BY ANGY ALTAMIRANO, MAGGIE HAYES, CRISTABELLE TUMOLA, TERENCE M. CULLEN
The search for 14-year-old Avonte Oquendo has come to a devastating end for his family who never gave up hope that he would return home alive.
Almost four months after he was last seen at his Long Island City school, a spokesperson for the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner has confirmed remains found washed up in College Point are those of the missing autistic teen.
The cause and manner of the death has not yet been determined and is pending on future tests, according to spokesperson Julie Bolcer.
After a passerby found an arm and legs Thursday night near Powell Cove Boulevard and Endeavor Place, police began to comb through the area. Clothing discovered with the remains seemed to indicate that the search for Avonte could soon be over.
A pair of size 16 jeans and size 5 ½ Air Jordan sneakers found with the remains matched those belonging to Avonte, said David Perecman, the family’s lawyer.
Over the weekend, authorities also recovered more body parts, including a skull, another arm, jaw and rib bones, as well as a white shirt with gray stripes similar to what Avonte was wearing when he went missing, according to police.
Avonte’s older brother Daniel Oquendo Jr. took to Instagram Tuesday afternoon to remember the teen.
“Rest in peace little brother. This world never deserved you. I will long for the day I can join you in paradise. Forever in our hearts, prayers, and mind. Love You,” he said in the post.
Oquendo also took the time to thank all who helped the family search for his brother during the past few months.
“The tenacity the world, especially NYC, has shown in regards to finding Avonte and spreading awareness has been unmatched in comparison to any other missing child investigation. For that we are forever grateful to you,” he said.
At the end of the post, Oquendo asks everyone to respect his family and give them both space and time as they mourn Avonte.
“Thank you for the prayers. God bless, and may Avonte rest in peace,” he said.
His mother, Vanessa Fontaine, previously told The Courier her son was afraid of the water and thought he “wouldn’t go near it.”
There have been conflicting reports on how the Rego Park teen, who could not verbally communicate and was supposed to be supervised at all times, managed to leave the school.
Earlier this month, Perecman obtained a Department of Education occurrence report which showed a timeline of what happened before, during and after the boy went missing – but only left larger question marks.
Perecman said he will be filing a $25 million negligence claim against the city, focused on the Department of Education (DOE), for wrongful death.
Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña released a statement Tuesday saying the school community is in mourning and extended her deepest condolences to Avonte’s family.
“Over the past several months, I have been among the countless New Yorkers who have been holding our breath in hope that Avonte Oquendo would be found unharmed. And I am among the many who are heartbroken to learn the news today,” said Fariña. “As Chancellor, I am determined that we learn every lesson we can from this terrible tragedy and do everything in our power to prevent incidents like this from ever occurring again. Let Avonte remind us how important it is that we continue to look out for one another.”
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