency online.

If you speak Spanish you can call 856-207-2732.

A $75,000 reward is still being offered for information that leads to an arrest in this case.



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