Tag Archives: Avonte Oquendo

Avonte Oquendo’s mom files suit against city: reports


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Handout

The mother of Avonte Oquendo has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city, charging various agencies and individuals with negligence leading to the death of the 14-year-old autistic teen, according to published reports.

Vanessa Fontaine reportedly filed the suit last week in Queens Supreme Court blaming the Department of Education, NYPD and members of Avonte’s Long Island City school for her son’s death.

Among the Center Boulevard School individuals are school safety agent Bernadette Perez and principal Susan McNulty, reports said.

The 14-year-old was last seen at the Center Boulevard School in Long Island City across the street from the East River last October. Surveillance footage caught the teen running through the halls unsupervised before leaving the building. Almost four months later his remains were found washed up in College Point.

The lawsuit does not have a dollar amount, according to reports, however family attorney David Perecman previously said the family would be seeking $25 million.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Bills introduced to City Council to help individuals with developmental disorders


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

A package of bills was introduced to the City Council Friday with the hope of preventing a tragedy similar to the disappearance of autistic teen Avonte Oquendo.

The 14-year-old was last seen at the Center Boulevard School in Long Island City across the street from the East River in October, when he ran out, past school security. Almost four months later his remains were found washed up in College Point.

The City Council’s Mental Health and Public Safety Committee held a joint hearing Friday where the four proposals, all aimed to avoid dangers to individuals with autism and other developmental disorders, were presented.

“We’ve had several tragedies in the last couple of years in New York City, so it’s always heartwretching when we do legislation that reacts to tragedy, but on one hand it helps us to make sure these tragedies never happen again,” said Councilman Ruben Wills, who spearheaded the group of bills in the City Council together with Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson.

One of the bills calls upon the state’s Office for People with Developmental Disabilities to include the use of GPS tracking devices as a covered service.

The package also includes legislation that would create a voluntary registry for people with special needs. The database, including names, addresses, phone numbers, medical conditions and more, would allow parents or guardians to register their children with the NYPD at local police precincts.

The other two bills call for the city’s silver alert program to include missing people with developmental disorders and for the U.S. Department of Justice to fund any projects that would help protect and locate missing people with autism.

“We know that [Avonte’s death] was an unspeakable tragedy and certainly we are here as a collective to prevent anything like that from occurring across our city,” Gibson said.

For Lauren Thierry, Avonte’s disappearance hit close to home because her 16-year-old autistic son, Liam, attends the New York Child Learning Institute in College Point.

The past two years, Thierry has been creating a clothing line, called Independence Day Wearable Tech, which makes clothes that include internal pockets to fit GPS devices. Customers get a free GPS device when they purchase an item.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

New footage shows Avonte Oquendo tried to escape day before disappearance: reports


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

File Photo

Newly released video surveillance footage shows teen Avonte Oquendo tried to run away from his class just a day before he dashed out of his school never to be seen again, according to published reports.

The 14-year-old autistic teen had tried to escape October 3 when he was being brought down from the fifth floor to the second floor of the Riverview School in Long Island City with group of students. Avonte broke away from the group and ran to the first floor, revealed NYPD documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, reports said.

The Riverview School shares space in the building known as the Hunters Point Campus across the street from the East River.

The day of his disappearance, Avonte was heading back from the cafeteria with a group of students and three school employees when he slipped away. He was last seen through surveillance footage running out of the school. Almost four months later his remains were found washed up in College Point.

A report previously released by the Special Commissioner of Investigation for the New York City School District investigation says Vanessa Fontaine, Avonte’s mother, expressed her concerns to her son’s teacher about him being a “runner.” The teacher never shared the information with school administrators, the report said.

The investigation also found Avonte ran out of the building through a door left opened by an unidentified man.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES 

Avonte Oquendo’s brother shares family’s experience, thanks volunteers in blog post


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

File Photo

One of Avonte Oquendo’s older brothers is sharing what his family went through in the four months during the 14-year-old’s disappearance.

“Every minute we spent in the dark about the whereabouts felt like years of torture,” wrote Daniel Oquendo Jr. in a March 21 blog post for the advocacy organization Autism Speaks.

He recounted the fear and pain his family felt as they tried to find Avonte, who was autistic and could not verbally communicate. He described how during the first few days the family did not sleep, barely ate and felt as if they had nowhere to turn.

The teen was last seen at the Center Boulevard School in Long Island City across the street from the East River last October. Almost four months later his remains were found washed up in College Point.

According to Oquendo, Avonte entered a frightened and panic state after running out of his school and possibly jumped into the East River and drowned. The medical examiner has ruled the cause and manner of Avonte’s death as undetermined.

Oquendo wrote that as his family was “overcome with grief and hopelessness,” they turned to the people of New York City to work together and gather volunteers to search for Avonte. As word began to spread, they encountered help through New Yorkers and out of state volunteers, who he thanked for all their dedication and prayers.

“It turns out that before it was all said and done Avonte did indeed become the beloved son of the city,” Oquendo wrote.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Queens Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup

TODAY’S FORECAST

Thursday: A mix of clouds and sun early followed by cloudy skies this afternoon. High around 35. Winds SW at 20 to 30 mph. Thursday night: Partly cloudy skies. Low 8. Winds WNW at 20 to 30 mph.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Indie Essentials: 25 Must-Play Video Games

IndieCade International Festival of Independent Games and Museum of the Moving Image present a playable exhibition of more than two dozen games that represent the breadth and depth of the “indie” video game scene. The designers and developers of these games, individuals or small teams independent of large studios and publishers, take daring creative risks to explore new forms and methods of play. The Museum of Moving Image is located at 35-01 35th St., Astoria.  Through March 2. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Man sought in bias assault on No. 7 train

A suspect allegedly assaulted a Hispanic man on a No. 7 train before making anti-Mexican statements towards him, cops said. Read more: The Queens Courier

Suspect wanted in Astoria attempted rape

A woman fought off an attempted rapist after the man attacked her as she was walking down an Astoria street Sunday, police said. Read more: The Queens Courier 

Avonte Oquendo’s cause of death undetermined: medical examiner

The medical examiner has ruled the cause and manner of Avonte Oquendo‘s death as undetermined. Read more: The Queens Courier

NY’s decrepit roads costing drivers over $20B each year

New York’s decaying and congested infrastructure is costing drivers billions in vehicle repairs, crashes and wasted fuel burned sitting in traffic, with motorists in the five boroughs paying the most. Read more: New York Post

City Councilman pushes for signs alerting drivers of red light cameras

As the city looks to step up enforcement of traffic laws, one New York City councilman has proposed alerting drivers as they approach any of the 150 red light cameras. Read more: CBS New York

New York City restaurants openly flout ban on bottomless booze

So many New York City restaurants are openly flouting a little-known state law banning unlimited booze at brunch that an industry group is reminding members about the rule. Read more: NBC New York

Avonte Oquendo’s cause of death undetermined: medical examiner


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Handout

The medical examiner has ruled the cause and manner of Avonte Oquendo‘s death as undetermined.

The 14-year-old was last seen at the Center Boulevard School in Long Island City across the street from the East River in October. Almost four months later his remains were found washed up in College Point.

There have been conflicting reports on how the Rego Park teen, who cannot verbally communicate and is supposed to be supervised at all times, managed to leave the school.

Following the identification of her son, Vanessa Fontaine filed suit against the City of New York in Manhattan Supreme Court demanding the NYPD release records relating to the disappearance of Avonte.

Family attorney David Perecman also said he will be filing a $25 million negligence claim against the city, focused on the Department of Education, for wrongful death.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Bill proposed in State Assembly to cover GPS tracking devices for kids with autism


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Handout

Staten Island Assemblymember Matthew Titone introduced a bill in the State Assembly that would require insurance companies to offer GPS device tracking coverage for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

The bill comes after autistic teen Avonte Oquendo was laid to rest.

Avonte was last seen at the Center Boulevard School in Long Island City on October 4, when he ran out of the school, located just across from the East River. His body was found on January 16, washed up in College Point.

“The tracking devices are crucial in finding lost children quickly and safely,” said Titone. “Unfortunately, such devices can be expensive and difficult to maintain.”

Titone also added that insurance companies would be responsible for covering the costs of the equipment and monitoring services.

In January, Senator Charles Schumer introduced a bill called “Avonte’s Law” which will create and fund a program to provide voluntary tracking devices and increase support services for families of children with ASD or any other developmental conditions in which bolting is common.

Later that same month, the Department of Justice agreed to take existing funding which already helps track seniors with Alzheimer’s and expand it to children with ASD.

The funding will become available to police departments or other local law enforcement groups that would be able to provide tracking devices to parents, schools and legal guardians interested in the program.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Op-ed: Let’s be their voice


| oped@queenscourier.com

U.S. SENATOR CHARLES SCHUMER

The heartbreak and agony that Avonte  Oquendo’s family has had to endure is one that I can’t even begin to imagine. Over the course of the past few months, Avonte became more than just a face on a missing poster. New Yorkers came together to search for Avonte and pray for his safe return; we felt like he was a child we knew personally. While we cannot change the past, we must take the necessary steps to prevent this from happening again—and that’s why I am introducing “Avonte’s Law.”

Avonte’s running away was not an isolated incident; running away or wandering among children and teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder is more common than one may think. In fact, nearly half of children with autism over the age of four have attempted to wander. Often times, these children wander due to being over-stimulated by loud noises or bright lights – something that is a particular challenge for children with autism in New York City.

I recently met with Vanessa Fontaine and Doris McCoy, Avonte’s mother and grandmother, as well as Michael Rosen, the Executive Vice President of Autism Speaks. Mr. Rosen shared personal stories about his son, Nicky, who has autism and is nonverbal. He spoke about Nicky’s experience with wandering. I listened intently when Mr. Rosen said that Nicky once ran out of the house and made his way into the neighbor’s living room to watch Disney movies—a fascination of Nicky’s. Thankfully, Nicky was found safe.

Our children are too precious for us to wait another day when life-saving technology and precautionary measures are right at our fingertips. Technology such as GPS or Radio Frequency(RF) tracking is on the market now, and they allow parents, schools and law enforcement to locate a child if he or she wanders or goes missing. The Department of Justice runs a very successful program that provides tracking devices to individuals with Alzheimer’s disease who have similar wandering tendencies. So, after Avonte went missing, I urged the Department of Justice to use their existing grant funds to allow children with autism access to these life-saving tracking devices – this past week, they did just that.

The program would be completely voluntary for parents, but it would be a major stress reliever for the thousands of parents of children with autism. Most importantly, though, this technology has the power to save lives.

That is why when the world learned of the tragic fate of Avonte Oquendo, I drafted legislation that will create a permanent program with dedicated federal funding to provide tracking devices for children with autism, as well as training and education for parents and communities. The legislation, “Avonte’s Law,” will allow Avonte’s memory to live on while helping to prevent any more children with autism from going missing.

Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Department of Justice will allow existing DOJ grant funds to be used for children with autism. This is terrific news, as it means that localities can soon put federal funds towards these life-saving tracking devices as well as education for law enforcement that deal with this issue on a daily basis. This is a major step in the right direction, and I will continue to work on this very important issue until “Avonte’s Law” is passed, which would provide a more solid stream of funding to help children across New York and the rest of the country.

We must be the voice of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Schumer was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1998. Following the elections of 2006, Majority Leader Harry Reid appointed him to serve as Vice Chair of the Democratic Conference, the number three position on the Democratic Leadership team and a position he continues to hold. In 2009, Schumer was selected as the Chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, which oversees federal elections, voting rights, campaign finance, and the operation of the Senate complex. He also sits on the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs; the Judiciary Committee, where he is Chairman of the Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees, and Border Security; the Joint Economic Committee, where he is the Vice Chairman; and the Joint Committee on the Library.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Street Talk: Do you think more should be done to keep students with special needs safe in school?


| editorial@queenscourier.com

street talk

Kids with special needs need to be able to be tracked when in school. I think Schumer’s “Avonte’s Law” is a good idea and is necessary.
Ken Kupetski

Yes, I believe more should be done because it’s too dangerous out there, even for kids without special needs.
Caitlin Neil-Karhut

Yes, I used to work with kids with special needs and some are not able to fend for themselves, so keeping students safe should be the priority right now.
Esther Park

Definitely, more needs to be done. What happened to Avonte should never happen again.
Kevin Collins

Yes, I do feel there isn’t enough being done. There isn’t enough funding for schools and I feel there should be longer hours in school, so teachers can help the students even more.
Arthur B.

I believe schools aren’t doing enough for kids with special needs. It is always better to have more protection.
Julia Vennitti

I believe it is the school’s responsibility to make sure students are safe, so I feel they need to figure out a better and safer plan to keep kids in school when they are supposed to be in school.
Maya Schallcross

Yes, I feel the more protection the better; the most important thing is that these kids are safe.
Juliet Hainline

 

-BY KATELYN DI SALVO

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

 

Parents ‘grateful’ after missing autistic Rego Park 12-year-old found safe


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

Updated 4:50 p.m.

An autistic 12-year-old boy who sprinted out of his Rego Park home Thursday was found safe in Brooklyn after a terrifying four hour search, police and family said.

Brandon Betancourt jetted out of his apartment complex on 66th Road near 67th Avenue about 7 a.m., police said.

“He just ran out,” said his father, Joe Betancourt. “He’s very fast. It’s hard to catch him. I’m just grateful he’s home.”

Police brought him to safety about 11 a.m., after a guidance counselor spotted him on the J train platform at the Broadway Junction subway station in Cypress Hills, about an hour journey from his home.

Brandon, who is incredibly smart, functions at a high level and knows his way around the city’s subway system, his father and neighbors said.

The boy also loves trains and has taken off a handful of times in the past, Joe and the building’s superintendent said.

“When I saw cops outside, I knew immediately,” the super said. “I told them to go to the subways.”

Joe said he fears his son does not understand the dangers of running away, even after the remains of Avonte Oquendo, the autistic 14-year-old who went missing in October, were found washed up in College Point two weeks ago.

“We try to tell him not to do this, especially after what happened to Avonte,” Joe said.

Avonte and Brandon are both from Rego Park. They were former classmates, though not at the Center Boulevard School in Long Island City, where Avonte was last seen leaving, Joe said.

“For parents of autistic kids, I want them to know they are runners. I don’t know what it is about that, but they tend to run,” Joe said. “Always be on alert.”

Though frightening, the situation is common, said Michelle López, who manages autism initiatives at Queens Museum. Similar scenarios are likely to increase as more families push for inclusion, she said. 

“We’re going to see more of these types of situations, where there will be a missing child with autism and people don’t know how to interact, when they see a wandering child who doesn’t respond to them,” she said. “It’s in everyone’s best interest to be aware now.”

Autism Speaks, a leading advocacy organization, urges parents to secure homes with battery-operated door alarms, alert neighbors and consider identification bracelets or tracking devices.

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer wants the Department of Justice to create and fund a program that would provide voluntary trackers for children with autism or other development disorders.

Councilmember Paul Vallone is drafting a bill, calling for a similar citywide program.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

DOJ to fund voluntary tracking devices for children with autism


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Handout

The Department of Justice agreed Wednesday morning to take existing funding which already helps track seniors with Alzheimer’s and expand it to children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) just a day after a new video of Avonte Oquendo leaving school was released.

The existing DOJ funding will become available to police departments or other local law enforcement groups that would be able to provide tracking devices to parents, schools and legal guardians interested in the program.  

“Voluntary tracking devices will help our teachers and parents in the event that the child runs away and, God forbid, goes missing,” said Senator Charles Schumer. “DOJ already funds these devices for individuals with Alzheimer’s and they have done the right thing in deciding to do the same for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.”

The tracking devices could be worn as non-tampering wristwatches, anklets or be clipped onto belt loops or shoelaces. The devices could also be woven into specially designed clothing.

The agreement, made by Attorney General Eric Holder, comes just days after Schumer introduced a new legislation called “Avonte’s Law.”  The new bill looks to create and fund a new grant program within the DOJ that would help provide the funding for voluntary tracking devices and increase support services for families and children with ASD or any other developmental conditions in which bolting is common.

Autistic teen Avonte Oquendo was last seen leaving his Long Island City school on October 4 and his remains were found washed up early this month in College Point.

New surveillance video released to the media on Tuesday shows Avonte bolting out of the doors of his school minutes after an adult is seen leaving the door opened.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Senator Charles Schumer introduces ‘Avonte’s Law’


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Senator Charles Schumer's Office

A day after autistic teen Avonte Oquendo was laid to rest, one politician announced legislation that could help prevent a similar tragedy from happening.

Avonte, 14, was last seen at the Center Boulevard School in Long Island City on October 4 when he ran out of the school. Almost four months later his remains were found washed up in College Point.

There have been conflicting reports on how the Rego Park teen, who cannot verbally communicate and is supposed to be supervised at all times, managed to leave the school.

Senator Charles Schumer announced Sunday he will be introducing a bill called “Avonte’s Law” which will create and fund a program providing voluntary tracking devices and increase support services for families of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or any other developmental conditions in which bolting is common. The program would only include children whose parents choose to use the devices.

“The tragic end to the search for Avonte Oquendo clearly demonstrated that we need to do more to protect children with autism who are at risk of running away,” said Schumer. “Thousands of families face the awful reality each and every day that their child with autism may run away. Making voluntary tracking devices available will help put parents at ease, and most importantly, help prevent future tragedies like Avonte’s.”

The bill would create a new grant program within the Department of Justice allowing the agency to award funds to local law enforcement agencies or organizations wanting to provide tracking devices for children with Autism. The funds would also help provide training and other resources to schools allowing them to be prepared to react to a situation like Avonte’s.

The new program would be modeled from the federal program already being used to help track seniors with Alzheimer’s.

“Avonte’s Law” will authorize $10 million in federal money to purchase the voluntary tracking devices and training for parents, schools and local law enforcement. The program would be run by the police department or other local law enforcement and would provide training on how to use and maintain the devices. 

The tracking devices could be worn as non-tampering wristwatches, anklets or be clipped onto belt loops or shoelaces. The devices could also be woven into specially designed clothing.

“The tragic fate of Avonte Oquendo hit home with parents in New York and across the country,” said Liz Feld, president of autism advocacy organization Autism Speaks. “We need to raise awareness and increase education so that tragedies like this never happen again.”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Avonte Oquendo remembered as smiling, courageous boy at funeral


| editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Cristabelle Tumola / Avonte Oquendo photo: handout

ANGY ALTAMIRANO AND CRISTABELLE TUMOLA 

After the search for autistic Rego Park teen Avonte Oquendo ended tragically, hundreds of mourners came out to say goodbye at his funeral Saturday, where he was remembered as a silent yet always smiling, courageous boy.

Family and friends gathered at a private ceremony held at the Greenwich Village Funeral Home in Manhattan, where a “beautiful silence” took over the room, said Leslie Burch, a close family friend. Also among those paying respects was actress Holly Robinson Peete, whose son has autism.

Avonte’s father is consoled before a service for his son at the Greenwich Village Funeral Home.

Mourners then made their way to St. Joseph’s Church, just a few blocks away, where a public mass was led by former Archbishop of New York Edward Michael Egan.

“He was a strong, courageous young man who handled the struggle with autism with tremendous greatness and true nobility,” said Egan, standing next to a large portrait of Avonte wearing a blue striped shirt, which was also handed out on prayer cards.

Egan also took the time to thank and recognize the efforts that went into the nearly four month search for the missing 14-year-old after he was last seen at the Center Boulevard School in Long Island City on Oct. 4.

Avonte’s mother waits to place a white rose on her son’s casket.

Officials confirmed Tuesday that remains found washed up along the East River in College Point last week were those of Avonte. The cause and manner of  death are pending on future tests, according to the medical examiner.

“Police officers and various agencies of our beloved city made it no less clear that they too knew how precious Avonte was,” said Egan.

Although Avonte’s family decided not to speak during the services Saturday, his mother, together with his brothers and other mourners, laid white roses on top of his white casket following the release of doves outside of the church.

Another family member that attended the service was Avonte’s cousin and best friend 20 –year-old Noah Javan Conti from Woodside who is mildly autistic.

Rocopra Conti, who raised Noah and also attended the funeral, remembers the last time he saw Avonte. That day the teen grabbed Rocopra’s face and gave him one last look.

Noah Javan Conti, Avonte’s cousin and best friend, and Rocopra Conti.

“That was the last moment we shared,” said Rocopra. “I knew how to love him, I knew what he was feeling. I just wish I could have done more.”

Family attorney David Perecman, who spoke at the funeral mass, said that even though the search was concluded, the story is not finished yet.

“I must ask all of you, I ask that this not be the last chapter in this very sad story. We must have at least one more,” said Perecman. “This loss that this family has of Avonte cannot be in vain, we must find out how to fix our schools, we must find out how to fix the system of security that failed this boy.”

There have been conflicting reports on how Avonte, who could not verbally communicate and was supposed to be supervised at all times, managed to leave his school the day he went missing.

Following the identification of her son, Vanessa Fontaine filed suit against the City of New York on Wednesday in Manhattan Supreme Court, according to court records.

Fontaine filed the court action demanding the NYPD release records relating to the disappearance of Avonte, according to published reports.

Perecman also said he will be filing a $25 million negligence claim against the city, focused on the Department of Education, for wrongful death.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Funeral set for Avonte Oquendo, mom files suit against city


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

File photo

After human remains found in College Point were identified as missing teen Avonte Oquendo earlier this week, funeral plans have been set for this Saturday.

A private ceremony, opened only to friends and family, will be held at the Greenwich Village Funeral Home located at 199 Bleecker St. in Manhattan from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

A funeral mass will follow and be open to the public, beginning at 11 a.m., at St. Joseph’s Church, at 371 Sixth Ave.

It was confirmed on Tuesday that the remains found washed up along the East River in College Point last week were those of the missing teen, according to the NYC Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Avonte was last seen almost four months ago at his Long Island City school.

The cause and manner of the death has not yet been determined and are pending on future tests, according to Bolcer.

Following the identification of her son, Vanessa Fontaine filed suit against the City of New York on Wednesday in Manhattan Supreme Court, according to court records.

Fontaine filed the court action demanding the NYPD release records relating to the disappearance of Avonte, according to published reports.

After a passerby found an arm and legs on the evening of Jan. 16 near Powell Cove Boulevard and Endeavor Place, police began to comb through the area. Over the weekend, authorities also recovered more body parts, as well as clothing Avonte was wearing when he went missing, according to cops.

Police said most of the body had been recovered as of Monday.

Avonte was last seen at the Center Boulevard School at 1-50 51st Avenue in Long Island City around 12:38 p.m. on Oct. 4. The school is just across from the East River.

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, the family’s attorney David Perecman obtained a Department of Education (DOE) 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 DOE, for wrongful death.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Remains IDed as missing teen Avonte Oquendo


| editorial@queenscourier.com

File Photo

Updated 4:27

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.

Avonte was last seen at the Center Boulevard School at 1-50 51st Ave. in Long Island City around 12:38 p.m. on Oct. 4. The school is just across from the East River.

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.”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES