Investigators continue to search for a 5-year-old girl who was lured away from a local park in New Jersey earlier this week, and the reward for information has climbed to $25,000.
The young girl, Dulce Maria Alavez, was playing on the swing set Monday with her 3-year-old brother at Bridgeton City Park, perhaps 30 yards away from her mother, who was in a parked vehicle. Authorities say that's when a stranger, described as a light-skinned, possibly Hispanic male wearing orange shoes, lured her into the back of his red van and drove off.
Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae urged the man to step forward so authorities can ask about the girl's whereabouts.
"We are attempting to identify a male who was in the park at the time Dulce went missing," Webb-McRae said at a press conference Thursday. "We need to speak to this person and feel that he may have information that will greatly assist us in this investigation. This person may not even realize that they have important information that may be able to help us locate Dulce."
Local, state and federal investigators used a helicopter, a dive team, sonar and bloodhounds to scour the neighborhood as an Amber Alert remained in effect for a fourth day.
Bridgeton Police have been attempting to contact the girl’s father, who lives in Mexico, as they explore every possibility, Fox 29 reported.
Alavez, a Hispanic girl, is roughly 3-foot-5 with a medium build. She was last seen wearing a yellow shirt, black and white checkered long pants with a flower design, and white sandals. Her dark-colored hair was in a ponytail.
"Please, if you have any information, help us find my granddaughter," Alavez's grandmother, speaking in Spanish, said through tears. "Do not be afraid of the police. We have not been able to eat nor sleep. You can't imagine what we are going through. We are very sad. Please help our family, I beg of you."
The prosecutor's office said anyone with information shouldn't fear coming forward. No questions will be asked about tipsters' immigration status.
Both the FBI and the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office are offering $5,000 rewards.
Newfield National Bank has contributed $10,000 toward the total reward, while Tortilleria El Paisano, a local tortilla shop, has offered $5,000.