As the search for missing autistic teen Avonte Oquendo continues, psychics are being consulted to help find the 14-year-old mute child from New York City, who disappeared from his Queens school last Friday.
Meanwhile, Avonte’s family has also filed a notice of claim against the city, the first step toward a lawsuit. The family is angered that Avonte, who is nonverbal and needs constant supervision at his Long Island City school, was able to walk out of Center Boulevard School without an aide last Friday afternoon.
The search for Avonte has sent police on a far-flung mission, ranging from subway tunnels – the 14-year-old has an affinity for trains – to train yards and neighborhood streets. With still no clues as to Avonte’s whereabouts, psychics are trying to assist police in finding the autistic boy.
“All leads are investigated when it involves missing children and some of those leads come from speaking to psychics,” a police source told the New York Daily News. One of the psychic tips sent police to search a tunnel in the East Village section of Manhattan, but there was no sign of Avonte.
"We get leads throughout the day, and whenever we get them, we try to take them seriously,” said Avonte’s brother, Danny Oquendo, who has been leading volunteer searches, according to NBC New York. "We call police detectives, then volunteers who go to that area."
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Avonte’s weeklong disappearance has taken a toll on his family. His father, Daniel Oquendo, said he’s only gotten 12 hours of sleep since his son went missing. He told NBC New York he spent all of Thursday night trying to find Avonte.
"We can't even sleep," he said. "It's hard to sleep knowing your child is out there and he could be cold and hungry and he can't even communicate."
Avonte’s mother, Vanessa Fontaine, is just as concerned, especially because her child can’t communicate.
“I’m just hoping he’s okay. He finds some shelter from the rain. He’s not sick. He’s not passed out from not eating. It’s been days and days and days,” she told CBS New York.
Attorney David Perecman, who is representing the Oquendo family, filed a notice of claim on the family’s behalf. The family believes the city and Avonte’s school district failed to supervise him.
“The child’s grandmother spoke to a security guard when she came to the school several hours later,” Perecman said. “The security guard told her that the child was leaving school and she said, ‘Where are you going?’ He doesn’t speak and the child said nothing. And she let him leave.”
Meanwhile, New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said he was optimistic that Avonte will be found alive and well.
“We’re still extremely hopeful and we want to make sure we find this child,” he said. Walcott added that he could not say whether a security guard at the Queens school tried to stop Avonte from leaving.
“We’ll take a look at what the procedures are,” he said. “We’re confident in our procedures, but in this particular case, it did not work. We’re going to see what happened in conjunction with the Police Department.”