Nearly a month after her disappearance, and with searches thus far proving fruitless, officials have once again increased by thousands of dollars the reward for information that can lead them to a missing New Jersey 5-year-old.
Three New Jersey State Police unions on Wednesday announced that they were offering an additional $10,000 in the case of Dulce María Alavez, who vanished last month from a Bridgeton, New Jersey, park. The total reward now stands at $52,000.
The latest funds come from the State Troopers Fraternal Association, the Non-Commissioned Officers Union, and the Superior Officers Association.
Dulce María disappeared Sept. 16 from Bridgeton City Park as she played with her 3-year-old brother. Last week, county prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae said that authorities had received more than 1,000 tips, investigated more than 200 locations and checked in with sex offenders throughout Cumberland County to no avail.
The working hypothesis is that a light-skinned, clean-shaven male who appeared to be between 5-foot-6 and 5-foot-8 inches tall with a thin build was the one who took the girl. Police believe he had acne on his face and wore orange sneakers, red pants and a black t-shirt and drove away in a red van.
However, Webb-McRae acknowledged last week that the red van detail could be wrong.
"I am not wed to the red vehicle. The witness that gave us that information is a child of tender years," Webb-McRae said, adding that people should still not discount the possibility of the van.
Authorities have spoken both to Alavez Pérez's boyfriend and Dulce María's father -- who resides in Mexico -- and have pored over surveillance video in the area to no avail. The girl's family is also cooperating with investigators, Webb-McRae said.
Since the disappearance, more than 300 federal, state and local officers have searched for the girl by land, sea and air and have served more than 50 legal processes, including court orders and subpoenas, the prosecutors said. They've also expanded the search beyond the state of New Jersey and added the girl to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's "Most Wanted" list of kidnapping victims in hopes that they will find her alive.
"In the absence of physical evidence indicating that Dulce has been physically harmed, we remain hopeful and continue to act under the premise that she is alive," Webb-McRae said.