Missing Dulce Maria Alavez turns 7: Friend faults mom’s lack of emotion
BRIDGETON — The former spokeswoman for the family of Dulce Maria Alavez, the girl who vanished from a city park in the fall of 2019, said the girl's mother showed a troubling lack of emotion and motivation for finding her daughter.
The girl disappeared on Sept. 16, 2019, while she played in Bridgeton City Park. A young witness told police that Dulce had been walking with a man toward a red van. The prosecutor's office, Bridgeton police, State Police and the FBI have followed up a number of tips and leads.
A $75,000 reward is still being offered for information leading to an arrest in the case.
Dulce's 7th birthday was on Sunday, prompting a man who identified himself as her father to release a video denying his involvement in her disappearance.
Jackie Rodriguez, a friend who often spoke for the family in the media, said this week that she no longer represents the family because she grew weary of having to cajole Dulce's mother, Noema, to plead publicly for her daughter's return. Her only extended interview was with Dr. Phil in 2019.
"I distanced myself because I was sensing a lack of motivation, a lack of emotion," she told New Jersey 101.5. "Unfortunately, I always had to convince Noema to go in front of the cameras. You have to show your face. You have to fight for your daughter. But it was just so hard all the time to get her to do an interview. I said to myself 'why am I putting my face out there for someone who's not even trying to look for her child."
Rodriguez said that while shyness and a language barrier could have prevented Noema from more appearances, the mother also rejected the suggestion of using social media.
Dulce Maria Alavez's father denies involvement
A man who identified himself as Edgar Perez posted a 5-minute video of Dulce photos and clips in which he says that he is "really sad and hurt" about his daughter's disappearance.
"I don't know where she is. I don't know who she is with. I don't know if my baby girl is okay. Just like everyone, I want to know where she is," he says.
Perez said he took care of Dulce as a baby and continued to see her until he was deported just before Christmas 2018.
Dulce's father was contacted in Mexico by the FBI in the days following the girl's disappearance, as previously reported by NBC Philadelphia.
“For those who think I took my baby girl, let me tell you I got nothing to do with it. Because when I was in New Jersey I had a chance to see her. Not every day but every time I could. Let’s all pray for my daughter. Don’t lose hope that my daughter Dulce Maria Alavez will be found soon," Perez says.
The video was first reported and posted by by CBS Philadelphia.
Bridgeton police Chief Michael Gaimari told New Jersey 101.5 on Monday morning that he had not yet seen the video but would refer it to investigators. The chief said there is no evidence suggesting Dulce is not still alive.
"Investigators are working tirelessly following up leads both our detectives, prosecutors, FBI, State Police, the communicate on a regular basis and they're continuing to follow up every lead. They communicate on a regular basis," Gaimari said.
Dulce's grandmother, Norma Perez, told NBC Philadelphia that she still has hope her granddaughter is alive and said the family would celebrate her birthday with a cake and candles.
What does Dulce Maria Alavez's mother know?
Rodriguez said the father's video is "scary" because she had hoped that her father had been the person to take her.
"I thought he did and I was hoping he did because if she would have been with her dad she was in good hands," Rodriguez told New Jersey 101.5.
Rodriquez said she has suspected since the first day of the search that Dulce's mother knows more about Dulce's disappearance than she's letting on because she is scared.
"She's never defended herself in that situation ... That made me think that if she's not defending herself and she's not saying 'stop you're making something up' it's because she might know more than what she's saying," Rodriguez said.
She also recognizes that Noema may be feeling guilty because she didn't go with her children to the playground the day of Dulce's disappearance.
"It's nerve-wracking, it's stressful. I know she must feel some kind of guilt. There could be a million things running through her head," Rodriguez said.
Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae told New Jersey 101.5 that the case remains active and open "until such time as we determine who is responsible for Dulce's disappearance. We ask the public to continue to report anything that they believe might lead to us determining what happened to Dulce."
Individuals can submit anonymous tips by typing CCPO.TIPS in their browser, Webb-McRae said.
Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ