Handwritten notes led to search in Ohio for New Jersey 5-year-old missing 5+ months

AUSTINTOWN, Ohio -- The search for a missing New Jersey girl led to Ohio’s Mahoning Valley, at least, momentarily. That’s after handwritten letters were sent to the Austintown Library and other locations, prompting officers to search the area for 5-year-old Dulce Maria Alavez.

Dulce disappeared on Sept. 16, leading to a reward for information on her disappearance, WHTM reported.

Reporter Matt Gray at NJ.com reported on the connection Tuesday, March 3 after reaching out to authorities in New Jersey about rumors circulating on social media that Alavez had been found over the weekend in Ohio.

The Bridgeton Police Department in New Jersey dispelled those rumors on its own Facebook page but did note that law enforcement in Austintown searched for the girl with negative results.

Janet Loew, a spokeswoman for the Austintown Library confirmed that a handwritten letter was sent to the library in connection to the disappearance of Dulce. However, she said the note was illegible and that it was turned over to police in Austintown.

According to an Austintown police report, an index card was also sent to a Hollywood Gaming store, addressed to “Manager.” The return address was also unreadable, but the ZIP code returned to Culiacan, Mexico, according to the report. It was not stamped by the U.S. Postal Service.

The note was largely unreadable but made reference to a Dr. Phil episode featuring the kidnapping of the girl and directed police to search a wooded area near a truck stop in the township.

Police searched the area with a drone and on foot but didn’t find anything.

According to a Weathersfield Township police report, an index card referencing the same case was also found in the mailbox of Jesy’s Dairy Cove, a local ice cream shop, on March 2. It was believed to have been left there or mailed at the end of February, while the shop has been closed for the season, according to the report.

Dulce was reported missing from a park in New Jersey during a family outing on Sept. 16, and the case has since made national headlines.