This story originally appeared on 6abc.
Another year has passed, and authorities in South Jersey are still searching for a missing girl who vanished from a park four years ago.
On Thursday, police released an age-progression photo of what Dulce Maria Alavez might look like today.
The young girl, then 5 years old, was last seen playing with her younger brother at Bridgeton City Park in Cumberland County on the afternoon of September 16, 2019.
She would be 9 years old this year.
“In the absence of evidence confirming Dulce’s demise investigators hold out hope that Dulce is still alive,” said Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae and Bridgeton Police Chief Michael Gaimari in a joint statement.
About one month after she disappeared, authorities released a sketch of a man who remains a person of interest.
In the years since the girl’s disappearance, hundreds of interviews have been conducted and investigators continue to follow up on every tip reported.
“Every time when she sees me, she will give me a hug and tell me I’m her ohana, that’s what I miss about her,” said Noema Alavez Pérez, Dulce’s mother.
Dulce was last seen in Bridgeton City Park, and it’s where her family comes together to remember the girl every year. It’s also where they remind the public that the case is still ongoing.
“These past four years really hard for me and my family because we don’t know nothing about Dulce and it’s been way too long,” her mother said.
No arrests have been made in the case.
On the day of her disappearance, Dulce’s mother let the children run off to play on the swings at the playground.
Alavez Perez and her younger sister stayed inside her vehicle while the children played.
She would later find her younger son crying, and Dulce was nowhere to be seen.
The tightly-knit community is determined to find the missing puzzle piece to bring Dulce home.
“It’s really hard still have after four years,” said Monica Mason of Millville. “I still see her as the five-year-old baby. We’re still prayerfully praying she comes back home.”
The case has also recently attracted the attention of the Anti-Predator Project, who are working alongside authorities.
“We’ve got leads that take us to New York, down into Texas, and down into Mexico,” said Trent Steele with the Anti-Predator Project.
“In the two-ish months we’ve been involved, we’ve got a little over 160-70 leads now,” he added.
The belief that Dulce could be alive remains, and until the family has her back, they will keep gathering on this day to keep hope alive.
“We want Dulce back home. All we want is Dulce home,” said Dulce’s mother.
Authorities have released several age-progression photos since the 2019 disappearance.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office through this form at CCPO.TIPS.
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