The photo includes a shot of Avonte, 14, along with the gray-and-white-striped polo shirt he was wearing the day he went missing. Avonte, who is nonvervbal, left the Center Boulevard School in the Long Island City section of Queens and hasn’t been seen since.
The NYPD is looking in previously searched areas for Avonte. Police have scoured train stations and subway tunnels to find the mute, autistic teen because he is fascinated by trains. Searches were later expanded to New Jersey and Long Island, as police were examining the possibility that Avonte rode a train outside the city.
Avonte’s distraught mother, Vanessa Fontaine, appeared Thursday night on CNN’s “Piers Morgan Live” and said she believed that somebody took her son and that he is alive because he hasn’t been found in two weeks.
“I feel that someone has him. They’re holding him because there’s not a surveillance tape around that shows him at all – not in a train station, not walking in the street, anywhere,” Fontaine said.
Avonte’s mother recorded a voice message, which is being played on subways and emergency vehicles, urging her son to go toward police.
“Hi Avonte, it’s mom. Come to the flashing lights Avonte,” the recording says.
Avonte is supposed to be constantly supervised at school, and it’s unclear why he was able to escape. Fontaine said she believes the school was negligent in letting Avonte run off.
As of Friday morning, the NYPD said there were no new developments in the effort to find Avonte, according to NBC New York.
Despite a lack of progress in the investigation, Avonte’s father, Daniel Oquendo, was optimistic that he will be found.
“We have the feeling that we’ll be done with this soon,” he told NBC New York.
While Avonte’s family has not yet filed a lawsuit, their attorney filed a notice of claim – a preliminary step toward a suit – contending that the city and the school district were responsible for Avonte’s disappearance.
“The big picture in my mind is I don’t understand how this happens to a special needs child unless there is something else in there that failed the family,” Oquendo family lawyer David Perecman told CNN's Morgan.
Perecman slammed school officials for taking at least 45 minutes before notifying police that Avonte was missing.
“That time period may have been crucial,” he said.