CAMDEN, N.J. – The families of three missing boys made a tearful plea for their safe return Friday, and authorities posted a $9,000 reward for information.
"All you guys, we love you. We want you back. We're not mad at you. Please come back. Please bring my baby back," said Jessica Pagan, a mother of one of the boys who disappeared Wednesday evening. "If you have him, please let him go, please."
Jesstin Pagan, 5, Daniel Agosto, 6, and Anibal Cruz, 11, vanished from the yard next to Anibal's home. Officials have said they had no leads as to whether or not the boys were on foot.
Officers searched the New Jersey and Pennsylvania banks of the Delaware, which is a half-dozen blocks from the Cruz home, as well as an island in the middle.
A police dog tracked a scent taken from clothing belonging to one of the boys to an overgrown wooded area along the Delaware, Lynch said earlier.
Dee Rushing, a mother of three, said she showed up near the boys' homes because the families "need all the help they can get" at this time.
"This is scary to me," she said. "I can't even breathe right now."
As police resumed a search for three boys missing for more than a day and a half, weary relatives clung to hope Friday that the youngsters would be found alive.
"We're trying to be as positive as possible," said Maria Luna, 19, a cousin of one boy. "We're trying not to think of anything negative. We will find them and when we find them, they will be safe."
Police began another intense hunt Friday morning after scaling back their overnight search for Jesstin Pagan, 5; Daniel Agosto, 6; and Anibal Cruz, 11. The boys disappeared Wednesday afternoon from the yard next to Cruz's home.
Elba Cruz, Anibal's mother, said she was watching the boys play in the yard when she went inside for a few minutes. When she returned, the boys were gone.
By Friday, many of the relatives had been sleepless for 48 hours.
"Anything could happen. They could be in a house somewhere. Somebody might be detaining them in the area," said Mario Rivera, an uncle of Cruz.
A police dog tracked a scent taken from clothing belonging to one of the boys to an overgrown wooded area along the Delaware River (search), a half-dozen blocks from the Cruz home, Camden Police Lt. Mike Lynch said.
The dog led police along a meandering path that eventually led to the river, but there was no sign of the children. Lynch said the dog may have been tricked by similar odors, or could have followed a path one of the boys had taken days earlier.
Lynch said late Thursday that officials considered the boys missing, but had not ruled out the possibility they had been abducted. During a news conference, he asked for residents to "be good eyes and ears."
"When you're talking about tender age children like that, it strikes a chord with anybody," he said.
Last fall, Camden (search) was ranked the most dangerous city in the United States in a reference book that compares crime statistics.