Remains found along a Queens shoreline may belong to missing autistic teenager Avonte Oquendo, whose disappearance in October sparked a massive search in New York City.
The discovery of a human arm Thursday night by a local teen prompted police to search an area in the College Point section of Queens, and a torso with two legs attached was then found, WPIX reported. A pair of shoes matching the same type Avonte, 14, was wearing when he went missing was attached to the legs. The same size underwear and jeans were also on the torso, according to the New York City television station.
“That’s a troubling thing to hear,” said Oquendo family attorney David Perecman. Although Avonte’s family is hoping that the body is not that of the missing autistic teen’s, the lawyer said the developments appear to signal that the search for Avonte may be over.
"It's more than just speculation; unfortunately there is good reasons to think it's him," Perecman said, according to the New York Daily News. The family is “distraught, but they’re hoping it’s not him. They remain optimistic that he’s still out there.”
A massive search for Avonte, who is nonverbal, began on Oct. 4, when he went missing from his Queens school. Police thoroughly searched New York City subway tunnels and train stations because Avonte had a fascination with trains. The search also involved the NYPD playing a recording of Avonte’s mother in hopes that the teen would hear his mother’s voice and run to police vehicles blasting the message.
Police are investigating because there is no explanation of how the remains turned up near Powell’s Cove in College Point.
“The concern is obvious,” a police source told the Daily News. "When you have body parts, there's the obvious question about what happened. Was there a murder, or a drowning with bad decomposition?" Avonte’s mother, Vanessa Fontaine, provided police with her DNA so they can determine whether the remains are that of her son. But Perecman said she is still holding out hope that her son is alive.
“She’s not going to be convinced this is her son until there is something to convince her,” Perecman told CBS New York. “It’s not Avonte until it’s Avonte.”
The human remains were sent to the Queens County morgue so that the medical examiner can determine the cause of death.
Perecman already has filed a notice of claim – the first step toward a lawsuit -- against the city and the New York City school system. The attorney charged that Avonte’s school did not have proper safeguards in place when he ran away.