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Avonte Oquendo case

Non-verbal autistic boy still missing despite initial reports he was found

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LONG ISLAND CITY (PIX11) – What did the school safety agent on duty when Avonte Oquendo ran out of his school really see last October?

The lawyer for Avonte’s family released new video Monday night. It clearly shows Avonte running just feet past the agent’s desk.

newavonte

The lawyer for Avonte Oquendo’s family says a lawsuit against the city will be filed in the coming weeks.

“He walks slowly right in front of the desk and then bolts and now stops and turns around,” attorney David Perecman said.

A police report, Perecman obtained through the Freedom of Information Law, stated that one of the teachers responsible for the teen with autism reported Avonte tried to get away from a group of students the day before he ran from the school.

Avonte was never seen alive again. His body was found along the East River in College Point three months after he disappeared.

Perecman told PIX11 the family’s lawsuit against the city would be filed in the coming weeks.

NEW YORK (PIX11) — Avonte Oquendo’s family lawyer, David Perecman, stops by to discuss new reports on Avonte’s disappearance.

Avonte Oquendo: The aftermath

QUEENS (PIX11) - “Who’s watching these children in school,” asked Vanessa Fontaine, the mother of Avonte Oquendo.

A city investigation into the fateful disappearance of Avonte Oquendo reveals that a security guard assigned to the front of his school saw the boy running through the halls and called out to him, but wasn’t able to follow him because she was the only one assigned to the post.

Further, it reveals that Avonte’s mother warned the school that the boy, who had nonverbal autism, had a tendency to run and needed to be monitored constantly. A form she filled out alerting the school was apparently ignored.

“This is someone’s child, you know,” said Vanessa Fontaine.

The report, issued Thursday by the New York City schools Special Commissioner of Investigations Richard Condon, offered the most complete account yet of the moments before 14-year-old Avonte vanished from his Queens school.

Avonte Oquendo mom

“The  teacher did inform the people in her classroom, she should have also informed the administration, ” said Richard Condon , the school’s Special Commissioner of Investigation.

Avonte was able to slip away from his class Oct. 4, 2013, and run from an open door at his school in Long Island City. After over three months of searching, the teen’s remains were found on the shores of College Point in January.

The report indicates that Avonte and a group of other students were being escorted from the cafeteria to a technology classroom by two teachers.

One student broke away from the group and was followed by one of the teachers, leaving Avonte and the others with a substitute teacher.

When they arrived at the classroom, the substitute realized Avonte was missing.

Avonte’s mother, Vanessa Fontaine, had indicated on a form to the school that her son had a tendency to run. “Safety concerns — Please make sure you keep an eye out he likes to run. Need 1 to 1 supervision will leave the building,” Fontaine wrote on the form.

Avonte Oquendo Disappearance 3.27.14

The report says the teacher never notified the school of Avonte’s propensity to run away and his others teachers weren’t aware of the risk, either.

One of Avonte’s other teachers told investigators the teen never gave her any indication he would run and was very “prompt dependent.”

Avonte new video thumb

Security footage released from that day shows Avonte running out a back door that was left open by a man who has yet to be identified.

The report also revealed that the principal in charge of the school at the time declined to make an announcement over the PA system when it was confirmed Avonte was missing, as he feared it would upset the other students.

The findings are the investigation are being referred to the Queens County District Attorney’s Office.

Avonte’s family is in the process of filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the city in the boy’s death.

“I have other children, and we have to regroup and try to make our lives better now,” said Fontaine, showing the same strength she did throughout the difficult search for Avonte.

 

 

Timeline shows school’s response to Avonte Oquendo’s disappearance was delayed

The report reveals Avonte Oquendo’s mother indicated to the school her son had a tendency to run.

NEW YORK (PIX11) — A city investigation into the fateful disappearance of Avonte Oquendo reveals that a security guard assigned to the front of his school saw the boy running through the halls and called out to him, but wasn’t able to follow him because she was the only one assigned to the post.

Further, it reveals that Avonte’s mother warned the school that the boy, who had nonverbal autism, had a tendency to run and needed to be monitored constantly. A form she filled out alerting the school was apparently ignored.

The report, issued Thursday by the New York City schools Special Commissioner of Investigations Richard Condon, offered the most complete account yet of the moments before 14-year-old Avonte vanished from his Queens school.

RELATED: New video shows Avonte Oquendo running out open school door

Avonte was able to slip away from his class Oct. 4, 2013, and run from an open door at his school in Long Island City. After over three months of searching, the teen’s remains were found on the shores of College Point in January.

The report indicates that Avonte and a group of other students were being escorted from the cafeteria to a technology classroom by two teachers.

One student broke away from the group and was followed by one of the teachers, leaving Avonte and the others with a substitute teacher.

When they arrived at the classroom, the substitute realized Avonte was missing.

Avonte’s mother, Vanessa Fontaine, had indicated on a form to the school that her son had a tendency to run. “Safety concerns — Please make sure you keep an eye out he likes to run. Need 1 to 1 supervision will leave the building,” Fontaine wrote on the form.

Avonte Oquendo Disappearance 3.27.14

The report says the teacher never notified the school of Avonte’s propensity to run away and his others teachers weren’t aware of the risk, either.

One of Avonte’s other teachers told investigators the teen never gave her any indication he would run and was very “prompt dependent.”

Security footage released from that day shows Avonte running out a back door that was left open by a man who has yet to be identified.

The report also revealed that the principal in charge of the school at the time declined to make an announcement over the PA system when it was confirmed Avonte was missing, as he feared it would upset the other students.

The findings are the investigation are being referred to the Queens County District Attorney’s Office.

Avonte’s family is in the process of filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the city in the boy’s death.

Schools to beef up security in wake of Avonte Oquendo disappearance

Thousands joined in the search for Avonte when he went missing Oct. 4, 2013.

NEW YORK (PIX11) – The older brother of Avonte Oquendo, the 14-year-old boy with autism whose remains were found in January after he vanished from his Queens school last October, has written an essay thanking the hundreds of volunteers that joined the tireless search for the boy.

Danny Oquendo posted the blog on the Autism Speaks website, thanking New York City for coming together in the search for Avonte.

“With a reputation for being the hardest place on Earth to succeed, it is frequently described as a cold, unforgiving, cut-throat Metropolis. New Yorkers are labeled as rude, impatient, aggressive, and unsympathetic,” Danny wrote. “I’m writing to tell you that this reputation the rest of the world assumes is far from the truth.”

RELATED: After Avonte tragedy, parents push for public schools to install audible alarms

Hundreds searched day and night for Avonte, who was last seen running from his special needs school in Long Island City Oct. 4. Remains later confirmed to be Avonte’s were found washed up in College Point Jan. 21.

“Word of his disappearance spread like wildfire and before we knew it there were masses of sympathetic volunteers ready to do anything in their power to aid us in our search,” Avonte’s brother continued. “The community came together for a common cause in such an unparalleled way that it renewed my faith in the kindness of humanity. The people of New York responded to our anguish with a tremendous amount of support and vigilance.”

RELATED: Cause and manner of Avonte Oquendo’s death can’t be determined: ME

The city Medical Examiner was unable to determine Avonte’s cause of death. The teen’s family is now in the process of filing a wrongful death lawsuit against New York City.

Danny, who hopes to become a lawyer to represent students with autism and special needs, ends his essay with, “On behalf of my family, I would like to thank all the searchers, marchers and everyone who held us in their thoughts for the love and support you have displayed during these extremely rough times. God bless you.”

NEW YORK (PIX11) - An inclusive Medical Examiner’s report has sparked more questions about the death of Avonte Oquendo.

“We don’t know when Avonte went in the water, we don’t know if he went in the water that day, or if he went in the water the next day,” said Oquendo family attorney David Perecman.

No cause of death for Avonte Oquendo, and now no closure for the autistic teen’s family.

“Based on what we know he could have been picked up kidnapped, let in the water later,” said Oquendo family attorney David Perecman.

‘He’s an angel’: Mourners gather to remember 14-year-old Avonte Oquendo

The inclusive New York City Medical Examiner’s report released on Wednesday only leads to more questions, family attorney David Perecman said at a late news conference on Thursday.

Surveillance footage showed Oquendo leaving his Long Island City, Queens school through an open door on October 4th.

Oquendo’s remains were discovered on a Queens shore last month.

The attorney wants documents from the NYPD now that the ME report is complete.

“We do know one thing, whatever happened to him, they didn’t do something to him to leave the kind of marks on his lower body which was more intact,” said Perecman.

The family has filed a notice of claim against the city.

No evidence of trauma, according to ME report.

Avonte Oquendo: The story that touched a city

NEW YORK (PIX11) –  The cause of Avonte Oquendo’s death will remain a mystery barring any new information, according to the New York City medical examiner’s report.

Sources told PIX11 Wednesday afternoon that all testing methods have been exhausted, and the cause and manner of his death remains undetermined.

“Avonte’s mom has mixed feelings. While the report excludes gross evidence of trauma it leaves open questions of what may have happened to Avonte that are not discernible from the body,” said family’s attorney, David Perecman, of Vanessa Fontaine’s reaction.

“Unfortunately not the complete closure  that the parents would have liked,” Perecman added.

Perecman said the police department has agreed to provide Avonte’s  file to the family after the release of the medical examiner’s  report.

Oquendo’s remains were discovered after washing up on a College Point, Queens shoreline in January.

Police divers later discovered a torso, legs, a skull and teeth.  Shoes, jeans and shirt were also found among the remains.

The 14-year-old, who had autism, was last seen on surveillance video running out of his school in Long Island City on October 4.

A massive search was launched for the teen, with fliers posted in every subway station system-wide and dozens of volunteers canvassing the city for the teen.

Although the search yielded many false sightings, Avonte’s family and volunteers never lost hope that the teen would be found alive.

DNA testing, however, confirmed that the remains did belong to Oquendo.

Despite the inconclusive results, sources told PIX11 that the medical examiner’s office would reopen the investigation if any new information becomes available.

NEW YORK (PIX11) - When Avonte Oquendo walked out his Long Island City school, the autistic teenager brought the city together in prayer for his safe return.

In January, when Avonte’s remains were discovered, there was more heartbreak.

“Avonte’s gone, it’s really simple. This is the first time I’ve been involved with a child like this,” Oquendo family attorney David Perecman said. “Now, that I’m involved in something like this. Once Avonte was found and that he was not alive, there are only two things I can do, file a lawsuit for my clients and try to do something.”

On Wednesday, Perecman sat down exclusively with PIX11 News. He wants to get the word out about GPS tracking devices. James O’ Connell spent time at the search site in Queens, and told us he once had an experience with another missing child.

“Depending on the mental capacity of the person wearing the watch, it has a feature here,” explained O’Connell.

“When you press this button, it sends a signal to the watch saying I need help. The watch will send not only a message to this device, but it will send it to your email to your phone.”

Perecman has been working on the investigation into Oquendo’s disappearance.

“There are things that I’m analyzing in terms of the tapes, and I will get back to you,” said Perecman.

Many of these tracking devices do no come without a price tag.

Senator Schumer and Avonte’s family proposed a law named for Avonte that would fund tracking devices for certain autistic children.

The Department of Justice is allowing existing grant funds to be used for these voluntary devices.

Advocates have said these devices are only one option to prevent wandering, and that different devices may work for different children.

The tracking device in the piece was known as Freedom and is now known as PAL (Protect and Locate).

Project Lifesaver is a 501c3 non profit organization, that has teamed with lok8u to provide the PAL unit to help protect those at risk of wandering. The organization has worked for 15 years to provide a program that prevents wandering.

 

Avonte Oquendo: The story that touched a city

The bill would mandate insurance companies cover the cost of GPS devices for children with autism.

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. (PIX11) – After Avonte Oquendo’s disappearance, a Staten Island assemblyman has introduced new legislation that is aimed at preventing  a similar tragedy from happening to parents of children with autism.

Assemblyman Matthew Titone has designed a bill that would require insurance companies to offer GPS device tracking coverage for children with autism spectrum disorders.

Avonte, who did not speak, ran out of his Long Island City school last October. His remains were found last month in College Point.

“This happens because the children get distracted and do not harbor the same fears that typical children do,” Titone said in a press release. “A GPS device can be critical in helping law enforcement bring children with ASD home safely.”

RELATED: Chuck Schumer proposes ‘Avonte’s Law’ to fund tracking devices for children with autism

The federal bill named, Avonte’s Law, introduced by Senator Chuck Schumer, earmarks $10 million in funding for GPS devices, funding which could be eliminated by future budgets. The the new bill would mandate insurers cover the GPS devices. “The bill would ensure that any parent that wants a GPS device for their child could get it,” Titone told PIX11.

The bill already has the support of Senator Diane Savino. “It is unforunate that Avonte’s disappearance prompted this legislation, but it proves that the dangers of wandering for a child with ASD must be addressed immediately,” she said.

“This legislation will provide parents and caregivers of children with ASD the option of getting a tracking device without being concerned about the cost. Insurance companies would cover the costs for the equipment and monitoring services, making it easier for families to keep their children safe,” Titone said.

To read more about the bill, click here.

BROOKLYN, N.Y. (PIX11) — The mother of a five-year-old with cerebral palsy plans to sue the city, accusing the Department of Education of negligence after her son was able to leave his Brooklyn school unnoticed.

Malachi Nelson left the Lefferts Gardens Charter School Jan. 31 through a side door, looking for his school bus monitor. The door locked behind Malachi, and after waiting for some time alone outside, the boy walked almost a mile home — with a complete stranger. The man left Malachi at his doorstep.

“The secretary called…she’s like, ‘Ms. Nelson, did you pick of Malachi early?’” the boy’s mother, Sharon Nelson said at a press conference. “So now I panic. The first thing I think was, ‘Oh my God, Avonte, Avonte.”

Nelson has filed a $5.5 million notice of claim against the department for emotional trauma and psychological injuries to the kindergartner.

The school has launched an investigation into how Malachi was able to leave the school and has taken responsibility for the incident.

The boy’s family is also looking for the Good Samaritan who brought the boy home safely.

The case is eerily similar to that of 14-year-old Avonte Oquendo, who had autism and couldn’t speak, who ran from his school in Long Island City, never to be seen again.

Avonte’s remains were found last month in Queens.

 

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