(NewsNation) —It has been almost three years since 5-year-old Dulce Maria Alavez vanished from a New Jersey park.
Her family and authorities are still searching for any answers as to what happened to the princess-loving, “spunky” little girl.
Three missed birthdays later, authorities and the family are still holding out hope that Dulce will be found.
“I want my daughter home,” said Dulce’s mother, Noema Alavez. “I just want her to be home with me and my family.”
Dulce was reported missing by her mother Sept. 16, 2019. She was last seen playing by a swing set in Bridgeton, N.J., a rural community with a large Mexican-immigrant population, with her 3-year-old brother.
“Umm, I can’t find my daughter,” a frantic Noema told 911 operators when she reported her daughter missing.
There is scant evidence of what happened to little Dulce but authorities believe she may have been lured into the back of a red van by a Hispanic male, about 5-foot-8; the man is estimated to have been 30-35 years old and had acne.
Then-New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal feared immigration enforcement was keeping community members from coming forward with any information.
Authorities did have one possible lead however: Dulce’s father, Edgar Perez.
Perez however was deported to Mexico in 2018 and denies having anything to do with his daughter’s disappearance.
He was interviewed by the FBI and local authorities, who reached back out to Perez after someone claiming to be him posted this video on YouTube: #faith425 – YouTube
“For those that think that I took my baby girl, let me tell you that I got nothing to do with it,” Perez said.
Cumberland County prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae told NewsNation that in the absence of evidence suggesting Dulce was dead, hope was being held out she could be found alive.
“We do realize though that we need to keep this incident and the memory of her and her going missing in the forefront so that it gets out to people across the nation,” Webb-McRae said.
The case will remain open and active until the circumstances around Dulce’s disappearance are discovered, Webb-McRae said. Authorities are asking people to look at sketches and age progression photos released of what Dulce could look like today.
As authorities continue to hunt for answers and clues to Dulce’s disappearance, her family had to pass another of Dulce’s birthdays in April without their little girl.
It’s hard because … this is her third birthday without her and it’s not the same anymore,” Noema said. “Because every April, me and my mom, we used to celebrate Dulce and Camila’s birthday, now we don’t celebrate none of the birthdays no more. And it’s hard for us because Dulce isn’t here with us. She’s 8 right now. She’s turning 8. Yeah, it’s really hard to believe that she’s not here with us.”