NEW JERSEY (CBSNewYork) – It’s been more than one year since 5-year-old Dulce Maria Alavez disappeared from a park in South Jersey. The case made headlines around the country as authorities searched for the little girl.
On Thursday, as CBS2’s Alice Gainer reported, the FBI and county officials provided an update on the case.
A community gathering recently at Bridgeton City Park marked the one-year anniversary of Dulce Maria’s disappearance.
“It’s hard. It’s hard for us to know that Dulce’s not here with us and that they still can’t find her,” said Noema Alavez Perez, her mother.
Dulce Maria was last seen at the park on Sept. 16, 2019, playing with her 3-year-old brother.
Their mother remained in the car, scratching off lottery tickets with an 8-year-old relative.
“This situation is not easy for my family,” Perez said.
On Thursday, Gainer asked investigators if they were any closer to finding the little girl.
“The evidence that we’ve garnered has brought us closer to doing that,” said Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae. “This investigation has taken us across the country, in terms of information and possible sightings.”
Webb-McRae said hundreds, if not thousands, of tips have poured in. They’ve looked into and ruled out many vehicles seen in the area that day, too, according to Webb-McRae.
“Do you think you could have an arrest or some answers within months or within a year?” Gainer asked.
“If you eliminate 100 things and you have 150, then you have 50 left to go. It’s just a matter of how long is takes you to get there,” FBI Special Agent Daniel Garrabrant said.
Officials said they have no evidence to suggest Dulce Maria was killed and are holding out hope the now 6-year-old is still out there.
“Members of the community have the answer to this question, as far as who is responsible,” Garrabrant said.
Investigators are urging people to continue to come forward with anything they may have seen or know.
They want those who are undocumented to know they can provide information and will not be asked about their status.
“That is not a question they can ask. It does not concern us,” Webb-McRae said. “This is someone’s child. This is someone’s grandchild.”
The officials said their concern is getting Dulce Maria back to her family.
There is now a $75,000 reward for information leading to her whereabouts.
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