The search for Avonte Oquendo, the missing mute and autistic teen who disappeared from his New York City school more than a month ago, is getting some big-league support.
Baseball superstar Alex Rodriguez met with the missing 14-year-old’s family over the weekend as the frantic search for Avonte goes on.
“I’m doing this because it comes to my heart. This is a very serious situation. I have a lot of things I can do with my time. I thought for me, this was something that was important,” the New York Yankees shortstop told the New York Post after meeting with Avonte’s family for two hours on Sunday.
Avonte disappeared Oct. 4 from the Center Boulevard School in the Long Island City section of Queens after he ran away. The 14-year-old, who is nonverbal, is supposed to be constantly supervised at the school. But that was not the case when he ran off. His family filed a notice of claim – the first step toward a lawsuit – against the city and school system over his disappearance.
Searches for Avonte were initially focused on train yards and subway tunnels because the 14-year-old autistic child has a fascination with trains. New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly angered Avonte’s family when he said police were not confident the boy would be found alive; he has since apologized for his comments. Meanwhile, Avonte’s family remains optimistic.
"It's tough, it's just a tough situation right now," Avonte’s father, Daniel Oquendo, told WABC. "But we're hoping for the best."
A plane flying over Manhattan and Queens on Sunday afternoon had a banner attached to it encouraging people who may have knowledge about Avonte’s whereabouts to contact a tipline.
“Bring Avonte Oquendo Home 1-800-577-TIPS,” the message read, referring to the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers hotline.
Hopes for a break in the case of the missing boy were raised but then quickly dashed after a photo of a teen resembling Avonte surfaced online. The boy in the picture turned out not to be Avonte.